Are you the type who gets jittery after a shot of caffeine from a single espresso — or do you feel unimpressed no matter how many coffees you line up?
There are many reasons why we all react to caffeine differently. Chief among them is the amount of an enzyme called CYP1A2 in your liver, and it comes down to your genes.
People with low levels of CYP1A2 take longer to break down caffeine; They also feel its stimulating effects more.
But even if you feel you can keep caffeine well, there are good reasons to limit it.
The NHS recommends that adults should not drink more than 400mg a day (pregnant women 200mg).
Are you the type who gets jittery after a shot of caffeine from a single espresso – or do you feel unimpressed no matter how many brews?
Even if you feel you can keep caffeine down very well, there are good reasons to limit it
But since a standard cup of instant coffee has around 100mg (a takeaway coffee might have three times that), a cup of tea around 55mg and even a bar of dark chocolate around 80mg per 100g can add up soon.
In fact, while we tend to think of caffeine as only being found in tea or coffee, in its pure form it is found in 60 different plants, from kola nuts to cacao.
Caffeine has some surprising health benefits—for example, it’s been linked to a reduced risk of certain skin cancers (more on this later)—but of course, it’s also known to be a stimulant, keeping us awake and improving our performance. to focus.
It has this effect because it blocks the action of a chemical called adenosine, which is produced naturally in the body, especially in the liver.
Adenosine binds to receptors on cells around our bodies – including neurons in the brain, where it plays a role in the sleep/wake cycle.
Normally, adenosine levels rise during the day and bind to these receptors. As a result, it slows down the activity of neurons, making us sleepy and tired.
But caffeine, which is chemically similar to adenosine, also sticks to these receptors. This blocks the brain’s sedative adenosine pathway, and the result is that we feel cheerful and alert.
While that can be helpful in the morning, it’s one reason to avoid caffeine later in the day (I personally don’t have any in the afternoon). But you can make the most of the stimulating effect by consuming caffeine an hour before you need a mental – or physical – boost.
Caffeine is rapidly absorbed in the intestines, peaking after about an hour and then steadily declining over the next five hours on average.
You can use the High Performance window to do work that requires extra mental strength or to make exercise easier to bear.
A review published last year in the journal Nutrients found that caffeine increases runners’ endurance and improves their lap times.
But consuming caffeine after drinking it will not make you feel more alert nor will it make you run faster; Research shows that a second coffee gives you more of a pick-me-up if you drink it eight hours after the first.
In one study, 49 habitual caffeine drinkers were given coffee or a placebo drink at different times of the day — and asked to repeat mental tasks at 9 am, 11 am, 1 pm, and 5 pm.
did you know
Results showed that the first coffee of the day (after eight or more hours of abstinence) improved cognition, as did coffee at 5 p.m. (after an eight-hour gap from the first) — but coffee in between had no effect, the journal Psychopharmacology reports. . in 2005.
This could be because caffeine is broken down in the liver, and when you consume anything over 100mg, this process slows down.
There are other short-term benefits of caffeine. For example, it increases thermogenesis — the rate at which you burn calories to generate heat — thanks to the resulting increase in hormones like epinephrine, which encourage fat burning.
These effects don’t last long—a few hours at best—but they’re enough to make a difference.
A study in the journal Obesity in 2007 found that consuming 300 mg of caffeine resulted in burning about 100 extra calories over the course of the day. Theoretically, this would mean that 300mg of caffeine per day could keep around 5kg (about 11lbs) of weight off per year. But the reality is less impressive because your body adapts to the thermogenic effects of caffeine over time.
This is why caffeine-laden “metabolism-boosting” pills do not lead to long-term weight loss.
One of the most bizarre things about caffeine is its association with a lower risk of skin cancer. Studies have found that caffeine drinkers have lower rates of basal cell carcinoma (the most common type of skin cancer) and malignant melanoma (the deadliest form).
A 2012 study in the journal Cancer Research found that those who consumed more than three cups of coffee per day had the lowest risk of developing basal cell carcinoma compared to those who only occasionally drank coffee.
We suspect it’s the caffeine and not the other ingredients at work. A review in the journal PLOS One in 2016 found that coffee drinkers had a lower risk of skin cancer, but those who stuck to decaf did not.
Separate research has identified a possible mechanism: Caffeine helps our bodies identify and get rid of damaged skin cells, which lowers the risk of cancer.
But while caffeine can claim some impressive benefits, there are downsides. One thing that will surprise anyone who swears they need a caffeine fix to calm them down, however, is that it increases your stress levels. That’s because caffeine raises levels of cortisol, one of the main stress hormones, which increases your heart rate and blood pressure.
A landmark study from the 1990s involving 25 men who took a caffeinated drink or a placebo before a stressful task found that cortisol levels in the caffeine group were twice as high as those given a placebo.
My suggestion is that if you have an interview or other stressful event, it probably isn’t a great day for that many coffees.
Caffeine is also a bowel stimulant – it encourages the production of the hormone gastrin, which stimulates the muscles in the last part of the colon. If you have a sensitive gut, this can lead to diarrhea and abdominal pain.
It can also relax the valve at the bottom of the esophagus, which prevents stomach contents from coming back up. So if you suffer from GERD, stick to half of the daily limit of 400 mg.
I don’t want to ditch my morning coffee, but I’m sticking to one — and I’m starting to eat my dark chocolate dessert after lunch, not before bed.
Try this: a frothy cashew latte
No need to worry about soaking and straining, this hazelnut-infused latte uses whole cashews, saving you time and giving you an extra boost of prebiotic fiber to feed your gut microbiome, plus those beneficial compounds in coffee. It’s creamy and delicious, too.
- 250ml hot coffee, prepared to your strength
- 30 grams of roasted cashews
- 1 History of the unknown
Place all ingredients in a high-powered blender and blend for 1 minute, or until smooth. Taste and adjust the flavors to your preference.
On top of those beneficial compounds in coffee, it’s also deliciously creamy
No need to worry about soaking and straining, this hazelnut-infused latte uses whole cashews
advice: If you’re feeling fancy, use salted roasted cashews for a great flavor boost. While they do contain a little bit of added salt, in the grand scheme of a whole plant-based diet it is negligible.
I am 57 and over the years of menopause – and now menopause – I have developed a large belly. This may be genetic, as I remember my pup being stocky built, but I’d like to know what kind of diet might change it. I don’t eat sweet things and only have a couple of glasses of wine on the weekends. However, I do like wholegrain bread and eat less pasta.
Tina Sims, via email.
Belly weight gain during perimenopause and menopause is very common — a 2021 study in the Journal of Endocrinology & Metabolism found that compared to premenopause, women gained more weight around their midsection during menopause.
This change in fat distribution is thought to be due to a combination of factors, such as hormonal changes and decreased physical activity, which are commonly attributed to symptoms associated with menopause (such as fatigue) and thus decreased muscle mass.
Weight gain in the abdomen during perimenopause and menopause is very common
To combat these effects, preserving muscle mass through regular exercise and spreading your protein intake throughout the day (which helps stimulate muscle growth) can be a game-changer.
It’s also important to reduce the spike in blood sugar that tends to be more noticeable in menopause, which leads to more fatigue and food cravings (I’ll explain more about this in my next column).
A simple way to do this is to eat carbohydrate-rich foods (such as bread and pasta) with protein, fiber, or healthy fats. For example, eat an egg (protein) and tomato (fiber) with bread instead of jam, which is another type of carbohydrate.
I would also switch your bread to wholemeal sourdough, if available, as that has been shown to have less of an impact on your blood sugar levels.
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