11 Unexpected Health Benefits of Drinking Your Morning Joe
Caffeine is often talked about for its negative effects on sleep and anxiety. However, studies also report that it has various health benefits.
This article examines the latest research on caffeine and your health.
What is Caffeine?
It works by stimulating the brain and central nervous system, helping you to stay alert and preventing the onset of tiredness.
Historians track the first brewed tea to as far back as 2737 BC (1).
Coffee was reportedly discovered many years later by an Ethiopian shepherd who noticed the extra energy it gave his goats.
Caffeinated soft drinks hit the market in the late 1800s and energy drinks soon followed.
Nowadays, 80 percent of the world's population consumes a caffeinated product each day and this number goes up to 90 percent for adults in North America (1).
Bottom Line: Caffeine is a natural stimulant consumed worldwide. Most people get it from coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks or chocolate.
How Does it Work?
Once consumed, caffeine is quickly absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream.
From there, it travels to the liver and is broken down into compounds that can affect the function of various organs.
That being said, caffeine's main effect is on the brain.
Normally, adenosine levels build up over the day, making you increasingly more tired and causing you to want to go to sleep.
Caffeine helps you stay awake by connecting to adenosine receptors in the brain without activating them. This blocks the effects of adenosine, leading to reduced tiredness (3).
It may also increase blood adrenaline levels and increase brain activity of the neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine (3).
This combination further stimulates the brain and promotes a state of arousal, alertness and focus. Because it affects your brain, caffeine is often referred to as a psychoactive drug.
Additionally, caffeine tends to exert its effects quickly.
Bottom Line: Caffeine's main effect is on the brain. It stimulates the brain by blocking the effects of the neurotransmitter adenosine.
Which Foods and Beverages Contain Caffeine?
Caffeine is naturally found in the seeds, nuts or leaves of certain plants.
These natural sources are then harvested and processed to produce caffeinated foods and beverages.
- Espresso: 240–720 mg.
- Coffee: 102–200 mg.
- Yerba mate: 65–130 mg.
- Energy drinks: 50–160 mg.
- Brewed tea: 40–120 mg.
- Soft drinks: 20–40 mg.
- Decaffeinated coffee: 3–12 mg.
- Cocoa beverage: 2–7 mg.
- Chocolate milk: 2–7 mg.
You can also find caffeine in some prescription or over-the-counter drugs like cold, allergy and pain medications. It is also a common ingredient in fat loss supplements.
Bottom Line: Caffeine is most commonly found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate and energy drinks.
Caffeine May Improve Mood and Brain Function
Caffeine has the ability to block the brain signaling molecule adenosine.
This change in brain messaging is thought to benefit your mood and brain function.
One review reports that after participants ingested 37.5–450 mg of caffeine, they had improved alertness, short-term recall and reaction time (1).
In addition, a recent study linked drinking two to three cups of caffeinated coffee per day to a 45 percent lower risk of suicide (7).
Another study reported a 13 percent lower risk of depression in caffeine consumers (8).
When it comes to mood, more caffeine is not necessarily better. Indeed, a study found that a second cup of coffee produced no further benefits unless it was consumed at least 8 hours after the first cup (9).
Bottom Line: Caffeine may improve mood, decrease the likelihood of depression, stimulate brain function and protect against Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
It May Boost Metabolism and Speed Up Weight Loss
This amount may seem small, but it is similar to the calorie excess responsible for the average yearly weight gain of 2.2 lbs (1kg) in Americans (18).
Bottom Line: Caffeine may boost metabolism and promote fat loss, but these effects are likely to remain small over the long term.
Caffeine May Enhance Exercise Performance
When it comes to exercise, caffeine may increase the use of fat as fuel.
Caffeine may also improve muscle contractions and increase tolerance to fatigue (1).
Interestingly, recent research notes that doses as low as 1.4 mg/lb (3 mg/kg) of body weight may be sufficient to reap the benefits (23).
Finally, it may also be able to reduce perceived exertion during exercise by up to 5.6 percent, which can make workouts feel easier (25).
Bottom Line: Small amounts consumed about an hour before exercise are likely to improve exercise performance.
Protection Against Heart Disease and Type 2 Diabetes
In fact, recent evidence shows a 16–18 percent lower risk of heart disease in men and women who drink between one and four cups of coffee each day (29).
One thing to keep in mind is that caffeine may slightly raise blood pressure in some people. However, this effect is generally small (3–4 mmHg) and tends to fade for most individuals when they consume coffee regularly (32, 33, 34, 35).
It may also protect against diabetes. A recent review notes that those who drink the most coffee have up to a 29 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Similarly, those who consume the most caffeine have up to a 30 percent lower risk (36).
The authors observed that the risk drops by 12–14 percent for every 200 mg of caffeine consumed (36).
Interestingly, consuming decaffeinated coffee was also linked to a 21 percent lower risk of diabetes. This indicates that other beneficial compounds in coffee can also protect against type 2 diabetes (36).
Bottom Line: Caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea may reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, although this may depend on the individual.
Other Health Benefits
Caffeine consumption is linked to several other health benefits:
- Protects the liver: Coffee may reduce the risk of liver damage (cirrhosis) by as much as 84 percent. It may slow disease progression, improve treatment response and lower the risk of premature death (37, 38).
- Promotes longevity: Drinking coffee may decrease the risk of premature death by as much as 30 percent, especially for women and diabetics (39, 40).
- Decreases cancer risk: 2–4 cups of coffee per day may reduce liver cancer risk by up to 64 percent and colorectal cancer risk by up to 38 percent (41, 42, 43, 44, 45).
- Protects skin: Consuming 4 or more cups of caffeinated coffee per day may lower the risk of skin cancer by 20 percent (46, 47).
- Reduces MS risk: Coffee drinkers may have up to a 30 percent lower risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS). However, not all studies agree (48, 49).
- Prevents gout: Regularly drinking four cups of coffee per day may reduce the risk of developing gout by 40 percent in men and 57 percent in women (50, 51).
- Supports gut health: Consuming 3 cups of coffee a day for as few as 3 weeks may increase the amount and activity of beneficial gut bacteria (52).
Keep in mind that coffee also contains other substances that improve health. Some of the benefits listed above may be caused by substances other than caffeine.
Bottom Line: Drinking coffee may promote a healthy liver, skin and digestive tract. It may also prolong life and help prevent several diseases.
Safety and Side Effects
Caffeine consumption is generally considered safe.
Some side effects linked to excess intake include anxiety, restlessness, tremors, irregular heartbeat and trouble sleeping (54).
Finally, it's worth noting that caffeine can interact with some medications.
Individuals taking the muscle relaxant Zanaflex or the antidepressant Luvox should avoid caffeine because these drugs can increase its effects (59).
Bottom Line: Caffeine can have negative side effects in some people, including anxiety, restlessness and trouble sleeping.
That being said, it's worth noting that fatal overdoses have been reported with single doses of 500 mg caffeine.
Finally, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, pregnant women should limit their daily intake to 200 mg (64).
Bottom Line: A caffeine intake of 200 mg per dose and up to 400 mg per day, is generally considered safe. However, pregnant women should limit their daily intake to 200 mg or less.
Take Home Message
Caffeine is not as unhealthy as it was once believed to be.
In fact, evidence shows that it may be just the opposite.
Therefore, it's safe to consider your daily cup of coffee or tea as an enjoyable way to promote good health.
This article was reposted from our media associate Authority Nutrition.
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By Jake Johnson
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Why You Should Wash Fresh Produce<p>Global pandemic or not, properly washing fresh fruits and vegetables is a good habit to practice to minimize the ingestion of potentially harmful residues and germs.</p><p>Fresh produce is handled by numerous people before you purchase it from the grocery store or the farmers market. It's best to assume that not every hand that has touched fresh produce has been clean.</p><p>With all of the people constantly bustling through these environments, it's also safe to assume that much of the <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fresh-vs-frozen-fruit-and-vegetables" target="_blank">fresh produce</a> you purchase has been coughed on, sneezed on, and breathed on as well.</p><p>Adequately washing fresh fruits and vegetables before you eat them can significantly reduce residues that may be left on them during their journey to your kitchen.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Washing fresh fruits and vegetables is a proven way to remove germs and unwanted residues from their surfaces before eating them.</p>
Best Produce Cleaning Methods<p>While rinsing fresh produce with water has long been the traditional method of preparing fruits and veggies before consumption, the current pandemic has many people wondering whether that's enough to really clean them.</p><p>Some people have advocated the use of soap, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/white-vinegar" target="_blank">vinegar</a>, lemon juice, or even commercial cleaners like bleach as an added measure.</p><p>However, health and food safety experts, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC), strongly urge consumers not to take this advice and stick with plain water.</p><p>Using such substances may pose further health dangers, and they're unnecessary to remove the most harmful residues from produce. <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/chlorine-poisoning" target="_blank">Ingesting commercial cleaning chemicals</a> like bleach can be lethal and should never be used to clean food.</p><p>Furthermore, substances like lemon juice, vinegar, and produce washes have not been shown to be any more effective at cleaning produce than plain water — and may even leave additional deposits on food.</p><p>While some research has suggested that using neutral electrolyzed water or a baking soda bath can be even more effective at removing certain substances, the consensus continues to be that cool tap water is sufficient in most cases.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>The best way to wash fresh produce before eating it is with cool water. Using other substances is largely unnecessary. Plus they're often not as effective as water and gentle friction. Commercial cleaners should never be used on food.</p>
How to Wash Fruits and Vegetables With Water<p>Washing fresh fruits and vegetables in cool water before eating them is a good practice when it comes to health hygiene and food safety.</p><p>Note that fresh produce should not be washed until right before you're ready to eat it. Washing fruits and vegetables before storing them may create an environment in which bacterial growth is more likely.</p><p>Before you begin washing fresh produce, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-should-you-wash-your-hands" target="_blank">wash your hands well</a> with soap and water. Be sure that any utensils, sinks, and surfaces you're using to prepare your produce are also thoroughly cleaned first.</p><p>Begin by cutting away any bruised or visibly rotten areas of fresh produce. If you're handling a fruit or vegetable that'll be peeled, such as an orange, wash it before peeling it to prevent any surface bacteria from entering the flesh.</p><p>The general methods to wash produce are as follows:</p><ul><li><strong>Firm produce.</strong> Fruits with firmer skins like apples, lemons, and pears, as well as <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/root-vegetables" target="_blank">root vegetables</a> like potatoes, carrots, and turnips, can benefit from being brushed with a clean, soft bristle to better remove residues from their pores.</li><li><strong>Leafy greens.</strong> Spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, leeks, and cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts and bok choy should have their outermost layer removed, then be submerged in a bowl of cool water, swished, drained, and rinsed with fresh water.</li><li><strong>Delicate produce.</strong> Berries, mushrooms, and other types of produce that are more likely to fall apart can be cleaned with a steady stream of water and gentle friction using your fingers to remove grit.</li></ul><p>Once you have thoroughly rinsed your produce, dry it using a clean paper or cloth towel. More fragile produce can be laid out on the towel and gently patted or rolled around to dry them without damaging them.</p><p>Before consuming your fruits and veggies, follow the simple steps above to minimize the amount of germs and substances that may be on them.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Most fresh fruits and veggies can gently be scrubbed under cold running water (using a clean soft brush for those with firmer skins) and then dried. It can help to soak, drain, and rinse produce that has more dirt-trapping layers.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>Practicing good food hygiene is an important health habit. Washing fresh produce helps minimize surface germs and residues that could make you sick.</p><p>Recent fears during the <a href="https://www.healthline.com/coronavirus" target="_blank">COVID-19 pandemic</a> have caused many people to wonder whether more aggressive washing methods, such as using soap or commercial cleaners on fresh produce, are better.</p><p>Health professionals agree that this isn't recommended or necessary — and could even be dangerous. Most fruits and vegetables can be sufficiently cleaned with cool water and light friction right before eating them.</p><p>Produce that has more layers and surface area can be more thoroughly washed by swishing it in a bowl of cool water to remove dirt particles.</p><p>Fresh fruits and vegetables offer a number of healthy nutrients and should continue to be eaten, as long as safe cleaning methods are practiced.</p>
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From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
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(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
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