Posts Tagged ‘caffeine’

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Caffeine had long been on the list of don’ts for people hoping to lead a healthy lifestyle. Doctors pointed to caffeine’s negative effects on the nervous system and its track record of increasing anxiety, stress and food cravings, as well as its damaging effects on sleep quality. Recent studies, however, suggest that coffee and caffeine may actually offer some significant medical benefits.

Remember the more than 19,000 studies mentioned earlier? Those studies have uncovered a range of positive effects that caffeine seems to have on the human body:

  • Regular coffee drinkers were 80 percent less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.
  • Two cups a day reduced subjects’ risk for colon cancer by 20 percent.
  • Two cups a day caused an 80 percent drop in the odds of developing cirrhosis.
  • Two cups a day cut the risk of developing gallstones in half.

Studies have also suggested that caffeine is beneficial in treating asthma, stopping headaches, boosting mood and even preventing cavities


Some of these findings may have something to do with other healthful properties of the coffee bean, but most can be linked to caffeine directly. Researchers are even developing drugs for Parkinson’s disease containing caffeine derivatives.

More research is uncovering potential benefits from this commonly consumed drug. A study by the Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute in Tampa, Fla., showed that lab mice injected with caffeine were protected against developing Alzheimer’s disease. The injections even helped reduce symptoms in those that had the disease. The findings lead doctors to believe that up to five cups of coffee a day could have the same positive effect on humans

And a 2007 study at Rutgers University suggested that regular exercise combined with daily doses of caffeine could increase the destruction of precancerous skin cells in mice. Once again, the findings have not yet been tested on humans, but the indication is that it will have similar effects

Despite these recent findings, most doctors still recommend moderation in regard to caffeine intake. These studies give hope to those who stand by the value of their morning cup of Joe, but there’s still a long way to go to determine the long-term effects of caffeine use.

There is another side effect of caffeine: it raises the level of cortisol in your body. Read more here

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Why do so many people consume so much caffeine? Why does caffeine wake you up? In short, it’s all about two words:brain chemistry.

In the article How Sleep Works, the action of adenosine is discussed in detail. But while it sounds like advanced science, it’s really pretty simple. As adenosine is created in the brain, it binds to adenosine receptors. This binding causes drowsiness by slowing down nerve cell activity. In the brain, this also causes blood vessels to dilate, most likely to let more oxygen into that organ during sleep.

To a nerve cell, caffeine looks like adenosine: Caffeine binds to the adenosine receptor. However, caffeine doesn’t slow down the cell’s activity like adenosine would. As a result, the cell can no longer identify adenosine because caffeine is taking up all the receptors that adenosine would normally bind to. Instead of slowing down because of the adenosine’s effect, the nerve cells speed up. Caffeine also causes the brain’s blood vessels to constrict, because it blocks adenosine’s ability to open them up. This effect is why some headache medicines like Anacin contain caffeine — constricting blood vessels in the brain can help stop a vascular headache.

Caffeine’s effect on the brain causes increased neuron firing. The pituitary gland senses this activity and thinks some sort of emergency must be occurring, so it releases hormones that tell the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline (epinephrine). Adrenaline is the “fight or flight” hormone, and it has a number of effects on your body:

  • Your pupils dilate.
  • The airway opens up (this is why people suffering from severe asthma attacks are sometimes injected with epinephrine).
  • Your heart beats faster.
  • Blood vessels on the surface constrict to slow blood flow from cuts and increase blood flow to muscles.
  • Blood pressure rises.
  • Blood flow to the stomach slows.
  • The liver releases sugar into the bloodstream for extra energy.
  • Muscles tighten up, ready for action.

This explains why, after consuming a big cup of coffee, your hands get cold, your muscles grow tense, you feel excited and your heart beats faster.

Adenosine isn’t the only neurotransmitter affected by caffeine. Read on to learn about how the drug affects dopamine, another important chemical in the body.

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The debate continues about the following psychoactive substances: caffeine, mateine or guaranine, which is healthier? Of the three, caffeine is most familiar to North Americans. It is found in coffee, non-herbal teas, cocoa, chocolate, soda and medicine. Even decaffeinated products contain a certain amount of caffeine. How much we consume depends on the concentration, the part of the plant used, the region of cultivation, the preparation, and the process. The caffeine in coffee derived from the bean of the coffee plant is far more concentrated than the caffeine found in non-herbal tea leaves, cocoa bean (chocolate), or kola nut (soda). Coffee roasting produces more caffeine than tea brewing.
 
Caffeine

has both positive and negative effects on us. According to http://www.hubpages.com, the positive include its stimulant nature which helps us stay alert and attentive; its ability to reduce the risk of diseases as Parkinson’s, cirrhosis of the liver, gall stones, and kidney stones; its ability to protect against dementia and asthma; and its slew of antioxidants which help in the prevention of aging. The negative elements include serious concerns. It can increase the level of the bad LDL cholesterol, and blood pressure. It can cause rapid heartbeat, heartburn, osteoporosis due to loss of calcium, dehydration (caffeine is a diuretic), insomnia, and lack of control of blood sugar levels for people with type 2 diabetes. It can create addiction (because it is a stimulant). Interestingly, plants with caffeine in their chemical composition have a built-in insecticide. It kills many of the insects that may seek to destroy or damage them.
Mateine,
found in the yerba mate plant, is believed by some to have a different chemical makeup and therefore is a completely different psychoactive stimulant than caffeine. But evidence shows that it just might be caffeine by another name. Mateine concentrations also vary depending on the parts of the plant used, the region of cultivation, its preparation, and process. Dried yerba mate leaves steeped in hot water produce less caffeine, but higher amounts of minerals, vitamins, and amino acids, according to http://www.wikipedia.org/yerba.

In South America where the plant is native, especially in Argentina, Southern Brazil, Uraguay, and Paraguay, people drink mate daily from a hollowed-out calabash or metal, gourd-like receptacle through a silver straw. Outside South America, mateine is found in energy boosters and teas.

The South Americans who use this substance boast of longevity. They believe that it fights aging and fatigue; detoxifies blood; produces muscle relaxation, alertness; and stimulates the mind. Scientists as Dr. Daniel Mowrey, PhD., Yerba Mate: For Better Health, http://www.noborders.net, have conducted research that supports these claims. However, http://www.wikipedia.org reports studies that indicate yerba mate has high levels of carcinogenic chemicals.

Guaranine,

found in the guarana plant, is also considered caffeine by some and something totally different by others. The seeds actually have more caffeine than coffee, according to http://www.altmedicine.about.com. The plant is native to Brazil but also grows in Venezuela. The seeds and small berries are used as sources of energy by the inhabitants of the Amazon. The rest of Brazil, Venezuela, and North America use guaranine in high energy drinks, sodas, teas, and weight-loss pills.

Research shows that the stimulant inhibits obesity and fatigue; increases endurance and alertness; improves memory. The negative aspect suggests that people with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, kidney disease, epilepsy, and insomnia should avoid usage. Those taking aspirin, anticoagulants or products with ephedrine should also refrain.

So whether your preference is caffeine, mateine or guaranine, it would seem, as with all things, moderation is the key. Consulting your health care provider and doing your own extensive reading may also help you make the healthier choice.

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Caffeine occurs naturally in many plants, including coffee beans, tea leaves and cocoa beans, so it’s found in a wide range of food products. Caffeine is also added to many other food products, including a variety of beverages. Coca-Cola, for example, was originally made with kola nut extract, which naturally contains caffeine and was the main source of the flavor and buzz that early fans of the beverage craved (although the cocaine contained in the drink’s early formulas certainly helped increase that craving).

Colas are now made with artificial flavors, and caffeine is often added during the production process. Typical caffeinated sodas (Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper, etc.) contain 35 to 55 milligrams per 12-ounce (355 milliliter) can. Products like Vault and Jolt budge up against the FDA’s official limit for how much caffeine a product marketed as a soda can contain: 71 milligrams per 12-ounce (355 milliliter) can.

Energy drinks, which mix large concentrations of caffeine with sugar and other stimulants, are a relatively new trend in caffeinated beverages. They get around the FDA’s limit by not calling themselves sodas: Popular drinks like Red Bull and Rockstar contain about 80 milligrams of caffeine per 8.3-ounce (245-milliliter) and 8-ounces (236-milliliter) serving, respectively.

Caffeine also appears in many popular foods. Many people think of chocolate as a caffeine-filled food, but the amount of caffeine in a chocolate bar actually varies by a wide degree, depending on the bar’s blend of cocoa butter, cocoa solids, sugar, flavorings and fillers. There could be anywhere from 3 to 63 milligrams of caffeine in a 50-gram bar of chocolate. Because chocolate milk and hot cocoa are mostly milk or water, they contain far less caffeine on average — less than 8 milligrams per 5-ounce (150-milliliter) serving.

And then there are teas and coffee, the brewed beverages with which caffeine is so closely associated. While the brewing processes and types of coffee beans or tea leaves used to produce a serving of these drinks can affect their caffeine concentration, both have the potential to contain more caffeine than even strong energy drinks. A 5-ounce (147-milliliter) serving of coffee, for example, could contain up to 150 milligrams of caffeine, while the same serving of black tea could contain as much as 80 milligrams

.To put these serving sizes in perspective, if you are buying your coffee at Starbucks or a convenience store or drinking it at home or the office out of a mug, you may be consuming it in 12-, 14- or 20-ounce containers. You can calculate your approximate dose of caffeine based on your normal serving size.

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It’s as much a part of the morning ritual as brushing your teeth and making the bed. It gives energy drinks their zip. According to its adherents, it can alternately keep you calm, sharpen your mind or provide the vital boost to make it through an all-nighter.

Crave or avoid it, caffeine is a powerful influence in our lives.

Around 90 percent of Americans consume caffeine every single day in one form or another. More than half of all American adults consume more than 300 milligrams of caffeine every day, making it America’s most popular drug by far


But the U.S. is far from the lead when it comes to national caffeine consumption. According to a 2010 report by commodities analysts for Businessweek, Scandinavian nations such as Finland consume more caffeine per capita — mostly in coffee — than any other country. The report noted other surprising trends, like a move in Brazil to offer coffee drinks as part of grade-school lunches

Although Americans aren’t the world’s biggest per-capita caffeine fiends, we’re not exactly teetotalers. Research by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Medical Association (AMA) has led these groups to consider 300 milligrams (about two cups of coffee) the upper limit of a moderate daily dose. But roughly 20 percent to 30 percent of Americans consume more than 600 milligrams — considered a high dose of the drug — on a typical day

If you consume more than four cups of coffee a day, you’re probably among that number.

Caffeine is a natural component of chocolate, coffee and tea, and is added to colas and energy drinks. The international medical community recognizes caffeine withdrawal as a medical syndrome, yet it’s a common ingredient in diet pills and some over-the-counter pain relievers and medicines, and it’s being studied for its potential benefits in battling Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and even cancer

Read on to learn more about this powerful drug and our complex relationship with it.

What is Caffeine?

Caffeine is a naturally occurring chemical stimulant called trimethylxanthine. Its chemical formula is C8H10N4O2 (seeErowid: Caffeine Chemistry for an image of the molecular structure). It is a drug, and actually shares a number of traits with more notorious drugs such as amphetamines, cocaine and heroin. As we’ll explain in more detail in the next few pages, caffeine uses the same biochemical mechanisms as these other drugs to stimulate brain function: If you feel like your mind is racing after drinking one too many espressos, you’re not imagining things.

In its pure form, caffeine is a white crystalline powder that tastes very bitter. It is medically useful to stimulate the heart and also serves as a mild diuretic, increasing urine production to flush fluid out of the body.

Caffeine has been an integral part of global culture for hundreds of years. African folklore sets the discovery of coffee’s energizing properties around 800 A.D., European and Asian accounts indicate that coffee and tea were local staples as early as the 1400s. Although coffee was often seen as a rare luxury for societies far removed from coffee-growing regions, foods and drinks made from other caffeine-containing plants were likely part of humankind’s medical and nutritional arsenal since before recorded history

Today, caffeine is used much as it has been for generations: It provides a “boost of energy” or a feeling of heightened alertness. Many former students can recall using strong coffee or caffeine pills to stay awake while cramming for finals. Likewise, drivers on long road trips often fill their cup holders with energy drinks or convenience-store coffees to help them push through to their destinations.

Remember, though, that caffeine shares some traits of those much harder drugs — including the ability to cause addiction. Many people feel as though they cannot function in the morning without a cup of coffee (and its caffeine-powered boost) to kick-start the day. Caffeine’s effects may be much milder than those of illicit drugs, but kicking a caffeine habit can be difficult for someone who has made the drug a large part of his or her diet and lifestyle.

Caffeine is unlike many other drugs in that it is abundant in what we eat and drink. Read on to learn more about what foods provide most of the world’s caffeine, and discover the many ways in which consuming caffeine has become part of global culture.