10 surprising health benefits of living caffeine-free

By Naveed Saleh, MD, MS, for MDLinx
Published March 27, 2019

Key Takeaways

Do you ever find yourself thinking—after your third cup of morning coffee perhaps—that you need to kick your caffeine habit? Well, you are not alone. 

Caffeine is completely legal, and, every day, countless people across the world ingest caffeine in the form of soft drinks, coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate, caffeine pills, and so forth. In the United States, adults consume, on average, 3 mg/kg of caffeine per day, or 4-6 cups of coffee per day, with a single cup of coffee containing between 50 mg and 150 mg of caffeine.

Caffeine has widespread effects on the central nervous system, as well as hormonal, metabolic, muscular, cardiovascular, pulmonary, and renal functions—and quitting caffeine could reverse these effects.

Here are 10 health benefits of kicking the caffeine habit.

1. Anxiety. Caffeine has plenty of effects on the central nervous system. Chief among these actions is the competitive antagonism at adenosine receptors. Adenosine is a neuromodulator that is structurally similar to caffeine but causes mild sedating effects. Caffeine opposes these mild sedating effects and at higher levels, likely boosts anxiety, jitteriness, and nervousness. By quitting caffeine, you could experience less anxiety.

2. Insomnia. Caffeine is quickly absorbed via the gastrointestinal tract and can take effect in as little as 15 minutes. The half-life of caffeine is about 6 hours, so if you consume caffeine later in the day, the wakefulness it causes may interfere with your sleep and result in insomnia. In other words, ditch the caffeine and you will likely sleep better.

3. Heart rate. Caffeine is known to increase heart rate and result in tachycardia. Over the long run, tachycardia can result in heart complications, including stroke and heart failure. Obviously, heart disease is multifactorial, but quitting caffeine can remove at least one stressor from the equation.

4. Urination. It can be annoying and inconvenient to take too many bathroom breaks while seeing your patients. Caffeine is a diuretic. By cutting out caffeine, you’ll probably urinate less and have uninterrupted time for your daily duties. On a related note, caffeine doesn’t result in dehydration despite popular belief.

5. Arrhythmias. Although the literature is mixed, some experts claim that caffeine consumption may be linked to abnormal heart rhythms, including premature atrial and ventricular heart contractions.

6. Nutrition. Caffeine on its own proffers no intrinsic long-term health benefits and likely interferes with nutritional status. It can lead to nutrient depletion of vitamin B6, as well as nutrient absorption of essential minerals, including B vitamins, iron, magnesium, and calcium.

7. Bone health. Calcium has been reported to decrease bone mass and heighten fracture risk in populations at risk of calcium deficiency (ie, elderly women). Caffeine interferes with calcium absorption. This depressant effect could be exacerbated by the fact that people who drink caffeinated beverages may drink less milk and other dairy products. Interestingly, the anti-calcium effects of caffeine can be balanced out by a mere 1-2 tablespoons of milk per day. Nevertheless, if at risk for osteoporosis, abandoning caffeine might be a good idea.

8. Gastrointestinal symptoms. Have you ever drank a hot cup of coffee on an empty stomach and experienced stomach discomfort? Researchers have suggested that many components of coffee—including caffeine—stimulate gastrointestinal distress via acid secretion. Specifically, these other components include catechols and substances called N-alkanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamides. Interestingly, some experts suggest processing coffee to do away with these irritants to create a “stomach-friendly brew.”

9. Oral health. Although caffeine is not a culprit in tooth and enamel erosion secondary to bacterial overgrowth, beverages like coffee and soda—which serve as a vehicle for caffeine ingestion—do cause these effects. These beverages can make your teeth turn yellow and brittle, and can result in bad breath.

10. Hormone levels. In one study, researchers showed that moderate consumption of caffeine interfered with estradiol levels in women of reproductive age. Specifically, moderate consumption of caffeine resulted in decreased estradiol levels in white premenopausal women; on the other hand, caffeinated soda and green tea increased estradiol levels in premenopausal women of all races.

Although it has its drawbacks, caffeine does have clinical benefits, especially coffee. So, if quitting caffeine isn’t in the cards for you, you may want to at least rethink that second or third serving.

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