The Benefits of Caffeine
We sell and promote caffeine-free tea on Shelgo Tea, but that doesn’t mean that we have an aversion to caffeine. If anything, we’re all for caffeine because we’re big fans of black tea and also enjoy the occasional cup of coffee—not to mention the odd bar of chocolate. As far as we’re concerned, if you’re healthy and if you don’t go overboard, caffeine can be safe and even healthy.
And the research seems to agree with us on that. We’ve already looked at the issues associated with caffeine consumption, from potential overdoses to caffeine sensitivity, contraindications, and more (read our guide to the Downsides of Caffeine to learn more) and for the sake of subjectivity, now it’s time to look at the positives.
1. Caffeine May Help to Improve Memory (and Ward off Alzheimer’s)
A study performed by the University of Arizona was able to show that caffeine could improve recall in young adults when consumed in the morning, while another found it to have a positive effect on mood and performance, as well as memory. (1)(2)
Caffeine may also reduce the risk of dementia and other memory-related disorders. (3) There is a correlation between regular tea and coffee consumption and a decreased risk of diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. (4) However, correlation is not causation and a lot more research needs to be done on this subject before anyone can say with absolute certainty that caffeine (or tea and coffee) can help with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and other neurological disorders.
If so, then regular consumption of caffeine, along with herbal teas like sideritis and spices like turmeric, which have also been linked with reduced rates of dementia, may drastically reduce your chances of developing a neurological disorder.
But before you increase your caffeine consumption, it’s worth noting that excessive consumption seems to have the opposite effect and may lead to more adverse reactions.
2. Caffeine Can Improve Performance
This common stimulant is often added to sports drinks and pre-workout drinks because many studies have shown it to have a positive effect on performance. It increases the levels of epinephrine (adrenaline) in the blood, which helps to prepare the body for intense exercise. (5)
A meta-analysis found that caffeine could increase performance by 12.3%, effectively prolonging the “time to exhaustion”, which means it could be useful for endurance athletes as well as anyone looking to work a little harder in the gym. (6)
And you don’t need to consume powdered caffeine in pre-workout drinks to reap these benefits. You can simply enjoy a cup of strong tea or coffee 15 to 20 minutes prior to a workout.
3. Caffeine May Help with Fat Loss
Caffeine is often added to weight-loss supplements, and not without reason. Some studies have shown that caffeine can help increase the basal metabolic rate, which is the amount of calories that your body consumes at rest over the course of the day.
This, combined with the improved performance and energy, could lead to increased fat loss. And there are studies that seem to back this up, suggesting that it could increase fat burning by anywhere from a tenth to a quarter depending on the activity levels and the starting weight of the individual.
However, these seem to be most pronounced in individuals with little to no caffeine tolerance, and someone who has been drinking coffee or tea every day for many years will likely not experience fat loss to this extent.
4. Coffee May Improve Your Mental Health
A huge study looked at how caffeine affected more than 50,000 women over the course of 10 years and found that women who consumed caffeinated coffee and tea were less likely to develop depression. (7) Decaffeinated coffee consumption was also measured during this study and there were no notable findings, suggesting that caffeine could have been a major factor in these results (read about the decaf process here).
Once again, this is causation at play. In other words, just because coffee and tea drinkers are less likely to get depressed doesn’t mean that the tea or coffee was the reason. The size of the study was large enough to discount a margin of error, but it could be that coffee drinkers spend more time chatting with friends in coffee shops and home kitchens, or that tea drinkers are also more likely to have a healthier lifestyle. In these cases, the results would be the same, but the cause of those results would be social interactivity and diet respectively and not necessarily caffeine consumption.
There are many ways in which caffeine is known to affect mood, though. It can reduce fatigue, which is a known trigger for depression and anxiety, and it can also produce a mild stimulation and feeling of euphoria. On the flip side, however, excessive caffeine can cause irritability, jitteriness, and nervousness, all of which could potentially lead to mental health problems.
Other Benefits of Caffeine
Caffeine consumption may also be able to help in the following areas:
- Improves concentration and focus, making it a valuable learning tool.
- Helps to stimulate bowel movements.
- Can keep you awake and alert during periods of fatigue and sleep deprivation.
- May help prevent certain forms of cancer (studies have shown a reduced risk of melanoma and other cancers in caffeinated coffee drinkers). (8)
- May help increase sperm count in men.
- May help prevent tinnitus in women.
- Has been linked to a decreased risk of death in kidney disease patients and a decreased risk of developing kidney stones. (9)
Should You Consume More Caffeine?
If you already drink tea and coffee then you should already be consuming an adequate amount, more than enough to experience the aforementioned benefits. This is a common drug that is freely available and found in many foods and drinks, but that doesn’t mean that it’s safe, and when consumed in large doses, it can be very dangerous.
Caffeine may be good for you in moderation, but in excess it will likely do more harm than good. It’s also better to consume this stimulant in the form of tea, coffee, or even dark chocolate, because not only are they natural sources of caffeine but they also come loaded with phytonutrients that can provide you with a number of additional health benefits.