Caffeine and your health: What’s the final word?


I’m not one of those people who says things like “inject the caffeine right into my veins” or “Starbucks is my second home,” but I really do enjoy my morning latte. In fact, the one Starbucks in Geneva seems to be the only place to get a coffee to go–otherwise the Swiss abide by this unwritten rule that one must sit and enjoy their coffee in the cafe where it was purchased. It drove me a little nuts the first two months. Now, I kind of love it.

I’ve been noticing caffeine getting some negative press lately. Well, maybe it’s the “press” I’m reading, which tends to consist of fashion and health blogs…but I’ve seen a lot of writers using phrases such as “when I gave up caffeine my skin cleared up,” and “I lost five pounds,” etc.

Bialetti espresso percolator...what we use at home.
Bialetti espresso percolator…what we use at home.

I feel like the U.S. naturally cycles through these caffeine backlashes about once every 15 years, so I decided to investigate these claims.

Turns out, there was not really any hard, medical evidence to support giving up a moderate caffeine habit–especially not on the basis that doing so will help you lose weight and give you a clear complexion. It is possible that these writers a) were drinking calorie-laden coffee drinks and/or b) had mild lactose sensitivities that caused skin issues.

As long as you keep it under 400 milligrams a day (about four cups of medium brewed coffee), a healthy adult should not suffer any ill effects from caffeine. Moreover, one to two cups of coffee a day may be beneficial to your health. I found caffeine may:

  • Stave off Alzheimer’s, even among patients already suffering from mild dementia. Caffeine reduces inflammation in the brain that would otherwise contribute to cognitive decline.
  • Improve memory and memory banks.
  • Prevent fatty liver diseases (but not those related to alcoholism).
  •  Reduce depression. A coffee drinker is 50% less likely to take his own life.
  • Improve exercise, if consumed about an hour prior. Caffeine may improve blood circulation, muscle preservation and reduce pain related to strength training.

That said, some do suffer from caffeine sensitivities and allergies, so consult with your doctor.


Ever wondered what all that coffee lingo means?

  • A latte is made with espresso, steamed milk and milk foam.
  • A cappuccino is similar to a latte, but has more foamed milk and less steamed milk.
  • A macchiato has no steamed milk added to the espresso, but has a little “hat” of milk foam.
  • A cafe au lait has only steamed milk added to coffee.

But, if you come to France or French-speaking Switzerland you won’t see “latte” on the menu. Instead, order a “petit renversé” (little spill) or a “grand renversé” (big spill). Impress the waiter.

Seems like the U.S. was going through one of those caffeine backlashes in 1991

The top 10 coffee scenes in movies.

Do you watch the online show “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee“? You really really should.


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