August 18, 2017 4:17:57 PM EDT

Your Road Health

Is Caffeine Good or Bad For You?

It turns out that caffeine has a lot of positive health benefits and, despite what you may have heard, relatively few drawbacks.

People who drink coffee every day, for example, have a significantly lower risk of diabetes, Parkinson’s, colon cancer, gallstones, and Alzheimer’s disease. Now, that may not all be due to caffeine. Coffee contains a lot of volatile compounds and antioxidants that may have beneficial effects by themselves, or in combination with caffeine.

For example, drinking tea doesn’t seem to reduce your risk of diabetes, even though tea contains caffeine. On the other hand, people who drink decaffeinated coffee do have a reduced risk, but decaf only seems to work about half as well as caffeinated coffee.

Does Caffeine Have Health Benefits?
It’s definitely the caffeine that protects against Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, though. Not only does caffeine stimulate the brain and central nervous system, but it appears to protect it as well. Caffeine doesn’t make you any smarter but it does makes you more alert and boosts your ability to concentrate, which can make you a better test taker or a better driver.

Does Caffeine Help Headaches?
Note that caffeine is not an antidote to liquor, however. If you (or one of your guests) has had too much to drink, having a cup or two of coffee won’t make you (or them) fit to drive. You’re far better off skipping the coffee and sleeping it off instead. If you wake up the next morning with a headache, caffeine can help treat it. In fact, the popular headache medicine Excedrin contains as much caffeine as a big cup of coffee.


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