Ask Dr. Dylan: Is caffeine really that bad?

Ask Dr. Dylan: Is Caffeine really that bad

Dr. Dylan breaks down the pros and cons of caffeine usage.

Dr. Dylan Wyatt, an emergency medicine physician at St. Luke’s, weighs in on caffeine conversation.

Is caffeine really that bad for you?

Dr. Dylan: Probably not. Research studies haven’t shown any clear consistent benefits or detriments to moderate caffeine consumption in the general population. Also, 90 percent of all adults worldwide consume caffeine daily – so if you partake you’re part of a strong majority.

Is there anyone who shouldn’t drink caffeine?

Dr. Dylan: Individuals with anxiety, heart rhythm issues, or gastroesophageal reflux should avoid caffeine. Anyone who suffers from heart disease and type 2 diabetes should avoid heavy caffeine consumption, and should avoid heavy creamers or non-dairy creamer.

Also, if you’re starting a new prescription medication be sure to let your doctor know your average caffeine consumption, this may affect the metabolism of some drugs.

For a person who is able to drink caffeine- how much is an acceptable amount?

Dr. Dylan: 400mg of caffeine per day appears to be safe, assuming someone has no medical problems.

Can too much caffeine damage your heart?

Dr. Dylan: The evidence is mixed at this point. We know heavy caffeine consumption can exacerbate or cause abnormal heart rhythms such as supraventricular tachycardia or atrial fibrillation, folks who are predisposed to this should avoid heavy consumption. Consistent heavy caffeine consumption does have a link to increased cardiac mortality but that data isn’t very strong.

Truthfully, what is mixed with our caffeinated beverages are often the problem. Full fat cream and sugar add up quickly in terms of calories, and the mixed drinks at coffee shops may be delicious but are loaded with sugar. Energy drinks have many additives that we don’t know much about and may have negative health effects.

Is it bad to be ‘addicted’ to caffeine?

Dr. Dylan: This answer is complicated. Caffeine addiction is classified as a disorder, but more for research purposes than clinical purposes. Caffeine “dependence” is probably the better term, which means we have developed a tolerance to the caffeine in the coffee we drink and have withdrawal symptoms when we stop drinking it. We don’t have a good idea of how this negatively affects people, and it probably varies from person to person. It’s something to keep an eye on and be mindful of, but not something to be afraid of.

For mixed coffee drinkers, there’s also a component of sugar addiction as well, which is its own problem.

Are there any benefits to caffeine?

Dr. Dylan: Despite what social media might say, there hasn’t been a good link established between caffeine consumption and the reduction in the risk of getting any type of cancer. There still are some solid, well documented benefits. Short term, it leads to better mental alertness and cognitive performance, and mitigation of the negative effects of sleep deprivation and jet lag. In the long term, caffeine has been associated with a reduced risk of Parkinson disease, Alzheimer disease, alcoholic cirrhosis, and gout. It might also reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Overall, there is a modest decrease in all-cause mortality from drinking coffee or tea.