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ER Doctor DEBUNKS 8 Caffeine Myths!

Caffeine, is it secretly good for your health? Can it stunt your growth or worse yet, kill you? How about Alzheimer's disease and erectile dysfunction? Does it cause that? And what about asthma?

Today we’re breaking down 8 unsuspecting truths about caffeine that you need to know right now!

Myth #1: Caffeine Can Kill You?

Don’t freak out about what I’m about to tell you. But yes technically this is true. It can. In fact, I've even treated a number of people who had some health issues from ingesting way too much caffeine in the Emergency Department. Symptoms like: tachycardia, or sped-up heart rate, tremors, high anxiety, and vomiting among other side effects. It can affect your body if consumed in too high amounts. That’s why it's important you know the difference between a healthy amount and just how much is too much?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers up to 400 milligrams a safe amount of caffeine for healthy adults to consume daily. That’s equivalent to about four cups of coffee, or ten cans of soda, or 2 energy shot types of drinks in a day. But please keep in mind different products out there have different amounts of caffeine and other added ingredients like loads of sugar, so the limit and health impact can really vary from product to product. They say the average person in the U.S. drinks about 135 mg a day or about 1.5 cups of coffee. How does your caffeine intake compare to the average?

Alright back to the question at hand, Could too much caffeine kill someone? In rare instances yes. When caffeine is consumed in very high doses, at say in excess of 5 grams in adults (which is 5000 mg) yes it could be lethal. Remember you’re only supposed to drink up to 400 mg a day. Here’s the caveat: higher levels of caffeine consumption is usually found more with products like powdered caffeine and caffeine pills like with weight loss pills. In a concentrated potent product, the dangers increase a lot. For instance, some concentrated products out there contain around the same amount of caffeine as 20-30 regular coffees. This is not good, so please be safe, and like with anything, don’t go buck wild on it and know what ingredients are in the type of products you are consuming. Alright, I'm going to get off my high horse and move on to the next myth, I think you’re going to like this.

Myth #2: It Stunts Your Growth

We’ve all heard this one, but this is not true. This has long been a myth circling coffee and just about anything caffeinated for that matter. Heck, I know I definitely heard it when I was growing up, if you drink too much soda, it will stunt your growth. But where did this rumor start?

It may have had something to do with the fact that decades ago some research studies found an association between high caffeine intake and reduced calcium absorption in the body. And we all know that calcium is good for bone density and health so the thought was that any lack of calcium in the body could be a contributing factor to osteoporosis.

So if you say you drank coffee or some other caffeinated beverage for instance, you could in theory, be at increased risk of osteoporosis. But here’s the issue with this. The studies also concluded that the reduction in calcium absorption associated with caffeine intake was very small, and the calcium loss could even be offset by adding 1-2 tablespoons of milk to your cup of coffee that you drink. So to flat out say caffeine stunts your growth is a bit of a stretch.

Myth #3: Caffeine Can Make You Live Longer

Errr what? Ummm but Doctor Wagner didn’t you just say that too much caffeine could possibly kill me? And now you’re saying it has health benefits, I’m confused.

Here’s the deal: caffeine by way of coffee can actually be very beneficial for your health. Besides feeling more alert and giving one energy…drinking coffee has been linked to lowering risk for all sorts of health problems. Diseases like: Parkinson’s disease, liver disease, type 2 diabetes, and dementia are just the beginning.

For instance, one scientific study revealed that drinking 3-5 cups per day was associated with a decreased risk of dementia & Alzheimer’s disease by about 65% at late life. Other evidence suggests that normal consumption of caffeine can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by 26%. For women, drinking at least one cup of coffee a day that’s associated with lowered stroke risk, which is the fourth leading cause of death in women. I could go on and on about all sorts of health benefits from caffeine and caffeine-related products like coffee.

I could go on and on about all sorts of health benefits from caffeine especially when consumed through coffee.

Myth #4: Caffeine Sobers You Up

Uh No, not exactly. Listen, we all know that alcohol can have sedative effects on the body. In other words, in addition to making one impaired, it can also make a person feel sleepy. And it usually hits a person 2 to 6 hours after alcohol consumption.

So here’s where the myth comes into play, one would think that because caffeine does the opposite of alcohol, or generally makes people feel more alert. It could kind of counteract the buzz. But this is just not the case. Although it might make a person feel more alert after a late-night chug fest, it, unfortunately, cannot remove the feelings of or state of drunkenness or the cognitive deficits that alcohol can cause.

For instance in one lab study. Mice were given alcohol followed by the human equivalent of eight cups of coffee. After the caffeine intake, the rodents did appear more alert, but they were still much worse than the sober mice at getting around a maze.

The reason is that we have to metabolize the alcohol we drink in order to diminish its effects. The body processes it in several ways but it’s mostly broken down in the liver by two enzymes, alcohol dehydrogenase, and aldehyde dehydrogenase, and eventually excreted.

Myth #5: Caffeine’s Good for Asthma

This one is in fact true. If you struggle with asthma issues or even shortness of breath, you may want to listen to what I'm about to say. Caffeine does appear to improve airway function for up to four hours in people with asthma after consumption. In fact, it is a weak bronchodilator and it also reduces respiratory muscle fatigue. And Caffeine is also chemically related to the prescription drug theophylline which has been used over the years to treat wheezing, shortness of breath, asthma, chronic bronchitis, and other lung diseases.

Now is this a substitute for your quick-relief inhaler or other asthma action plan prescribed by your doctor? No, because we all know if not treated properly asthma attacks could be life-threatening, but caffeine has been suggested to have protective effects against asthma, and reduce asthma symptoms.

For instance: in a study out of Korea where researchers analyzed the frequency of the participants' beverage intake and their findings showed that caffeinated coffee consumption lowered the frequency of asthma. And yet another study found that the consumption of caffeine prior to exercising may reduce the symptoms of asthma as well.

Speaking of ummm stunting your growth, next myth you’re going to want to know about: Caffeine Cause Erectile dysfunction?

Myths #6: Erectile Dysfunction:

I’m happy to report this one is also false. Caffeine has many effects on the body, it gives you that burst of energy that can be great for um athletic performance but it can also narrow the blood vessels throughout the body, so with less room for blood to flow, it can temporarily raise blood pressure a bit which is why researchers initially suspected that there could be a potential link between caffeine and ED.

But according to one study, caffeine intake is actually linked to reduced odds of having erectile dysfunction (ED) in men who drink the equivalent of two to three cups of coffee per day. Evidently, caffeine triggers a series of internal effects that lead to the relaxation of the penile arteries, and the smooth muscle that lines cavernosal spaces, thus increasing penile blood flow.

Number 7 Caffeine Myth: Caffeine Causes Insomnia

Insomnia? Eh not usually but could it disrupt your sleep yes. But it really all comes down to your body's sensitivity to it. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, it takes about 30 to 60 minutes for caffeine to reach its peak level in the blood. Then the half-life of caffeine, or the time it takes to eliminate one-half of the caffeine people have in their bodies, is about 4 hours.

But keep in mind this also depends on things going on in your body like for instance: one factor could be your metabolism, or say how much fiber you have, or how frequently you consume caffeine, processed mainly through the liver, some caffeine can stick around in the body for several hours. But for most people, a cup of coffee or two in the morning won't interfere with sleep at night.

Your sensitivity may vary, though, people who are more sensitive may not only experience insomnia-like effects but also have caffeine side effects of nervousness and gastrointestinal upset, etc. And women who take birth control pills may keep caffeine in their systems for up to 4 hours longer than compared to those who are not on the pill. And Pregnancy can even extend caffeine's half-life even more. Interestingly though, on the other end of the sensitivity spectrum, it’s said that Caffeine's half-life may be shortened in people who smoke. So moral of the story here: if your body is sensitive or impacted by caffeine's effects try not to consume any caffeine products at least 6 hours before going to bed.

Myth #8: Caffeine Can Provide Relief For a Headache

This is a caffeine truth. During a headache, blood vessels swell or go through other changes causing more blood flow around the brain. Now this increase of blood to the brain area puts pressure on surrounding nerves which sends pain messages to the brain. Aka what you experience as a headache.

Caffeine has vasoconstrictive properties, meaning it could cause your blood vessels to narrow, restricting blood flow, which might relieve a little bit of that pain you're experiencing from your headache. Now caffeine taken with other common headache pain meds could also increase the absorption and strength of the medication to provide even faster relief.

But keep in mind also that consuming too much caffeine can also trigger headaches and caffeine withdrawal can sometimes also have the same blood vessel enlarging type of qualities and trigger a headache as well. Adjusting to the right amount of caffeine in your system is key here.

So just how much caffeine is in some of your favorite beverages?

An 8-ounce cup of coffee: has about 95 to 200 mg of caffeine.

A 12-ounce can of cola on the other hand: 35-45 mg.

And your average 8-ounce energy drink? Typically they have between 70 to 100 mg of caffeine. Obviously, there are some with way more than that, but let’s just say the average.

Now tea, on the other hand, depending on the type of tea, has around 13-60 mg on average for 8 ounces.

So if you and your buddies are trying to stay up all night cramming for school or you gotta drive home and you’re getting tired you may want to just opt for a good ol’ cup of coffee to get the most bang for your buck so to speak.


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