How Caffeine Causes You to Gain Weight
People usually drink coffee for the jolting perk the caffeine buzz coffee is famous for, but did you know that coffee can actually rob you of energy and make you fat?
Coffee is undoubtedly the most commonly used and abused drug (caffeine) in North America. A naturally occurring stimulant found in the leaves, seeds or fruit of dozens of plants worldwide, caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive substance in the world.
The sources of caffeine most commonly consumed include the coffee bean, the tea leaf, the kola nut, and the cocoa bean, found in some of our favorite junk foods: coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks and chocolate. Numerous pain medications also contain caffeine because it increases the ability of other drugs to do their job and decreases drowsiness side effects.
Caffeine is a Drug
The “wake-up” effect of caffeine is due to its action as a drug. Caffeine has several metabolic actions as a central nervous system stimulant; these include causing an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, gastrointestinal activity, stomach acid output, kidney function, and mental activity. Following consumption of caffeine, it is readily absorbed into the bloodstream, where its level peaks after about one hour.
How Does Caffeine Work?
The exact mechanism by which caffeine delivers its java jolt has been postulated in several theories, however according to National Geographic’s January 2005 feature, “Caffeine, the World’s Most Psychoactive Drug”, the current consensus by scientists is that caffeine interferes with the biochemical adenosine, which acts as a natural sleeping pill. It is believed that by blocking the hypnotic effect of adenosine, caffeine prevents people from falling asleep.
In the same article, Dr. Charles Czeisler, neuroscientist and sleep expert at Harvard Medical School explains that caffeine helps people try to wrest control away from the human circadian rhythm that is hardwired in all of us, but the tradeoff has been that as a society, we are chronically sleep deprived.
Dr. Czeisler observes that the caffeine craving is a complete catch-22 in which caffeine is used to promote wakefulness to compensate for lack of sleep: “We use caffeine to make up for a sleep deficit that is largely the result of using caffeine.”
Negative Effects of Caffeine
Aside from its ability to promote wakefulness, caffeine also has the desirable side effect of enhancing mood and alertness in moderate amounts. But what are the negative effects of caffeine consumption?
Heavy daily caffeine use – defined by the Mayo Clinic as more than 500 to 600 mg a day, or about four to seven cups of coffee – can cause serious problems. Even small doses may result in negative side effects depending on your body mass, history of caffeine use, and stress level. People with smaller body mass feel the effects of caffeine more intensely, as do people without a history of caffeine use and any kind of stress, physical, or psychological.
According to Dr. Elson M. Haas in Staying Healthy with Nutrition (2006), coffee abuse can result in cardiac sensitivity, abnormal heartbeats, anxiety and irritability, stomach and intestinal irritation, insomnia, and such withdrawal symptoms as fatigue, headaches, and depression.
Osteoporosis & Stunted Growth
Coffee and other sources of caffeine can interfere with the absorption of many vitamins and minerals, including calcium, which is required for health bones and teeth and the prevention of osteoporosis, and iron, a mineral that is essential for growth and the delivery of oxygen throughout the body.
Loss of Nutrients
In addition to robbing the body of calcium and iron, other minerals and vitamins compromised by caffeine include potassium, magnesium, zinc, B (anti-stress) vitamins, and vitamin C.
As part of caffeinated beverages’ stimulant activity, they cause people to excrete more water than it contains, which makes them diuretics.
Heartburn & Ulcers
Caffeine’s effect of increasing the secretion of stomach acids and digestive enzymes may increase heartburn, and lead to (or exacerbate) existing ulcers.
High Blood Pressure / Hypertension
According to the MayoClinic.com, the amount of caffeine in two to three cups of coffee can raise systolic pressure 3 to 14 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and diastolic pressure 4 to 13 mm Hg in people without high blood pressure. Exactly what causes this spike in blood pressure is unknown, but hypertension specialist Sheldon Sheps, MD explains that scientists believe that caffeine’s effect on adenosine is at play. Since adenosine helps keep blood vessels widened, caffeine may indirectly cause blood vessels to narrow as it blocks adenosine. Dr. Sheps also indicates that caffeine stimulates the adrenal gland to release more cortisol and adrenaline, which cause blood pressure to increase.
Adrenal Fatigue & Hypoglycemia Syndrome
Although caffeine is commonly used to assist weight loss, with frequent consumption, Haas explains that caffeine’s effect of spiking cortisol and adrenaline secretion – hormones secreted by the adrenal glands – can result in adrenal fatigue and hypoglycemia, chronic syndromes in which the body eventually becomes unable to handle stress, resulting in exhaustion, thyroid problems and weight gain.
According to Haas, caffeine is also believed to play a role in the development of fibrocystic breast disease in some women, prostate enlargement in some men, and the incidence of certain cancers including bladder cancer, ovarian cancer and pancreatic cancer.
Caffeine addiction can be a problem, particularly with members of the nine-to-five workforce who use it to help them burn the candle at both ends. Although not as serious as some other drug addictions, withdrawal can be difficult.