Is caffeine good for you?
That’s the million dollar question that so many people are asking.
It’s well understood that caffeinated beverages offer acute enhancements to mental alertness and physical performance, but what about the long-term impact of caffeine consumption?
This is a topic that I’ve been interested in exploring for quite some time and when the Canadian Beverage Association reached out to me to write a piece on caffeine, I knew that this was the topic I had to go for.
Given that March is Caffeine Awareness Month in the USA, the timing is absolutely perfect.
Some of you may recall an article on my blog from a few weeks ago where my colleague Natalia contributed an excellent general review on caffeine consumption and busted some serious myths along the way.
Many of the important takeaways from her post are summarized in the infographic below.
In today’s article though, I wanted to dig a quite a bit deeper.
I wanted to explore what the best available evidence had to say about the connection between caffeine intake and long-term health outcomes.
And that’s exactly what I did.
Let’s take a closer look at what I found:
Caffeine and Mental Health Outcomes
In the context of the research that I’ve encountered, a long-term effect of caffeine intake on mental health has been observed in four conditions:
In all four cases, the available observational data offered suggestion caffeine intake was associated with a reduction in risk.
This is something that will need to be studied more closely before definitive conclusions can be drawn, but the findings are intriguing and offer some insight into the potential protective effect of caffeine on specific mental health outcomes.
Caffeine and Cardiovascular Health
A recently published report in the Journal Of Regulatory Toxicology And Pharmacology looked at data from over 300 observational and experimental studies on the topics of caffeine and cardiovascular health outcomes.
Here is a summary of what they found:
1. Moderate caffeine intake ( 400 mg daily) was not associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and some evidence suggests it may actually be protective ( ie: reduce your risk)
2. Although caffeine intake acutely raises blood pressure in healthy people, these changes are normalized with time and caffeine intake does not increase risk of hypertension in the long-term ( chronically elevated blood pressure).
Caffeine and Erectile Dysfunction
One of the commonly held misconceptions about caffeine is that it may contribute to erectile dysfunction.
I’ve seen this connection being made on a number of health information sites but when I looked at the available observational evidence on the topic, I found that moderate caffeine intake ( 170-375 mg daily) was associated with a reduced risk of erectile dysfunction in men, including those who were overweight or obese.
Coffee and Type 2 Diabetes
Although this last point relates to coffee (both caffeinated and decaffeinated) and not caffeine in general, it is certainly worth noting the observed association between the intake of everyone’s favourite beverage and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
Take Home Message
There appears to be a growing body of observational evidence that suggests caffeine intake offers protection against certain chronic conditions.
This does not mean that you need to go out and start drinking caffeinated beverages though, especially if you are sensitive to the effects of caffeine.
Rather, these findings offer peace of mind to those who regularly consume caffeine within Health Canada’s recommended limits of 400 mg daily.
Until next time,
Andy De Santis RD MPH