A dietician debunks 4 myths about caffeine

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Many people are becoming more conscious of the kinds of food they consume and how that impacts their overall health. However, a lack of knowledge or hearsay can lead to many foods being labeled as intrinsically bad without any context.

One such food is caffeine, which is a stimulant found in food and beverages including coffee, energy drinks, fizzy drinks, weight-loss supplements, and even medication.

READ MORE | A dietician’s tips on how to manage stress and anxiety with food

According to pro triathlete, coach and registered dietician, Mariella Sawyer, caffeine can form as part of a balanced and healthy diet when consumed in moderation by adults.

“Whether in its natural or synthetic form, this stimulant benefits the body and mind in so many ways, beyond just being a morning pick-me-up,” she tells TRUELOVE.

“When consumed, caffeine stimulates the brain and the central nervous system by acting as a messenger that blocks a chemical in the human body called adenosine, which essentially makes you feel tired and want to sleep. That’s why people feel less tired, more focused, and energetic after consuming a caffeinated beverage. Caffeine also increases the level of dopamine in the body, contributing to that feeling of happiness that some people get after their first cup of coffee."

Sawyer debunks 4 common myths about caffeine:

Myth 1: Caffeine causes insomnia

“A common myth is that caffeine contributes to insomnia. While the body absorbs caffeine quickly, it also gets rid of it quickly. So, although some caffeine does stick around in the body for several hours, for most people, a cup of coffee or two in the morning won't interfere with sleep at night,” she says.

Myth 2: Caffeine is dangerously addictive

“Caffeine ‘addiction’ cannot be categorised in the same way as drug or alcohol addiction or even cause the same severity of withdrawals as these drugs do.  Although caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, it is metabolised differently from person to person based on their genetics, so one individual may experience it differently to another. For some, regular consumption may cause mild physical dependence, but it doesn't threaten physical, social or financial health the way that addictive substances do.”

Myth 3: Caffeine causes dehydration

“Most people believe that because consuming caffeinated beverages stimulates more frequent urination, it can lead to dehydration. A minor increase in urine output has little to do with dehydrating the body. Yes, caffeine is a diuretic, which means it can increase your number of bathroom visits, but the fluid you consume in caffeinated beverages, like coffee with extra water or milk, offsets the effects of fluid loss during those bathroom visits.“

Myth 4: Energy drinks contain an excessive amount of caffeine

“400 mg is the recommended amount of caffeine that healthy adults can consume a day. Considering the amount of caffeine in Red Bull, drinking a can of this energy drink is equivalent to consuming 240 ml of home-brewed coffee, a 30 ml espresso shot, or eating 100 mg of dark chocolate,” Sawyer says.

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