Caffeine and Alcohol

Except for water, coffee is the world's most consumed beverage. And wine grapes are the world's most abundant crop. But neither of these beverages, though they have significant cultural, social, and historical heritage, offer much nutritional value. Caffeine is a stimulant, and alcohol is a depressant. Both of them alter the way your body functions, and both, when taken in excess, are damaging.


Caffeine is a naturally occurring substance found in the coffee bean, cocoa bean, kola nut, and tea leaf. Taken as a mild stimulant, caffeine increases body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure. It restricts blood vessels to the brain, which prevents sleep, and causes the release of adrenaline, which makes you alert.

When abused, caffeine causes anxiety, stomach irritation, headaches, and insomnia. What's worse, it is addictive. People who consume more than 300 milligrams a day (about three cups of coffee) will suffer withdrawal symptoms when cut off from their supply. Symptoms include fatigue, depression, irritability, jitters, and headaches as blood vessels in the brain dilate. Additionally, caffeine is a diuretic, flushing your body of fluids. This makes caffeinated beverages a poor choice as fluid replacements for water.

In addition to being present in your favorite beverages, caffeine can also be found in some medications. Medicine for migraines often includes caffeine, which makes the drug work quickly. Caffeine is sometimes used to counteract drowsiness caused by certain medications, such as antihistamines.

Caffeine is not stored in the body, so its effects are not permanent. It's impact can be felt ten to fifteen minutes after ingestion, and the effect lasts two to three hours. Tolerance for caffeine varies, but most adults should limit intake to 200–300 milligrams per day. One cup of coffee is about 90 milligrams, and sodas average around 40 milligrams.

When cutting back on caffeine, it's best to go slowly. Limit your caffeinated soda and tea intake, and switch your coffee to half-caffeinated. Take heart in knowing that your headaches will disappear in a week or two.


Alcohol was first valued as a way to purify water. But its mind-altering and addictive properties soon became apparent. Alcohol is not in and of itself nutritious, and though certain forms may contain healthful properties, these are negligible in comparison to the damage alcohol does.

Regularly consuming more than the recommended two drinks per day maximum (one for women) raises your chance of high blood pressure, stroke, and certain cancers, including liver, colon, esophageal, mouth, and breast cancer in women. Alcohol promotes dehydration, and it impairs muscle coordination, reflexes, reaction time, and balance. In addition, heavy consumption commonly results in malnutrition and weight gain. Although it does not contain many nutrients, alcohol does have about seven calories for every gram. The calories replace those that would otherwise be consumed by nutritious foods, and alcohol inhibits the functions of many nutrients that are consumed. Like all extras in your diet, alcohol should be used in moderation.

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