Waking Up to the Effects of Caffeine

Written by Dr. Fuhrman’s colleague Jeff Novick, M.S., R. D. for the December 2002 edition of Healthy Times:

Believe it or not, according to a study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress, the amount of caffeine in just one cup of coffee could be enough to harden a person’s arteries for several hours afterward. Hardened arteries put extra pressure on the heart and increase the risk of heart attack and stroke.


“After drinking a cup of coffee, blood pressure can rise up to 5 or even 10 millimeters of mercury,” said Dr. Charalambos Vlachopoulos from the Cardiology Department of the Henry Dunant Hospital in Athens, Greece. Increases of this magnitude can increase a person’s risk of suffering from a stroke or a heart attack.

Elsewhere, Dr. M. O’Rourke and colleagues at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, Australia, presented data at the 22nd Congress of the European Society of Cardiology linking caffeine consumption with alterations in the aorta, the main artery supplying blood to the body. Their study showed that caffeine led to a loss of aortic elasticity and raised blood pressure. The elasticity of the aorta is linked to heart function and coronary blood flow.

In a Finnish study reported in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, Dr. Maarku Heliovaara of the National Public Health Institute in Helsinki and colleagues found that people who drank four or more cups of coffee each day had twice the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, compared with people who drank less coffee. Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s defenses attack its own tissues, resulting in a chronic destruction and deformity of the joints. Smoking, high cholesterol, being overweight, and certain dietary factors also have been linked with a higher risk of the disease.

Too much caffeine also has been shown to raise women’s risk for incontinence. According to a report in the July 2000 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, women who drink more than four cups of brewed coffee a day—or consume a lot of caffeine from other sources, such as tea, cola, or cocoa—may be more than twice as likely to suffer incontinence from a weakened bladder muscle as women who consume less caffeine.

A study reported in the February 2002 issue of Diabetes Care, found that moderate consumption of caffeine reduced insulin sensitivity by 15 percent. The researchers also found that caffeine increased catecholamines, plasma-free fatty acids, and both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. The moderate consumption of caffeine caused a fivefold increase in epinephrine. Epinephrine increases the production of glucose in the liver and interferes with the ability of muscle and fat cells to use glucose.

Found in coffee, tea, and soft drinks, caffeine is the most widely used drug in the world. In the Western world, 8 out of 10 adults consume caffeine in some form.

Do yourself a favor—wake up to the negative effects of caffeine and avoid it.
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