You are here

The Buzz on Caffeine

July 14, 2008

Millions of Americans jump-start their days with a cup of coffee, and then drink another cup or two or three throughout the day. Starbucks stores and others have proliferated throughout the country and throughout the world. More and more people try to move faster and faster to keep pace with the increasing demands of modern society. Not surprisingly, coffee represents 75% of all caffeine consumed in the United States.

Drinking coffee isn’t just a matter of personal taste. It has become a cultural habit, an entertainment and a form of comfort. It’s warm, it’s foamy; and it tastes good with sugar, chocolate powder or cinnamon on top. It’s an enjoyable social moment, a ritual and a symbol of dynamic, busy, working people.  

Coffee producers spend a lot of time and money to reassure the American public that drinking coffee isn’t bad for their health. A recent New York magazine article acknowledges that media sends Americans mixed messages on how good caffeine really is for us. Here are two headlines highlighted in the article: “Caffeine may help prevent autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis,” and “Drinking moderate amounts of coffee is believed to slash rates of Parkinson’s disease.”

Caffeine, the essential ingredient of coffee, is said to enhance alertness, concentration and mental and physical performance, and its negative side effects are downplayed. But coffee does have some health risks. It inhibits the absorption of essential minerals, such as iron, magnesium and zinc, as well as B vitamins. Many studies have also linked heavy coffee consumption with higher risks for miscarriages, osteoporosis and heart disease.  

Do you rely on coffee? How does your body react to caffeine?

About the author

Joshua Rosenthal is the Founder and Director of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. He has worked in the nutrition field for more than 25 years, teaching at the school alongside health leaders including Andrew Weil, Deepak Chopra and Barry Sears. At Integrative Nutrition students are trained as Health Coaches, receiving the holistic nutrition education necessary for them go out into the world and help others improve their health and happiness.