Caffeine for better and for worse
Caffeine for better and for worse

Caffeine for better and for worse

Present in many foods, caffeine is a product whose effects on the body are numerous and not always well known to consumers, especially younger ones.

Bad news for those who can not start their day without their sacred cup of coffee: caffeine can kill. They can rest assured however, these cases are rare and overdoses, since that is indeed what it is, are not generally caused by overuse of coffee or tea. To trigger an acute caffeine intoxication, we must absorb more than 10 grams, or about 100 cups of coffee. An amount which seems huge, but that can be easily reached by taking the pure coffee powder form or capsules for sale on the internet.

After the death last July of a young man of 18 from Ohio, US food safety authority (FDA, Food and Drug Administration) said that “one spoon of these products was equivalent to about 25 cups of coffee. “what draw attention to a substance present in many food and beverage products whose consumption increases, particularly among the young.

A powerful product

“It is not because many of us consume daily caffeine is a harmless product, insists Martial Saugy, director of the Swiss Laboratory for Doping Analyses (LAD). This is a very powerful substance; one to two cups of coffee may be enough to feel the effects. Regular consumption can also lead to psychological dependence. ”

It  is known for its psychostimulant action. Long present on the list of banned doping products to athletes competing, the caffeine has been removed in 2003. “The situation has always been complex, and remove it from the list does not mean that abuse it , falls Martial Saugy. Today, it remains also on the list of products under surveillance. “The analysis conducted by the FDA on samples taken from athletes show that the measured concentrations are very often” beyond those that could correspond to a normal consumption of caffeinated beverages. ”

Sport and caffeine

In addition to its effects on fatigue and alertness, caffeine also has lipolytic virtues, it helps to mobilize fat stores in the body. Characteristics that could partly explain the attraction of some endurance runners long distance for that substance. “But all sports, except of course those of accuracy, such as shooting, are now concerned,” says Martial Saugy.

The expert is concerned about the trivialization of coffee consumption among young athletes. “We can not objectify it, but it is likely that remove caffeine from the doping list has favored its use in the world of amateur sport.” Some parents even encourage their children to consume energy drinks before physical activity or the competitions.

“Sometimes there is real confusion on the part of consumers between sports drinks, to compensate for water loss, minerals, sugars, etc. during physical activity, and these “energy” drinks, which are only sodas with a very high concentration of sugar, caffeine, and sometimes taurine, an amino acid whose effects on the body are not yet fully known “says Astrid Nehlig, research director at the french National Institute of health and medical research (INSERM) in Strasbourg.

However, coffee  and athletic performance do not always go together, and the mixture may even be against-productive. Caffeine increases the loss of  vitamins and minerals, which promotes cramping. It can also, in some cases, induce muscle pain or even damage the fibers, or rhabdomyolysis.

The form which is absorbed caffeine is important. At the same dose, drink coffee or take one capsule is not comparable. “Coffee contains many molecules, including antioxidants, beneficial to health. They could counteract some deleterious effects of coffee  and explain some of the virtues of coffee. But these molecules are absent from energy drinks and powders, “says Astrid Nehlig.

Often misleading doses

To enjoy the benefits of the substance without suffering the side effects, avoid exceeding a certain threshold: 300 mg per day for women and 400 mg for men. But still have to properly account consumed coffee. “Often wrong drinks that contain estimated, or it is not known that a product contains caffeine” says Astrid Nehlig. Because coffee is not the only source of caffeine: tea leaves , cacao beans, the seeds of Kola and especially guarana also contain.

“We must be attentive to the coffeeconcentrations but also the bus volumes, says Astrid Nehlig. For example it is very easy to exceed the recommendations with energy drinks, knowing that some people can drink more than a liter a day “The concentrations of coffee such sodas are not always clearly indicated. A can of 250 ml contain 60 to 80 mg of caffeine, an amount that could, however, vary widely depending on the brand.

As for coffee, the idea has spread that espresso is “stronger” than filter coffee, or a cup of the first (50 ml) contains 60 to 80 mg of caffeine against at least 110 mg cup (250 ml) of the second. And arabica coffees are lower in caffeine than Robusta.

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