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Studies Show Caffeine's Not For Everyone



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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In our last report we told you that caffeine is the most popular drug around, and about a new study that says it's not all bad. Here's part two of that report.

UC San Francisco's Doctor Neil Benowitz is an expert on the effects of caffeine on the body. He says there have been close to 20,000 studies on caffeine over the years and the overall conclusions seems to be...

DR. NEIL BENOWITZ, UCSF RESEARCHER: "MOST STUDIES SUGGEST THAT IF YOU DON'T DRINK MORE THAN THREE TO FOUR CUPS A DAY, IT'S PRETTY SAFE."

In fact it may be more than safe.

Some studies show that caffeine can reduce your risk of gall stones, can help moderate asthma attacks, reduce the risk of colon cancer, even reduce the risk of Parkinson's disease, depression and suicide.

Clearly very encouraging news for caffeine lovers.

"I KNEW IT WOULD SAVE THE PLANET SOMEDAY."

The benefits of caffeine are not confined to one source, but are found in any caffeinated drink-- whether it's coffee, tea, or cola. So does that mean your doctor could one day be writing you a prescription for a double latte or a cup of English breakfast tea? Probably not.

For a start, while studies have found that caffeine may have health benefits, no one really knows why.

DR. NEIL BENOWITZ, UCSF RESEARCHER: "SOME PEOPLE THINK IT MIGHT BE ANTIOXIDANTS. IT'S NOT CLEAR WHETHER IT'S THE CAFFEINE OR SOMETHING ELSE IN THE COFFEE OR THE TEA. SO I DON'T THINK WE REALLY KNOW."

Another reason is that while it helps some people, it also can hurt others--people with high blood pressure, for instance.

Several studies have shown that caffeine can increase a person's risk of high blood pressure, making them more prone to heart disease and strokes, and that's not all.

DR. NEIL BENOWITZ, UCSF RESEARCHER: "THE SITUATION WHERE IT SEEMS TO BE THE BIGGEST PROBLEM IS PEOPLE WHO HAVE PANIC AND ANXIETY PROBLEMS, 'CAUSE THEY REALLY CAN GET THEIR PANIC OR ANXIETY AGGREVATED BY TAKING CAFFEINE."

There's also some evidence that drinking caffeine during pregnancy may increase a woman's risk of a low birth weight baby, that it may even have an affect on fertility.

So the bottom line for most of us is that coffee may not save our lives, but it certainly won't kill us.

DR. NEIL BENOWITZ, UCSF RESEARCHER: "IF YOU DRINK CAFFEINATED BEVERAGES MODERATELY, WHICH MEANS NO MORE THAN SAY THREE CUPS A DAY, DON'T WORRY ABOUT IT. ENJOY."

People develop a tolerance to caffeine quickly, and the same is true in reverse. If you're used to drinking a steady amount,you'll get withdrawal symptoms if you go without--usually a headache.

If you want to stop drinking caffeine it's best to taper off slowly.

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