Questions From Readers
Should a Christian avoid beverages and foods that contain caffeine?
The Bible does not rule out a Christian’s consuming coffee, tea, chocolate, maté, and sodas that contain caffeine. However, the Scriptures do provide principles that can help us to make wise decisions. Let us first consider why some people avoid beverages and foods that contain caffeine.
One major reason is that caffeine might be considered to be a mood-altering drug, having a stimulating effect on the mind. It can also be addictive. A standard reference book for pharmacists states: “Prolonged, high intake of caffeine may produce tolerance, habituation, and psychological dependence. Physical signs of withdrawal such as headaches, irritation, nervousness, anxiety, and dizziness may occur upon abrupt discontinuation of the stimulant.” The caffeine-withdrawal syndrome has been considered for inclusion in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, along with other drug withdrawal. Hence, it is understandable that some Christians may have concerns because they want to avoid any dependency and they desire to display self-control.—Galatians 5:23.
Some believe that caffeine can affect a person’s health or that of an unborn child. Christians must love God ‘with their whole soul,’ so they do not practice anything that will shorten their life. And since they are also commanded to love their neighbor, they stay away from things that might harm an unborn child.—Luke 10:25-27.
Are such health concerns warranted? There is controversy about a link between various diseases and caffeine consumption. Some researchers even report that coffee is healthful. In 2006, Time magazine reported: “Initial studies suggested [that caffeine] might lead to bladder cancer, high blood pressure and other ills. More recent research has not only refuted most of those claims but also come up with some significant benefits. Caffeine appears to have some protective effect against liver damage, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, gallstones, depression and maybe even some forms of cancer.” On the use of caffeine, a newsmagazine reported: “The key—no surprise—is moderation.”
Each Christian should make a personal decision based on his understanding of the information currently available about caffeine and on the Bible principles that seem to be involved. For example, a Christian who is an expectant mother may choose to refrain from taking in caffeine during her pregnancy if she concludes that it could affect her unborn child. If a Christian finds that being deprived of a regular intake of caffeine makes him irritable or somewhat ill, he might be advised to abstain from caffeine, at least temporarily. (2 Peter 1:5, 6) Other Christians should respect such a decision, not pressing their view.
Whatever decision you make regarding beverages and foods containing caffeine, keep in mind Paul’s admonition: “Whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory.”—1 Corinthians 10:31.