Are There Long-Term Health Risk with Caffeine - Research on Caffeine

Caffeine Risks

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Caffeine may enhance performance, but what about the long-term health risks? Assuming they're consumed in moderation, both Caffeine and coffee have been exonerated from nearly all indictments. Here's a rundown on the research.

High blood pressure: Although drinking a cup of coffee or taking caffeine in pill form may cause a transitory blip upward, the consensus is that moderate caffeine consumption has little or no significant effect on blood pressure. But four or five cups of coffee a day could bump up your blood pressure by five points or so.

Cholesterol and heart disease: Before drip coffee makers became popular in the United States - and in places like Scandinavia, where boiled coffee remains common - cafestol and kahweol found in coffee grounds led to elevated levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. These two substances are eliminated in filtered and instant coffee, however, and along with them the link between caffeine, high cholesterol and heart disease.

Cancer: In 1981, the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine published a study linking coffee consumption with "a substantial proportion" of the cases of pancreatic cancer in the United States. Studies conducted since have failed to identify a similar relationship. Nor does any evidence link coffee or caffeine with other cancers.

Osteoporosis: Women in particular should be careful. "The more regular coffee a woman drinks, the more calcium is excreted in her urine," says Linda Massey, a bone researcher at Washington State University (Pullman). To offset caffeine-induced calcium loss, Massey recommends that women drink a cup of milk for every cup of coffee.

Fluid loss: Caffeine is a diuretic, but the widely held notion that it causes dehydration is a myth. If you drink a cup of Joe or a soft drink, you'll lose up to half of it through urination after a few hours, but you'll lose 35% of any water you drink as well, says Robert Murray, PhD, an exercise physiologist with The Gatorade Company.

Pregnant women: Lab animals receiving large doses of caffeine have produced offspring with birth defects, which led the Food and Drug Administration in 1980 to advise pregnant woman to avoid caffeine. No evidence links caffeine or coffee to birth defects in humans, but some studies have suggested a possible link between low birth weight babies and caffeine consumption of more than 150 mg per day.

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