To Caffeine or NOT to Caffeine | Caffeine Side Effects

There are a few hot button topics I come across as I blog about nutrition and health: protein, carbs, use of sunscreens (or the lack thereof), birth control, etc. One of the VERY hot issues that comes up often, especially because it is declared a forbidden substance in the Boot Camps I conduct, is caffeine.  Yep, you read it right–it is FORBIDDEN!

A few weeks ago I was doing a spur of the moment giveaway on Facebook (I do those often, by the way, and if you are not on my Facebook page, you are missing out) and asked readers what things they are happy they had given up or overcome to improve their health.  Several mentioned coffee. I am ecstatic about any progress a person makes toward better health, so I congratulated and applauded everyone who was willing to share their victory or their struggles.  There was one reader, however, from whom I had never heard before, who made a statement that signaled only one thing to me–there is an ADDICT in our midst!  She stated, and I am paraphrasing from memory: “The studies have shown that coffee is not harmful, but rather beneficial.” “Oh, my,” I thought, “Houston, we have a problem!” So, gently I typed in a response, already knowing what her comeback would be. Needless to say, she was up in arms, hail and thunderbolts… She actually accused me of having a “vested interest” in getting people off caffeine, although I am still trying to figure out what that might be. However, I do have an interest in seeing as many as possible healthy.  Ever since the encounter we have always referred to her as the “coffee girl”.

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“So, why is coffee so bad for us, Elena?” you ask. After all, drinking coffee became almost a status thing. We no longer want to drop by a gas station for the 90 cent cup offering, but rush to a Starbucks for a “designer” cup of coffee (still sold in a paper or plastic cup, by the way, same as you would find it at a gas station), willing to spend our retirement and kids’s college fund on getting the next hit.  We even came to approve young kids, barely teenagers, drinking coffee.  After all, they need a “boost of energy” and coffee is “better than using drugs”. Or is it?

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There are many reasons why we should avoid caffeine, but I will give you a couple. If you read my free report you know the negative impact of acidic foods and substances on your body.  Acidic foods (think  animal foods and byproducts, junk and processed foods as well as alcohol, coffee and caffeine products) bring our body’s PH levels down. The body, however, has to maintain alkalinity to survive. To fight the acidic impact of these foods, the body uses its mineral storage, primarily calcium, to buffer the acidity.  Calcium is extracted from our bones, it buffers acidity, bringing the body back into its alkaline state, however, at the end of the process the used calcium  cannot be reabsorbed back into our bones, so the body dumps this precious mineral with urine… leaving our bones deficient, making us prone to all bone related diseases, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, etc. , not to mention that acidic conditions are a prime requirement for diseases such as cancers to thrive in.

Another reason to get off caffeine containing products is that they are simply addictive.  Don’t believe me? Come to my boot camp. You will be required to get off coffee and anything with caffeine in it. If you take in at least 1 cup of coffee a day, or drink soda pops, what you will notice the very first day is onset of headaches, flu like symptoms, moodiness, fatigue, etc.–all real withdrawal symptoms similar to that of other drugs.  A question then begs to be answered: how can something, supposedly so harmless and beneficial for us, takes such a toll on the body and leaves horrible detox/withdrawal symptoms? If you quit eating carrots for a day, I would bet, you will have no such symptoms…  Just think about it!

But for the naysayers and the addicts, I know that logic is not a sufficient source to be convinced of a simple truth, and the longing for one more “hit” will trump any common sense, so there is a need for scientific evidence.  Not only since the “coffee girl” encounter, but for a while now, I have been wanting to write a well researched post on the topic, with all the references you can handle; however having an infant on my hands makes it a more challenging task. Thankfully you already met Tandi and know that she is like my nutrition twin and I can trust her research and opinion as I trust my own. I asked her if she could write a paper on the topic and she graceully agreed. When she sent me her paper and I read it and felt there is nothing I wanted to add to it–you will see in a moment why. However, there were a lot of hot moments when I wanted to slap her a high five… but since she is a few states away, I underlined or highlighted those moments with a bold font.

Please enjoy the article and share your thoughts under the post. Let’s talk about Caffeine Side Effects.


Tandi Hartle received her Bachelors degree in Natural Health Science from theUniversityofNatural Medicineand then went on to get a certificate in plant-based nutrition fromCornellUniversity.  Tandi has also received certificates in Nutritional Herbology, Aromatherapy, and Raw Culinary Arts.  She is the author of “America’s Health Crisis” and her work has been published in Natural News.  She is a highly sought after lecturer and speaker and has presented for Utah Valley University, New Mexico Midwives Association, Balance Wellness Center, and Vitality Natural Foods.   Her research is focused on how plant based foods affect the physiological aspects of healing. 

www.thepeacefulkitchen.blogspot.com

Coffee and Caffeine–Debunking the Myths

Before I even begin to get into the research on coffee and caffeine in general I want to emphatically express one important rule of thumb about health information. Be very careful about the nutrition and health information you get on the internet or from any media source. Unfortunately there are many companies and organizations that sponsor research of their products to counteract the negative legitimate research. For example, a meta-analysis was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition stating that saturated fat was good for you and not associated with heart disease. This went viral on the internet and I was getting all kinds of questions about it, so I looked up the study and low and behold what did I find?… it had been supported by the National Dairy Council! Even research published in respected journals can be advertising masquerading as research so be very careful about what you believe. As the saying goes, don’t believe everything you hear.

I am going to present you with sound evidence of the dangers and health risks of consuming coffee, green tea, black tea and caffeinated beverages. I also want to make it clear that as I did my research I found many studies that were supported by National Coffee Consortiums and other industry organizations so please understand many articles supporting coffee drinkers in their addictions are not necessarily accurate or without conflict of interest. One last warning before we delve into the research, I have a strong concern that some research touting benefits or lack of harm from coffee or caffeine may have been conducted by users of these very drugs, that is something we cannot find out in the authors notes and affiliations and so I highly question ANY research or articles touting the benefits as the authors are most likely addicts along with the rest of the population. Hang on to your hats because this is going to be a wild ride.

What about the Anti-Oxidant Claims of Green and Black Teas and even Coffee?

People love to hear good news about their bad habits. Researchers can literally conduct research to come to any conclusion they want as long as they set up the study correctly. As a nation of caffeine drug addicts it is no wonder we even conduct this kind of ridiculous research. News and media outlets love to report good news about bad habits and food addiction as it gets listeners and readership which equals profits. For example, the media loves to report that chocolate has antioxidants therefore eat all you want of it. They just fail to mention the fact that in order to be palatable it is processed, mixed with refined oils and sugar, but never mind that, it has antioxidants!

What are the most potent sources of antioxidants in our diet? Fruits and vegetables and to a lesser extent whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes. This is where antioxidants SHOULD come from, from the food you eat every single day! We have absolutely NO dietary need for coffee or any other form of caffeinated teas and the fact that they have antioxidants in them does not make them a health food.

We tend to lean toward a reductionist view of nutrition, milk has calcium so it is good for me, meat equals protein so that must be good, coffee and tea have antioxidants so that means they are healthy. The fact is, none of these foods are good for you regardless of whether they have some nutrient or ‘healthy’ compound in them. The important factor in determining truly healthy food is its overall health impact and nutritional profile, not just isolated compounds and nutrients it may contain.

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Coffee Inhibits the Absorption of Critical Nutrients

Coffee consumption can increase the risk of iron deficiency anemia by significantly inhibiting the absorption of iron, as well as many other vitamins and minerals. Not only does it interfere with absorption, it also increases urinary excretion of minerals as well.

Coffee consumption dramatically inhibits the absorption of iron and can contribute to iron deficiency if regularly consumed with meals or just before a meal. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical nutrition found 1 cup of coffee decreased iron absorption from a high iron meal by 39% and tea, this includes green and black teas, decreased iron absorption by 64%.1

According to the Iron Disorders Institute coffee can decrease iron absorption up to 60% depending on the type of coffee, food eaten and other factors.2

According to Live Science any substance including coffee, tea, and caffeinated beverages can inhibit the absorption of vitamins and minerals as well as increase excretion of them from the body thereby affecting your nutritional status.3

Before we even get into coffee or caffeinated beverages role in damaging health we already see that those who are regular coffee drinkers will have significantly greater risk of developing nutritional deficiencies and imbalances. These deficiencies and imbalances can contribute to a host of illnesses and exacerbate symptoms of chronic disease. The fact that coffee interferes with absorption of nutrients should, in my opinion, be enough to say, it isn’t healthy, don’t drink it. However, I understand the power of addiction and so we will continue on with the damaging effects of these beverages.

Not only does coffee itself have an effect on absorption of nutrients, caffeine can affect renal handling of minerals. In one study researchers found that reabsorption of calcium and magnesium decreased significantly after consumption of a caffeinated beverage as opposed to a non-caffeinated beverage. Researchers concluded that the effect of caffeine caused urinary loss of calcium and magnesium by reducing the kidneys ability to induce reabsorption of these minerals.4

Caffeine is a diuretic and therefore chronic consumption of caffeine can lead to dehydration and imbalances in electrolyte minerals in the body. According to the American Heart Association caffeine can affect the kidneys increasing urine excretion and can lead to dehydration.5

Both coffee and caffeine have significant effects on nutrient absorption and excretion and therefore can be considered a risk factor in dehydration, nutritional imbalances and deficiencies over time.

Coffee Consumption can Impair Insulin Sensitivity and Glucose Balance in the Blood

Coffee in and of itself does not cause diabetes, however, it does have dramatic negative effects on blood sugar metabolism and can contribute to blood sugar imbalances in the body. Any individual who has a health challenge involving blood sugar problems should not consume coffee, including women with PCOS, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, or insulin resistance.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the consumption of caffeinated coffee significantly impaired blood glucose management and insulin sensitivity after both a high glycemic index meal and a low glycemic index meal. After consumption of even a low GI meal drinking caffeinated coffee reduced insulin sensitivity by 29%!6

Some conflicting evidence has been seen as far as blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity in various studies. Unfortunately, as an author states in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition these studies showing coffee’s beneficial effects on blood glucose and insulin sensitivity have NOT been seen in human trials.7 So yes, there is conflicting information, however, when we look at the human trials we see very clearly that coffee does not have beneficial effects on blood glucose or insulin sensitivity in humans. The flaws in several of these studies on the benefits of coffee only showed beneficial effects of coffee on reduced risk of diabetes ‘IF’ the patients lost weight! We all know that weight loss itself causes increased insulin sensitivity and decreased risk of diabetes so the coffee in this study was not the factor in decreasing the risk. This twisting of information is where the conflicting information generates from, the fact remains, coffee is not a healthy substance.

Coffee, Inflammation, and Cardiovascular Disease

Again we see conflicting information in regard to coffee consumption and heart disease in some studies, whereas in others we see definite risks. The problem with most studies is that coffee consumption is studied as only a part of an overall larger study and in this case researchers cannot isolate coffee consumption from all other dietary factors known to contribute to cardiovascular disease. We have a whole population that consume a diet that largely contributes to heart disease, therefore coffee in itself is not going to even make the long list of risk factors for cardiovascular disease when studied under these circumstances. However, if we look at studies where coffee consumption alone is studied in correlation with its specific impact on certain risk factors for heart disease we definitely see that coffee does play a role in increasing our risk of cardiovascular disease.

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A study published in the AJCN found a relation between moderate and high consumption of coffee and increased inflammation in the body. When coffee drinkers were compared with non-coffee drinkers researchers found 30% higher C-reactive protein levels in coffee drinkers as opposed to non-drinkers, as well as 28% higher tumor necrosis factor and 3% higher white blood cell count. Researchers stated that the results of the study remained significant even when adjusted with other factors including smoking, BMI and other factors that may have affected the outcome. In the conclusion researchers stated that these effects of coffee on the body could have an effect on disease processes caused by inflammation in the body which would include cardiovascular disease.8

Coffee consumption causes a rise in homocysteine levels within hours of consumption. This is significant because high homocysteine levels are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Unfortunately, researchers have been unable to identify which compound in coffee that exerts this effect, caffeine contributed slightly but was not identified as the main compound causing this effect. Here we see that coffee, not caffeine was identified to increase a specific risk factor for heart disease, therefore even decaffeinated coffee contributes to rises in homocysteine levels within hours of consumption.9

As if the increases in homocysteine levels and inflammation levels are not bad enough, coffee consumption has also been found to increase aortic stiffness which can also increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Aortic stiffness can increase the risk of stroke, heart attack and other serious health conditions.10

Coffee has Negative Effects on Hormonal Balance

Women with PCOS may want to take caution with consuming coffee, especially decaffeinated coffee as studies have found increases in testosterone levels in premenopausal women consuming both caffeine and coffee. Decaffeinated coffee consumption in this study had a lowering effect on DHEA levels as well which could be beneficial if levels were elevated but in the case where the body is struggling to produce enough it could be very detrimental. Even in cases where DHEA is too high there are other safer methods of reducing elevated levels without the use of coffee.11

The significance of coffee lowering DHEA levels is that DHEA is involved in hormone regulation, helps keep blood pressure lower, proper growth of brain cells, decreases formation of blood clots, assists in the repair of tissue, and many other beneficial actions. Lowering DHEA levels can, in fact, impact balance of other hormones including estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone.12

Infertility is just another negative impact regular coffee consumption can contribute to. A study conducted on nearly 2000 women in Connecticut found women consuming 1 cup of coffee per day infertility was 55% higher, 100% higher for 1 1/2 cups per day and 176% higher in women consuming over 3 cups of coffee per day. The hormonal effects of coffee or caffeine are not fully understood however, the indication that coffee can have an effect on fertility should be taken seriously.13

Studies have shown that caffeine consumption has a dramatic effect on thyroid stimulating hormone and thyroid hormones. A study published in Pharmacology found that TSH levels were depressed between 1 and 6 hours after injection of caffeine, decreases were also seen in thyroid hormones in the following hours. Caffeine was not the only chemical that had this effect, theophylline and theobromine, had similar effects. Theophylline and theobromine are found in coffee, green and black tea.14

Coffee has been shown in several studies to have damaging effect on thyroid function and hormones by lowering thyroid hormones as well as causing excretion of the stress hormone cortisol which interferes with the thyroid as well. It is important that individuals who have lower functioning thyroid, or are on thyroid medication cut out caffeine and coffee from the diet to avoid coffee’s interaction with absorption of thyroid medication as well as its damaging effects on the thyroid in general.15,16

Coffee and Caffeine Elevate Stress Hormones

It is well known that elevated cortisol levels can increase cravings for sugar and increase appetite which can lead to weight gain, it can counteract insulin and acts as a diuretic among many other negative health effects. Studies have found that coffee and caffeine can cause chronically elevated levels of cortisol and other stress hormones.

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Caffeine is a xanthine derivative that acts physiologically by stimulating the central nervous system. Its stimulation effects cause an increased heart rate, voluntary muscle contraction, diruesis, and increases gastric acid secretion among many other effects.

The effects of constant stimulation of the central nervous system from chronic coffee consumption have not been well studied but should be quite obvious. Taking any stimulant in an effort to ‘wake up’ the body results in chronic overstimulation of the systems involved in producing this unnatural stimulation and eventually increased doses may be needed to exert the same effect to the point where the body can run into chronic states of fatigue.

Many reports on the ‘benefits’ of caffeine consumption tout its ability to increase alertness and energy. The problem with this are the physiological effects that are required for this stimulation. Caffeine does not and cannot give you energy! Calories are required to give the body energy through providing fuel for the body, the main source of this energy is carbohydrates. Caffeine is a drug, a stimulant that produces a sensation of energy through stimulation of the body’s stress hormones not by actually giving true energy to the body. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system through blocking adenosine which is a neurotransmitter that has a calming effect in the body. Once this has occurred the adrenal glands are then stimulated to release adrenaline which causes an increase in heart rate, glucose release into the blood stream, muscles tighten, pupils dilate and you feel energized. The problem with this is that the adrenals are constantly being called upon to release adrenaline into the body which can be taxing to the system.

Individuals who regularly consume caffeine or coffee begin to experience less refreshing sleep, increased anxiety, fluctuations in energy, afternoon fatigue and a host of other signs that the body is being over stimulated and exhausted as a result.

It can be difficult to find research exposing the dangers of coffee consumption and one reason for this is a society so addicted to this drug, no one wants to admit or find any result in a study pointing to the dangers of taking this drug. However, if we dig a little deeper and look directly into the effects of excess stress and release of stress hormones, which also causes the release of adrenaline or epinephrine we start to see the damaging effects that caffeine can have.

According to the Mayo Clinic: “The long-term activation of the stress-response system — and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — can disrupt almost all your body’s processes. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Sleep problems
  • Digestive problems
  • Depression
  • Obesity
  • Memory impairment
  • Worsening of skin conditions, such as eczema17

One thing we must understand here is that caffeine causes a much stronger stimulation of the stress hormones than simple, day to day stresses and therefore could potentially exacerbate these consequences.

Studies have shown that sustained hyperadrenalemia can reduce exercise performance and cause marked increases in blood lactate concentrations during exercise. Some studies have looked at the benefits on immediate caffeine consumption on exercise performance and found benefits, the problem with this is chronic hyperadernalemia can actually have deleterious effects over time.18-26

Increased Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis with Decaffeinated Coffee Consumption

Studies have shown that the amount of coffee consumed was directly, proportionally related to positive rheumatoid factor. Researchers concluded after adjusting for other factors that coffee consumption was a risk factor for rheumatoid arthritis by contributing to the production of rheumatoid factor. In another study published in Arthritis and Rheumatism found that decaffeinated coffee intake was “independently and positively” associated with rheumatoid arthritis onset.27

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These are not the only studies finding an association between coffee consumption whether caffeinated or not to rheumatoid arthritis. In several summaries and conclusions in these articles researchers called for more in depth research into the mechanisms in which this occurs as well as further study into other forms of arthritis and a connection with coffee consumption. This connection to rheumatoid arthritis does not stop with coffee, it is also associated with tea consumption.28

Despite conflicting evidence of the role coffee may play in diabetes, heart disease, or any other health problems the fact that it causes severe withdrawal symptoms should tip you off that this is not a healthy substance and is very addictive. John’s Hopkins University published information on a study conducted on the addictive nature of coffee as well as withdrawal from the drug, yes I said DRUG.

The latest research has shown that when an individual who consumed coffee regularly misses their morning jolt, symptoms of withdrawal can include: headache, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, flu-like symptoms, nausea and muscle pain. I find it interesting that if you look up the symptoms of illicit drug withdrawal you find: difficulty concentrating, headaches, depression, irritability, nausea etc… Of course these more powerful drugs can cause even more severe symptoms but the reality is coffee is a stimulant, a drug that is very addicting. Anything that causes addiction and withdrawal symptoms in the body is not healthy.29

Addicts Tend to Rationalize Risks of their Addiction

It is very common for an addict to be very protective of the substance of their addiction, downplaying risks associated with their drug of choice. It does not matter what your drug of choice is, addiction is never healthy. Even something as benign as food can become a health hazard when addiction fuels the drive to consume unhealthy foods or even ‘healthy’ foods in excess.

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There is a raging argument about whether or not coffee is healthy or not. This debate is largely waged because researchers, doctors, scientists, our whole population is addicted to this drug and therefore very few people are willing to face the facts about coffee and caffeine. You can’t have a population of drug addicts conduct research on the substance they are addicted to(!), we all know what the results of that study would be. It is as silly as having a cocaine addict conduct research on the damaging effects of cocaine. I’m sure we could find some positive effects of cocaine if we looked hard enough, but that isn’t the point.

Coffee, tea and caffeine are not healthy, they contain many toxic compounds and have significant negative health effects on the body. Just the fact that it causes significant withdrawal symptoms should be a HUGE clue that this is an addictive, health damaging drug.

I know this is not a popular opinion, and honestly, I am not in the business of coddling addicts, I am in the business of helping people regain their health and coffee, tea and caffeine are not a part of a healthy diet… period.

References

  1. http://www.ajcn.org/content/37/3/416
  2. http://www.irondisorders.org/diet/
  3. http://www.livescience.com/9821-coffee-kill-benefits-vitamins.html
  4. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/002432059090616Y
  5. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/Caffeine_UCM_305888_Article.jsp
  6. http://www.ajcn.org/content/87/5/1254.abstract
  7. http://www.ajcn.org/content/84/4/682.short
  8.  http://www.ajcn.org/content/80/4/862.abstract
  9. http://www.ajcn.org/content/76/6/1244.short
  10. http://www.ajcn.org/content/81/6/1307.full
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2764240/
  12. Lamberts, S.W., van den Beld, A.W. and van der Lely, A.J. 1997. The endocrinology of aging. Science.278(5337):419-24.
  13. Hatah (1990) This study referenced by-Drs. Larry Dulgosz, Michael B. Brachs Yale University School of Medicine Epidemiologic Reviews Vol. 14, pg. 83, 1992
  14. http://jpet.aspetjournals.org/content/214/1/58.short
  15. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.0954-6820.1967.tb07260.x/abstract
  16. http://www.thyroid-info.com/articles/coffeecalcium.htm
  17. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/stress/SR00001
  18. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8925426
  19. Cessation of Caffeine Consumption. The New England Journal of Medicine. 16(327): 1109-14 Robertson, D., Frolich, J.C., Carr, R.K., Watson, J.T., Hollifield, J.W., Shand, D.G. and J.A. Oates. 1978.
  20. Effects of caffeine on plasma renin activity, catecholamines and blood pressure. New England Journal of Medicine. 298(4):181-6.
  21. 63 Lane, J.D., Adcock, R.A., Williams, R.B. and C.M. Kuhn. 1990. Caffeine effects on cardiovascular and
  22. Neuroendocrine responses to acute psychosocial stress and their relationship to level of habitual caffeine consumption. Psychosomatic Medicine. 52(3):320-36.
  23. 64 Lane, J.D. 1994. Neuroendrocine Responses to Caffeine in the Work Environment. Psychosomatic Medicine.
  24. 546:267-70.
  25. 65 Kerr, D., Sherwin, R.S., Pavalkis, F., Fayad, P.B., Sikorski, L., Rife, F., Tamborlane, W.V. and During, M.J.
  26. 1993. Effect of caffeine on the recognition of and responses to hypoglycemia in humans. Annals of Internal Medicine. 119(8):799-804.
  27. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/07/000727080902.htm
  28. http://www.labnews.co.uk/news/tea-v-coffee-and-rheumatoid-arthritis/
  29. http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/press_releases/2004/09_29_04.html/

Conclusion

(from Elena)

I hope that you now have all the right reasons to quit the poison that might be taking your health and life very slowly, no matter how well packaged and advertised it comes (in 2010 Starbucks spent– $97.6 million  on advertising [source]). Next time you want a real energy boost, cleanse your system (come to my Boot Camp, if you need help), and take a shot of a green smoothie first thing in the morning. You will be amazed how long you will feel energized and rejuvinated without any adverse symptoms.

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  • SLH

    tips on how to wean your self off the daily spark?

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      SLH, depends on how addicted you are and how many cups you do a day. If your addiction is strong, start by cutting down 1/2 cup a day every day or every other day until you are ready to let go. Meanwhile do green smoothies, to help you feel better and more fresh and improve the rest of your diet too, so you do not feel like you are dragging. There might be a detox period, but if you hang in there, it will get better and you will have more energy than you ever knew you could have (as long as you remember to sleep as well :)).

  • Angie

    I almost jumped on the spark bandwagon before I found Elena’s information on vegan health. I was desperate and sick and I would have done about anything. The one thing I knew something about was adrenal fatigue. I knew that the ingredients in spark would stress my adrenals. The information I have gotten from Elena has been life-changing in so many ways. It was a literal answer to prayer.

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Angie, thank you for the comment. I would love to hear more about the progress you made and the changes you implemented.

  • Lori

    I’m curious if you think Advocare Spark energy drinks increase cortisol levels too since it does have 120 mg caffeine? It’s hard to find out the truth since Advocare sponsors say it’s not acidic like coffee so it is “healthier”. I gave up coffee because of Spark but I don’t want to fatigue my adrenals by raising cortisol levels. Also what about products containing guarana, the natural caffeine? Does it increase cortisol levels?

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Lori, make sure to check the comment right after yours (it will show up above), as someone was referring to Spark products.

      I can tell you that stimulants, regardless of their original source, are not optimal for our health…EVER! The body should be operating optimally based on three factors: rest, diet and exercise. When we have these in order, then we should feel full of energy regardless of our age. I find that a good night rest, along with clean foods, such as greens, grains, veggies, legumes and fruit, along with B12 supplementation, is all that we need for optimal health and energy. If you would like to feel rested and energetic, but not sure where to start, make sure to check out the 30 day program I offer: http://www.vega-licious.com/services/vegan-30-day-boot-camp-weight-loss-health-improvement/; and, of course, the free course I offer though my site.

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  • Argel

    This really struck a chord – I have always been hyper-sensitive to coffee, if I have half a cup it is like I’m on drugs, great for a while, but then CRASH! I love my sweet English Breaky tea in the mornings, and a few months ago when I found out I was pregnant I switched to Green tea. I got cracking headaches in the afternoon, which peaked when we went away camping for a few days and I forgot the tea. After a few days of no tea though, the headaches subsided and I had energy again! I couldn’t beleive that the miniscule amount of caffeine in the tea was affecting me so! Or rather the withdrawals from the caffeine in the afternoons. Obviously pregnancy has heightened my sensitivity to it, but I never thought that I was addicted to caffeine, it was completely physical and astounding to realise.

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Argel, great point. Caffeine is addictive, and to make things worse, some people are super sensitive to it. If I had any caffeine now, I would not sleep all night, even green tea. I stay away from it like the plague :). Instead a copy of teeccino (www.teeccino.com) goes a long way to give me a sense of relaxation a cup of hot brew can give.

  • Agnes

    Yes. I totally agree with you. Coffee is bad for you. I’m still trying to be good and not have any coffee of tea. Sadly, I’m still a social drinker. Living a plant based lifestyle and trying to have friends that have not yet seen the light is very difficult. My friends and man in my life somewhat understand my food choices but if I go on my caffeine rant they may just go off the deep end. So. I sit and slowly sip a small cup of poison on occasion. Black at least.

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Agnes, throw a few packs of green tea in your purse–at least you will get some beneficial action out of it, will fit right in, and will even impress a few of your friends.

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  • Lisa

    OK, guilty as charged, I AM a caffeine addict. While, admittedly, I enjoy the taste, I drink it to function. The remainder of my diet is balanced vegan with an occasional (once a month MAYBE cheat meal – usually veggie pizza). My entire (genetic) family suffers from chronic depilitating depression – caffeine is the only thing I have found that allows me to focus enough to work. I have given it up for over a month a few times, always ending in me taking time off from work. Obviously, I am at the far end of the spectrum but what do you suggest to the people that just can’t function without it?

    • Angie

      Lisa, I know this may not be a popular answer here but I have given up caffeine numerous times in my life. I think the longest stint was over 6 mos. I continue to return to coffee and I am just not making any apology for it. You must do what you need to do for you. I have a comment way down on this list about buying the big box of green tea, that’s me. I am glad that I gave up coffee for the first few months that i was vegan. It probably helped my body heal more quickly. But I have also realized that I feel so much better as a vegan coffee drinker than I do as a caffeine free vegan. Coffee may not be good for me but it keeps me mentally stable and lets me function without medication for depression or ADHD. I am cerebrating my vaganniversary tomorrow and I am a proud coffee drinker. I don’t believe that it is a health food. I know that I need to carefully watch how much I drink but all in all, if most of my diet is very, very healthy and drinking coffee keeps me functional then I will gladly have my morning cup.

      • Lisa

        I DO appreciate the support, and basically that is exactly where I am. As healthy as the rest of my life is, I am not ashamed of the one flaw but I do have to admit, I would prefer to not be so dependant on it. Happy veganversary!

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Lisa, have you ever gotten tested for B12 deficiency? It sounds like that might be a possible solution to this problem. There is a series of article on this site on this topic. Check it out and I would highly recommend giving it a go.

      • Lisa

        I don’t have insurance so, no, I unfortunately haven’t been tested. I DO take a daily supplement but perhaps it just isn’t enough?

        • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

          What dosage and what kind do you take?

  • Tandi Hartle

    Yes, I have seen many positive studies on coffee lately….and the News and media have been on a crazy rampage to promote the ‘health benefits’ of coffee. However, what they fail to mention is that these studies were funded by National Coffee Consortium and other special interest groups. These studies are published in peer reviewed journals and picked up by the New York Times and other outlets…..but it doesn’t mean there was not a conflict of interest in the funding. People LOVE to hear good news about their bad habits….and so do coffee addicted researchers and media outlets :-)

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      So true! I will share your response with Monica (below)

  • Monica SANCIO

    Thank you for this great review on coffee… I quit coffee cold-turkey a few months ago… The funny thing is that I never ever liked coffee… I started drinking it, after reading so much scientific research, from really important sources such as UC Berkeley and Mayo Clinic, stating how it may protect against Parkinson´s (like Elena, my dad has Parkinson´s), diabetes, gallstones, colon cancer, depression and from memory loss and other neurological disorders… So, are you saying we should disregard all the Journal-published studies on this? I still wonder… Have you read the study of how coffee may prevent Parkinson´s? Thank you!

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Monica, I think those studies are bogus and are 1. either paid for by groups with vested interest, or 2. consider only tiny amount of coffee without considering the totality of the entire diet.

      I am saying, bump those studies–there is not ONE food that is so superior to others that woe should consume so much that it would prevent those diseases you listed. I say that the totality of our food matters more. A whole foods, plant based, junk free, hopefully, organic diet, and B12 matter so much more! My diet is FILLED with antioxidants! I do not need to look to coffee or chocolate for their supposed benefits. My blueberries, raspberries and other delicious, whole foods, will beat those two any day of the week ;)!

      I highly recommend checking into B12 treatment for your Dad. If mine were still alive I would fight to have it for him–I am certain it could have saved his life, in combination with a diet that I practice now. I only wish I knew then what I know now to help him.

      • Monica SANCIO

        Thank you so much, Elena… I hadn´t seen your response… And it makes perfect sense… I absolutely agree with you!

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Monica, here is a response from the author of this article, Tandi–and she is spot on:

      “Yes, I have seen many positive studies on coffee lately….and the News and media have been on a crazy rampage to promote the ‘health benefits’ of coffee. However, what they fail to mention is that these studies were funded by National Coffee Consortium and other special interest groups. These studies are published in peer reviewed journals and picked up by the New York Times and other outlets…..but it doesn’t mean there was not a conflict of interest in the funding. People LOVE to hear good news about their bad habits….and so do coffee addicted researchers and media outlets :-)”

      • Monica SANCIO

        It´s so true… And unfortunate… So we have a bigger purpose to fulfill, by empowering people to live vegan fit + healthy + happy + free..
        And vega-licious, my friend!

        • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

          Yes! Indeed!

  • CuriousGeorge

    I suppose my great grandmother turning 89 this Sunday that has consumed multiple cups of coffee since she was 20 is doomed to a miserable life?

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      1. The quality of life matters as much as the length of life. Someone can live to be 90, while drinking and smoking and popping 10 meds a day, it does not mean that drinking and smoking is good for everyone
      2. even if there are people who are able to be somewhat healthy while guzzling down coffee, they are an exception to the rule–NOT the rule, it might be due to their genetics, and for the general population to follow their lead would be simply foolish.

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  • Vera

    Much for sharing! I’m a true caffeine addict, mostly drink the iced coffees from Starbucks with the free refills. I know I’m an addict because I get those headaches every time I try quitting…Anyways my friend introduced me to a healthy program called Advocare and they have a product called “Spark” and I have been drinking it instead of coffee. I would like to know your advice or opinion on that.. Thanks so much. 

    • Tandi

      The first red flag about Spark for me is that the ingredients list is not readily available. Spark has as much caffeine as coffee so the addiction to caffeine is not helped by this product at all! Advocare Spark is artificially sweetened with sucralose [splenda] which has significant side effects. It contains many artificial vitamins and synthetically chelated minerals but I could not find a complete ingredients list. However, just by the fact that it is artificially sweetened and contains as much caffeine as coffee I would not recommend this product at all!

      • Vera

        Tandi, thanks for your time to reply. So many of my friends are drinking this drinl at work, its crazy!! its like 52 dollars for 1lb pound of Spark. There are many ingredients listed as supplements such as Vitamins A, C, E, thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, etc, then Choline, L-Tyrosine, Taurine, and 120mf of Caffeine per 1 scoop ( other ingredients are maltodextrin, citric acid, grapeskin extract, siicon dioxide, sucralose, beet root extract( for color) ) . I will be quitting Spark as soon as I run out of the tub, the program calls it a mental focus drink, But I thought this should help me temporarily till I can switch to tea and water only, Ive tried everything and every time I go back to my love for coffee. Any other suggestions… and plus I will be starting school which means late nights and more stress!!

        • Tandi

          ALL of the ingredients you listed are synthetic vitamins, isolated amino acids and artificial sweeteners, none of which will give you mental focus, energy or health. They are not good for you at all. Addiction is not something that is easy to overcome, you really have to be willing to work at it everyday because that drive and desire to go back is very strong. I would recommend Teeccino, it is an herbal coffee substitute and it does not have any unhealthy ingredients. The spark you are taking will over time damage your health and contribute to a host of health problems as you get older.

          • Vera

            Tandi, thanks again, I need as much help as possible! where could I buy the teeccino?

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      I was about to ask for a link or list of ingredients, but seems that Tandi got to it.

      I would suggest to do the following: 1. either cut back gradually on coffee, replacing it with green smoothies and water, or; 2. take time off work and do overnight change, and endure the detox symptoms. Whichever you choose, remember that a clean, plant based diet will support this change, since your body will crave to be clean altogether, while a mainstream diet will support an addiction.

      Come to the Boot Camp!

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  • Tandi

    Reid- If using coffee grounds is an inexpensive and convenient option it is perfectly fine. Do not apply it directly to the garden but in a compost it increases the nitrogen content and helps raise the temperature of the compost which helps with killing pathogens etc… Coffee grounds are fine to be used in compost. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

  • Reid

    Thank you so much for a great article. I don’t drink coffee – and never will. This has just affirmed my convictions. Just out of curiosity – I am an avid gardener, and would you suggest going out of your way to get used coffee grounds to add to your compost? I know companies like Starbucks bag their used grounds in paper bags and give them away for free (to limit company waste, and for locals to use in gardens). What are your thoughts on that? Thanks!

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Reid, Tandi left a comment for you above, but I will paste it here:

      “Reid- If using coffee grounds is an inexpensive and convenient option it is perfectly fine. Do not apply it directly to the garden but in a compost it increases the nitrogen content and helps raise the temperature of the compost which helps with killing pathogens etc… Coffee grounds are fine to be used in compost. I’m glad you enjoyed the article.”

  • Angie

    Friday, I bought a monster box of green tea at Costco so that I could reduce my coffee consumption. Now I feel silly. I will be returning that as soon as possible. On “no coffee” day number two this blog was posted. I was about to go back to bed because I was so sick, feeling nauseated, tired, and maybe like I was coming down with the flu. Funny thing is that I had green tea both mornings. I thought that should take the edge off the caffeine withdrawal. Today is my first caffeine free day and I feel fine. I even stopped drinking coffee for 6 months because my chiropractor told me to but in the end it didn’t help my fatigue. So many of the components to true health were missing that taking away the coffee didn’t do the trick. Then a doc put me on a low glycemic plan (which was largely plant based for me since I really dislike meat)  and I was working out but again, after a year, I didn’t see results in my energy level and I still felt sick. Now that I am starting learn what true health is I am realizing that these things weren’t useless, just incomplete. And by the way, I am a huge fan of caffeine. I know what it can do for me when I can’t focus or when I’m cranky but honestly, it is not worth the quick fix. Now after reading these blogs, putting the missing pieces in place, I am realizing that years of stress, poor diet (not unhealthy food, just literally not eating), and substitute “pick-me-ups” have deteriorated my health and my body. I am looking forward to a road to health. Thanks for posting this and for the in-depth research.

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Boy, all detox symptoms are no fun whatsoever! I am glad you are kicking the habit, though. I do love, however, how you put all these things together and arrived to the right conclusion. It is this thought process that will help you feel better faster and actually enjoy eating foods, because you know it will be for your healing! 

  • Tandi

    I am glad everyone enjoyed the article, it seems most of you read it in its entirety which is important because if you skim it you can easily miss the points about conflicting research which there absolutely is. 

     As I stated, you can find research to support anything if you look hard enough.  You can also find research that conflicts with every claim made about nutrition as well, that is just the nature of research.     It was brought up that healthy foods like spinach, kale etc…. also prevent iron absorption but this is an entirely different mechanism.  Whole plant based foods allow the body to regulate iron absorption because excess iron in the body is toxic and acts as an oxidant.  The body can absorb what it needs, but not excess from plant based foods.  This is a wonderful aspect of plant based food that helps the body  maintain homeostasis.  These foods are not diuretics and do not deplete the body they merely help regulate absorption, there is a big difference between these and coffee, I really don’t have time to go into all the details.    

  • Treacle234

    I rarely drink coffee because it gives me diarrhoea in large amounts and works as a laxative in small amounts. If something is mocha or coffee flavoured, I usually stay away from it because I would be running to the bathroom.  Guess, I’m lucky to have this reaction to coffee, since it is not so beneficial to ingest according to your research.

  • Kelly

    As a barista, I see plenty of caffeine addicts, and I only drink our herbals and water haha! My personal biggest issue with caffeine or decaf drinks (along with the health issues) is that they are diuretics. Living in the southern Arizona desert, we NEED to stay hydrated. When people tell me they feel refreshed after drinking their green teas in this heat, there is so much I wish I could say about what that tea is really doing…especially after reading this article!

    When I used to be a caffeine drinker, I noticed that whenever I was sick I had no taste for coffee. But I could eat low-acidic fruits, veggies galore, whole grains…that’s about the point that I started questioning if there’s something your body can’t stand to consume when you’re sick, why consume it when you’re healthy?

    Tandi, your research is more thorough and informative than anything I’ve come across, awesome work :)

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Boy, your job must be tough. I would probably be putting myself out of business if I had to do that, because every cup of coffee would have IT WILL KILL YOU labeled on it. 

  • ArielH

    So I hate to be that person, but I feel that some of this data was presented in a somewhat misleading and confusing light. The last two resources actually contradicted each other with the 2010 research actually claiming “women who drink coffee showed no increased risk of RA” For the articles on Fe absorption the abstract for reference number one showed no decrease in Fe absorption with coffee that has been drunk an hour before compared to an hour after, furthermore they also list several other healthy foods that inhibit iron absorption such as,  spinach, kale, beets, nuts, chocolate, tea, wheat bran, rhubarb, strawberries and herbs such as oregano, basil, and parsley. Lastly in the abstract for the American Heart Study “Many studies have been done to see if there’s a direct link between
    caffeine, coffee drinking and coronary heart disease. The results are
    conflicting. This may be due to the way the studies were done and
    confounding dietary factors. However, moderate coffee drinking (1–2 cups
    per day) doesn’t seem to be harmful.”

    I wholeheartedly believe that caffeine is addicting and I don’t think there is argument against that, and believe drinking more than 1-2 cups increases your risks for many health disorders including insomnia and poorer nutrient absorption. If you are at increased risks for these things (i.e are anemic, risk for heart disease etc)  then don’t take a risk and cut it out of your life. However if  we are as skeptical of research done via lobbyist groups (which we should be) We shouldn’t misconstrue this evidence provided by independent third parties either. As always I enjoy reading your blog!

  • Sharanya

    Wow..awesome post.I have to make KT hubby read this.he’s addicted to coffee,thinks will have a great day only if he has it that too with milk.You are so right on the skinfactor,over 15yrs married to him,I can see his skin darken in patches which I have known always us wrong..but who do I reason with??I’m going to print this for him.
    Thanks so much,Tandi .

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      You are right on the money here, Shar, since husbands listen to others better than to their spouses, especially if there are degrees involved, like with Tandi :)

      • Sharanya

        Thanks,Elena.That’s the goal..we will see.We have enjoyed all our life eating part garbage as it tastes delish..its like the devil with damage done immed and later shown.thanks for the support as always..<3

  • Angelalawsons

    All teas are not healthy?????? Are herbal decaf teas okay????

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Decaf teas are no good, but herbal teas like chamomile, raspberry, etc.. are fine and fantastic! 

      • Christy

         Awesome! I’m not very fond of black or green tea, and don’t like coffee, but I love me a good cup of herbal tea. :)

        • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

          Me too. I also like teeccino (the vanilla flavor)

          • Angelalawsons

            I should have read the other posts before asking. :-D Thank you ladies.

  • Denisa

    I have to say I’m disappointed about the green tea…..but I do drink a lot of other herbal teas that will replace my green tea ;-)

    Thank you Elena! Great article, as always!

    • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

      Denisa, yes, we get conditioned to love certain things, but at the end of the day we have to see whether we eat/drink them because they are good for us or because we simply like to entertain our habits and taste buds.  You will do fine :)

  • Rebeccasiharath

    Wow! Fantastic article! Well written and well researched!! I sure hate reading that tea is not good for you. I really enjoy tea. I usually drink the herbal, caffeine free tea. Are there any teas that are good for you? And also, Tandi have you ever written any articles on alcohol? I would love to read it! I’m trying to kick my love for wine!! :)

    • Tandi

      I drink do drink herbal teas on a regular basis.  The tea’s I am referring to are green or black tea whether caffeinated or not.   I drink spearmint tea regularly, at times I will have red raspberry leaf tea or other non-stimulating health giving teas.  I have not written any articles on alcohol but I am certainly willing to.  I think the subject of alcohol is much the same as  coffee, it isn’t healthy but people are justifying its consumption because red wine has ‘antioxidants’.  I’m glad you enjoyed the article.

      • http://www.vega-licious.com/ Elena

        I actually had thought about the alcohol article while editing this one too, so YES! we need one for sure.