TIME Heart Disease

Moderate Amounts of Coffee May Help Keep Arteries Clear, Study Says

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Coffee in your veins may actually be healthy

Drinking three to five cups of coffee per day may help to reduce signs of blocked arteries, says a new study out of South Korea.

Published Monday in the medical journal Heart, the study involved more than 25,000 male and female workers, who previously showed no signs of heart disease, looking for calcium buildups indicating plaque growth that can cause heart attacks and strokes.

The results showed that those who drank the least amount of coffee, and the most, had a larger amount of calcium in their arteries than those who consumed a moderate amount.

Interestingly, researchers also discovered that the findings were consistent through different subsectors, such as smokers, drinkers and those with obesity issues.

“While this study does highlight a potential link between coffee consumption and lower risk of developing clogged arteries, more research is needed to confirm these findings and understand what the reason is for the association,” Victoria Taylor of the British Heart Foundation told the BBC.

Taylor also noted that the results should not be generalized because different cultures have distinct lifestyle and dietary customs that may also contribute to cardiovascular health.

TIME Careers & Workplace

Here’s How Caffeine Can Silently Kill Your Success

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Your daily cup of joe is hurting your performance far more than it's helping it

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This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

This week’s tip for improving your performance is the most simple and straightforward method I’ve provided thus far. For many people, this tip has the potential to have a bigger impact than any other single action. The catch? You have to cut down on caffeine, and as any caffeine drinker can attest, this is easier said than done.

For those who aren’t aware, the ability to manage your emotions and remain calm under pressure has a direct link to your performance. TalentSmart has conducted research with more than a million people, and we’ve found that 90 percent of top performers are high in emotional intelligence. These individuals are skilled at managing their emotions (even in times of high stress) in order to remain calm and in control.

The good: Isn’t really good.

Most people start drinking caffeine because it makes them feel more alert and improves their mood. Many studies suggest that caffeine actually improves cognitive task performance (memory, attention span, etc.) in the short-term. Unfortunately, these studies fail to consider the participants’ caffeine habits. New research from Johns Hopkins Medical School shows that performance increases due to caffeine intake are the result of caffeine drinkers experiencing a short-term reversal of caffeine withdrawal. By controlling for caffeine use in study participants, John Hopkins researchers found that caffeine-related performance improvement is nonexistent without caffeine withdrawal. In essence, coming off caffeine reduces your cognitive performance and has a negative impact on your mood. The only way to get back to normal is to drink caffeine, and when you do drink it, you feel like it’s taking you to new heights. In reality, the caffeine is just taking your performance back to normal for a short period.

The bad: Adrenaline.

Drinking caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline. Adrenaline is the source of the fight-or-flight response, a survival mechanism that forces you to stand up and fight or run for the hills when faced with a threat. The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re responding to a curt email. When caffeine puts your brain and body into this hyper-aroused state, your emotions overrun your behavior.

Irritability and anxiety are the most commonly seen emotional effects of caffeine, but caffeine enables all of your emotions to take charge.

The negative effects of a caffeine-generated adrenaline surge are not just behavioral. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found that large doses of caffeine raise blood pressure, stimulate the heart, and produce rapid shallow breathing, which readers of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 know deprives the brain of the oxygen needed to keep your thinking calm and rational.

The ugly: Sleep.

When you sleep, your brain literally recharges, shuffling through the day’s memories and storing or discarding them (which causes dreams), so that you wake up alert and clear-headed. Your self-control, focus, memory, and information-processing speed are all reduced when you don’t get enough–or the right kind–of sleep. Your brain is very fickle when it comes to sleep. For you to wake up feeling rested, your brain needs to move through an elaborate series of cycles. You can help this process along and improve the quality of your sleep by reducing your caffeine intake.

Here’s why you’ll want to: caffeine has a six-hour half-life, which means it takes a full twenty-four hours to work its way out of your system. Have a cup of joe at 8 a.m., and you’ll still have 25 percent of the caffeine in your body at 8 p.m. Anything you drink after noon will still be at 50 percent strength at bedtime. Any caffeine in your bloodstream–with the negative effects increasing with the dose–makes it harder to fall asleep.

When you do finally fall asleep, the worst is yet to come. Caffeine disrupts the quality of your sleep by reducing rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the deep sleep when your body recuperates and processes emotions. When caffeine disrupts your sleep, you wake up the next day with an emotional handicap. You’re naturally going to be inclined to grab a cup of coffee or an energy drink to try to make yourself feel better. The caffeine produces surges of adrenaline, which adds to your emotional handicap. Caffeine and lack of sleep leave you feeling tired in the afternoon, so you drink more caffeine, which leaves even more of it in your bloodstream at bedtime. Caffeine very quickly creates a vicious cycle.

Withdrawal.

Like any stimulant, caffeine is physiologically and psychologically addictive. If you do choose to lower your caffeine intake, you should do so slowly under the guidance of a qualified medical professional. The researchers at Johns Hopkins found that caffeine withdrawal causes headache, fatigue, sleepiness, and difficulty concentrating. Some people report feeling flulike symptoms, depression, and anxiety after reducing intake by as little as one cup a day. Slowly tapering your caffeine dosage each day can greatly reduce these withdrawal symptoms.

TIME Research

Energy Drinks May Drive Kids to Distraction

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A new study finds a link between consumption of energy drinks and hyperactivity and inattention

Middle schoolers who consume sweetened energy drinks are 66% more at risk for hyperactivity than other kids, according to a new study.

To assess the effect of a variety of beverages on middle schoolers, Yale School of Public Health researchers surveyed 1,649 students in 5th, 7th, and 8th grade about their beverage consumption and assessed their levels of hyperactivity and inattention.

“Despite considering numerous types of beverages in our analyses (eg, soda, fruit drinks), only energy drinks were associated with greater risk of hyperactivity/inattention,” the authors write in the study published in the journal Academic Pediatrics.

Unlike soda and juice, energy drinks often contain ingredients like guarana and taurine. The researchers say it could be the effect of these ingredients mixed with caffeine that causes problems.

“Energy drinks contain large amounts of caffeine, sugar and other ingredients that work synergistically with caffeine. Caffeine may be contributing to this association because the caffeine content of energy drinks is far greater on average than that of soda,” the authors write.

It’s important to note that the researchers could not determine that the energy drinks caused the hyperactivity and inattentiveness in the kids. The American Beverage Association has guidelines for energy drink companies that recommend against marketing their products to children and not selling in K-12 schools.

However, a January report from U.S. Sens. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) shows most energy drink companies will market to young people under age 18, which the senators object to arguing there are safety concerns for teenagers as well.

“Our results support the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that parents should limit consumption of sweetened beverages and that children should not consume any energy drinks,” study author Jeannette Ickovics, director of CARE (Community Alliance for Research and Engagement) at the Yale School of Public Health said in a statement.

 

TIME Diet/Nutrition

There’s Now Coffee to Help You Fall Asleep

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A new product mixes coffee with a sleep-inducing herb

Imagine brewing coffee as a nightcap. That’s what Deland Jessop says he and his wife have begun to do with Counting Sheep Coffee—a new product designed to allow coffee lovers to drink a cup before bed without being kept awake for hours.

“Instead of a glass of wine, we’ll brew up a cup of coffee instead,” said Jessop, who launched the company in 2013.

When his wife complained that she couldn’t enjoy coffee after 3 p.m., Jessop turned his home into a makeshift lab to search for a possible solution. After experimenting with a variety of herbs and supplements, he says he stumbled upon valerian—a plant that has been used as a mild sedative in Europe for centuries. He mixed it with decaf to mask the pungent smell, and sleep coffee was born.

Jessop notes that Counting Sheep Coffee is a food product, not a drug to help with sleep. Valerian is approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a food ingredient.

Experts don’t know exactly why the plant such a potent sleep-inducer, but there’s little known risk of side effects (other than the obvious drowsiness), says University of California San Francisco associate professor Stephen Bent. “In the studies that have been done, it’s been show to be safe,” he says. “It has a long traditional history of being used to induce sleep.”

The product first appeared at Bed, Bath & Beyond in 2013, and is now sold in several regional supermarkets.

TIME Cancer

This Drink Could Protect You From Skin Cancer

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The sun is the biggest culprit in causing skin cancer, but there’s a beverage that may thwart some of the tumor-causing effects of ultraviolet rays

You may grab a cup (or two) of coffee every morning to help you wake up and face the day, but you may also be doing your skin a favor. Researchers in a new paper released January 20 say that coffee can protect against melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Melanoma is triggered by damage to skin cells’ DNA caused by UV rays from the sun or tanning beds; these mutations prompt the cells to grow abnormally and spread to other tissues in the body, where it can be fatal. But in a report published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Erikka Loftfield from the National Cancer Institute and her colleagues found that people who drank more than four cups of coffee a day on average had a 20% lower risk of developing melanoma over 10 years.

Loftfield’s group looked at food and cancer information from more than 447,000 people enrolled in a National Institutes of Health-AARP study who answered a 124-item food questionnaire and allowed the scientists access to their medical records. Even after the team adjusted for the potential effects of age, smoking, alcohol use and family history of cancer, the connection between high coffee consumption and lower risk of melanoma remained significant. The researchers even factored in the potential effect of casual sun exposure by looking at the average July ultraviolet readings where the participants lived.

The association only held for caffeinated coffee—not for decaf—and Loftfield’s group says there’s sound biological reason for that. Coffee contains numerous compounds, including polyphenols and caffeine, that keep cancer-fighting processes that are triggered by UV light under control. The roasting process of coffee beans also releases vitamin derivatives that protect against UV damage in mice. There’s also intriguing evidence that caffeine may act as a molecular sunscreen, absorbing UV rays and therefore protecting DNA from damage.

The group says that their results need to be repeated and confirmed, and that it’s too early yet to change your coffee habits to protect yourself from skin cancer. But the findings support the idea that there might be more you can do to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays than only slathering your body in sunscreen. It’s okay to enjoy a few cups of joe (as long as it’s in the shade).

Read next: This Kind of Tea Lowers Blood Pressure Naturally

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TIME Diet/Nutrition

Yes, Caffeine Withdrawal Is a Real Thing

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Science says that caffeine comes with some real perks

Ever had a time when you really needed a cup of coffee? Some days, the urge can be so strong that everything seems off until you have a hot cup of Joe in your hands.

Well, you’re not alone. Even pro athletes like Serena Williams find it hard to fight the siren call of caffeine. The tennis star made her love for coffee known during a recent match at the Hopman Cup in Perth, Western Australia.

HEALTH.COM: 12 Surprising Sources of Caffeine

Despite being the World No. 1 in women’s singles, Williams wasn’t doing too hot in her match representing the U.S. She dropped the first set 0-6 to Italy’s Flavia Pennetta.

Williams asked an official if she could order an espresso during the break between sets, SI.com reports. The request seemed silly, even to the pro herself, but the quick pick-me-up turned out to be a major game-changer.

Williams went on to dominate the next two sets 6-3 and 6-0, winning the match for the U.S. The athlete blamed a combination of jet lag and missing out on a cup of coffee as the reason for her slow start.

According to HopmanCup.com, Williams told reporters, “I am a coffee drinker. I didn’t have mine this morning and I was just feeling it, so I just had to get some coffee into me.”

HEALTH.COM: The Best Foods to Eat for Breakfast

Props to Williams for pulling off a win, but it does make you wonder just how much people really need their coffee.

“Caffeine withdrawal isn’t necessarily about addiction—it’s really more about your body adapting to having caffeine in your system, then reacting when the substance isn’t there,” says Health‘s contributing nutrition editor Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD. So if you’ve been a life-long coffee drinker, skipping your regular cup could bring on symptoms like headaches, fatigue, decreased alertness, and mood changes, she says.

“It’s more likely to happen if you [regularly] consume 500 milligrams of caffeine or more,” Sass says. “But it can happen with less if caffeine has been a daily habit.” Keep in mind 8 ounces of brewed coffee can have up to 200 milligrams of caffeine, Sass adds, while 1 ounce of Williams’ drink, the espresso, is on the lighter side with up to 75 milligrams.

HEALTH.COM: How to Burn Calories at Breakfast

That said, there are upsides to making coffee part of your routine, especially for athletes like Williams.

“Caffeine may help boost athletic performance by increasing muscle strength and physical endurance while decreasing feelings of fatigue,” says Marisa Moore, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Having caffeine during activity may give that second wind.”

Before big athletic events, it’s important to stick to what’s worked during your training routine, Moore says. If that means having a cup of coffee, then by all means do it.

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Just enjoy caffeine in moderation—Sass says the recommendation for enhancing athletic performance is up to 6 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, which is about 400 milligrams per day for a 150-pound woman. And don’t use the beverage as a quick fix for fatigue when other issues like stress or diet are to blame.

“The real keys are listening to your body, and being honest with yourself about why you’re reaching for a cup of coffee (or two),” she says.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

Read next: The Science Behind Making the Perfect Cup of Coffee

TIME Diet/Nutrition

Energy Drinks Are Hurting Young Kids

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AFP/Getty Images Cans of energy drinks are displayed in a store in San Diego on November 10, 2006.

Poison centers are fielding calls about adverse health events from energy drinks for kids as young as six

Over 40% of calls to U.S. poison centers concerning energy drinks are for kids under age 6, some of whom reported experiencing symptoms like serious cardiac and neurological problems.

In a new study that examined the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System, looking at reports from Oct. 2010 to Sept. 2013, researchers found that of the 5,156 reported cases of energy drink exposure, 40% where unintentional exposures by kids. Symptoms related to the heart, like abnormal rhythms, were noted in 57% of the reported cases. Neurological issues were reported in 55% of the cases.

American Heart Association

Prior data has shown that young kids are passing up caffeinated beverages like soda, but are instead consuming more energy drinks and coffee. The FDA is currently investigating the risks of added caffeine in products consumed by young people.

The trouble with energy drinks is that they are not always regulated the same way as other beverages. For instance, some are considered dietary supplements, and don’t need FDA safety approval. The FDA considers caffeine to be safe, but some energy drinks can contain up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per can, as compared to 100-150 mg in a coffee, the study’s authors say.

Researchers are unsure what part of energy drinks can cause adverse health problems. It’s possible other ingredients besides caffeine can result in medical issues.

The American Beverage Association responded to the study, which is not yet published but was presented recently at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions:

“This abstract has not been published and therefore the authors’ full methodology and analysis is not available for review. In the past, various experts have raised concerns regarding misinterpretation and inherent limitations of data from National Poison Data System when it comes to Energy Drinks. Based on the most recent government data reported in the journal Pediatrics, children under 12 have virtually no caffeine consumption from energy drinks.

Even so, leading energy drink makers voluntarily place advisory statements on energy drink packaging stating that energy drinks are not recommended for children. They also have voluntarily pledged not to market these products to children or sell them in K-12 schools. These guidelines and more are noted in the ABA Guidance on the Responsible Labeling and Marketing of Energy Drinks.

TIME Diet/Nutrition

This Kind of Tea Lowers Blood Pressure Naturally

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The best brew for your heart

Recent research has come down squarely on the side of caffeinated morning beverages, suggesting that coffee can protect against cancer and type 2 diabetes. Tea has enjoyed a healthy reputation for years as a heart-protector, and a study published in the October issue of British Journal of Nutrition suggests it might even help lower blood pressure.

Researchers were intrigued by the inconclusive link in studies so far regarding blood pressure and tea intake, so they analyzed 25 randomized controlled trials—the gold standard of scientific research—to further explore on the association.

They found that in the short term, tea didn’t seem to make a difference for blood pressure. But long-term tea intake did have a significant impact. After 12 weeks of drinking tea, blood pressure was lower by 2.6 mmHg systolic and 2.2 mmHg diastolic. Green tea had the most significant results, while black tea performed the next best.

Those might not seem like big numbers, but small changes in blood pressure can have a significant impact on health, the study authors write. Reducing systolic blood pressure by 2.6 mmHg “would be expected to reduce stroke risk by 8%, coronary artery disease mortality by 5% and all-cause mortality by 4% at a population level,” they write.

Tea is thought to offer endothelial protection by helping blood vessels relax, allowing blood to flow more freely. It’s a high source of antioxidants that have been linked to better cardiovascular health.

The researchers weren’t able to pinpoint the optimal number of cups to drink to get the benefit, but other studies have shown protective effects at 3-4 daily cups. The researchers said they didn’t see a difference in caffeinated tea vs. decaf.

“These are profound effects and must be considered seriously in terms of the potential for dietary modification to modulate the risk of CVD [cardiovascular disease],” the authors write.

Read next: 6 Ways to Lower Your Blood Pressure Naturally

MONEY

You Could Get $10 from Red Bull

Red Bull is distributing cash to customers under the terms of a lawsuit settlement. But there's only $13 million to go around.

TIME Addiction

Addicted to Coffee? It’s Probably in Your Genes

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A new genetic explanation for your caffeine cravings

If you feel like you literally could not survive a day without coffee, you might have your genes to thank (or blame).

A new genome-wide study published in Molecular Psychiatry has identified genetic variants that may have a lot to do with your coffee obsession. Researchers from Harvard School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital looked at more than 120,000 coffee drinkers and found six markers linked to responsiveness to caffeine—some of which had been previously identified as being related to smoking initiation and other types of potentially addictive behaviors, but had never before been linked to coffee consumption, says Marilyn Cornelis, research associate in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health and lead author of the study.

MORE: You Asked: Is Coffee Bad For You?

Caffeine is a drug—a fact many of us forget until we madly crave a double shot. “There is controversy as to whether it can be addictive, and some of the genes that come up in the study suggest that’s quite possible,” Cornelis says. “The stimulating effects caffeine has would suggest that caffeine is a major driving in habitual coffee consumption at the genetic level.”

MORE: How Coffee Might Lower the Risk of Heart Failure

The results might help add nuance to coffee research, she says, which generally treats everyone as the same. It could also help pinpoint people who’d most benefit from coffee consumption, and who should stick to decaf. “We assume that any health effects from one cup of coffee will be the same for everyone, but this data suggests that’s not true,” Cornelis says.

Scientists have known for a long time that genetics play a role in coffee consumption and caffeine response, Cornelis says. “But it’s only until just recently that we’ve actually been able to pinpoint these exact genetics. That’s an important step forward in the research.”

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