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Behind the Caffeine Curtain

The truth behind caffeine myths.

Unless you're a caffeine expert, you probably have misconceptions about caffeine, one of the oldest and most available drugs available to mankind.

Unfortunately, medical research has contributed to these misconceptions as findings have developed over the years. From Hershey's milk chocolate and energy drinks to over-the-counter medications and diet pills, caffeine is a common ingredient that can have different effects on different people.

But does that mean it's a bad thing?
Here is the inside scoop on five common caffeinated myths.

Myth #1: Caffeine Causes Insomnia

As you lie awake in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, have you ever blamed the three cups of coffee you had that morning? Thankfully, caffeine consumed six hours before turning in for the night will not affect your sleep.

That's because caffeine is rapidly absorbed by your body and is eliminated quickly. Caffeine has a pretty short half-life, meaning it takes on average around five to seven hours for your body to be rid of half of it. Therefore, coffee in the morning will not affect your quality of sleep at night.

However, caffeine consumed later in the day can cause sleep problems. To be on the safe side, avoid caffeine at least six hours before hitting the hay. And if you rarely consume caffeine or have a slow metabolism, you may want to keep your distance altogether, as you're more likely to suffer caffeine-induced insomnia, nervousness, or an upset stomach.

Sleep in a symptom of caffeine deprivation
- Author Unknown

Myth #2: Caffeine Offers no Health Benefit

If you've given up your morning coffee for something cold, it may be time to return to your previous routine. Because research has shown that consuming less than 300 milligrams of caffeine is good for your health. What good does it do for you? Proven perks include increased mental concentration and alertness, as well as increased energy and sociability.

Caffeine has also been shown to improve your immune function and to reduce allergic reactions. Preliminary data also shows that caffeine may be helpful in reducing your risk of developing liver disease, Parkinson's, colorectal and other cancers, dementia, and type two diabetes. Further studies are needed to prove these findings, though the idea is exciting. And it also seems that asthma sufferers can benefit from caffeine, though these findings have yet to be proven.

Just remember that with all of the potential benefits, excessive amounts of caffeine may cause adverse effects, especially if you're older or have high blood pressure. Additionally, a possible connection has been found between high levels of caffeine (more than 744 milligrams a day) and osteoporosis or high blood pressure.

Myth #3: Caffeine Dehydrates

Though caffeine is a mild diuretic, consuming caffeine in moderate amounts won't cause you to become dehydrated. The fluid found in caffeinated beverages offsets the amount of fluid lost when urinating. Therefore, a cup of coffee can count toward your fluid intake for the day.

Myth #4: No Caffeine Is Safe for Pregnant Women

Studies have shown that small amounts of caffeine (such as a cup of coffee a day) have no link to a woman having difficulty conceiving, suffering a miscarriage, giving premature birth, birthing children with birth defects, or have children with low birth weight.

Consuming high levels of caffeine, however, has been proven to increase a woman's risk for miscarriage. Hence why the March of Dimes recommends women trying to conceive or those who are pregnant consume no more than 200 milligrams of caffeine a day.

Myth #5: Caffeine Sobers You Up

Drinking a cup of coffee after too many beers may make you feel more awake and aware of your senses, but you will still be drunk. As such, your judgments and reaction time will still be impaired. While caffeine improves your senses, this actually makes it harder for you to realize the extent of your drunkenness, causing you to think you can do things you shouldn't, such as driving.

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