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Caffeine, pros & cons


There are two schools of thought regarding use of caffeine. You will find both represented here. First the pro then the con. With about 80% of the world’s population consuming caffeine, most persons have remained stimulated since childhood. We all know that caffeine makes us more alert. Caffeine is considered harmless simply because it is so widely used. But did you know that it can be a powerful drug with remarkable healing powers? For decades asthma sufferers have gotten relief from caffeine. Recent findings have shown that it also helps prevent Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease ... limits stroke damage ... and reduces the incidence of skin, colon and breast cancers. Mopping up damaging free radicals, it is a stronger antioxidant than vitamin C. In addition to preventing illness, caffeine can help up in our day-to-day lives by doing everything from boosting mood to maximizing weight loss. Is there a downside? Scientific studies looking at tens of thousands of people have shown that caffeine is not the villain it is made out to be. For example, despite what many people think, it does not cause or exacerbate hypertension or heart problems. History of Caffeine Caffeine is produced by more than eighty species of plants. The reason may well be survival. As it turns out, caffeine is a biological poison used by plants as a pesticide. Caffeine is one of the world's most widely used drugs. Some anthropologists believe its use may date back to the Stone Age. Caffeine was first extracted from coffee in 1821. Coffee originated in Ethiopia, by the fourth century AD it was introduced to Arabia and the rest of the east. It is believed that the Ethiopian nomads discovered coffee through their animals. They realized that after the animals would eat the fruits from the trees they would have an energy boost, so the nomads tried eating the seeds too and they also had an increase in energy. Coffee has since been used in religious ceremonies so that the people involved in the rituals could stay up and pray the entire night. In 1573, coffee was introduced to the Europeans, when it was first introduced them, the authorities tried to ban it but they couldn't do it. Tea was introduced later in 1657 and became very popular to the people. Even later milk chocolate was introduced into Switzerland in 1876, near the end of the 19th century cola products started to appear around the world. Side effects Some people experience insomnia or "jitters" after having a lot of caffeine. These and other side effects usually disappear when it is consumed regularly or in small amounts. Caffeine tolerance varies greatly among individuals, and an excess of it is toxic. Some research has shown a possibility that caffeine can interfere with fetal development, including lowering birth weight and contributing to skeletal and other abnormalities. Until they reach the age of seven or eight months, babies cannot get rid of caffeine metabolites, and traces of caffeine can appear in breast milk too. Due to these concerns, pregnant and nursing mothers should limit or avoid any beverage with caffeine, including tea. More than 300 milligrams (mg) a day raises risk of miscarriage. Check with your doctor. Caffeine is totally lacking in nutritional value. It does not add taste, texture, or color to a soft drink. Caffeine affects children and adults similarly. A stimulant, caffeine can interfere with sleep and may affect children who are sensitive to it. In addition, because caffeine is a diuretic that causes the body to eliminate water, it can contribute to dehydration. Caffeine is an especially poor choice in hot weather, when children need to replace water lost through perspiration. In addition, children who drink lots of caffeinated beverages may miss getting the calcium they need from milk to build strong bones and teeth. How it works Many of the day-to-day benefits we receive from caffeine stem from its effects on neurotransmitters, the chemicals that regulate communication between nerve cells. Caffeine boosts the effects of the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which improve mood. It also boosts levels of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that improves short-term memory. Proper Usage Scientists at the National Addiction Centre in London studied more than 9,000 people and found that those who ingested caffeine scored higher on tests of reaction times, reasoning and memory. Other studies have shown that caffeine improves IQ test scores. As little as 100 mg of caffeine -- the amount in four ounces of drip-brewed coffee -- boosts mood and memory. Larger amounts -- 200 mg or more -- are needed for optimal mental or physical performance. You won't build up a tolerance to the benefits of caffeine. If 300 mg helps you run faster the first time you take it, the same dose will deliver the same benefit even after taking caffeine for years. It takes about 15 minutes for caffeine to kick in. The effects usually last three to four hours, but this varies from person to person. Women who take oral contraceptives metabolize caffeine more slowly and may feel the effects twice as long. Smokers metabolize caffeine more quickly and experience a shorter "buzz." The amount of caffeine that is right for you also varies by the individual. a small number of people can barely tolerate a 50 mg dose, while others can have 500 mg or more every day with no problems. Start with about 100 mg in the morning, and gradually increase you dose until you experience the benefits without the side effects. Also, determine your personal "caffeine cutoff point," the time after which consuming caffeine interferes with your sleep. This is different for each person. Some people find that they can't have caffeine after noon, while others can consume it right before bed and still sleep soundly. Generally, the cutoff point for many people is five to six hours before bed. Note: Caffeine pills, such as NoDoz, give a better boost that coffee or tea. One of the chemicals in coffee and tea, chlorogenic acid, partially dampens the effect of caffeine. Caffeine pills don't work any faster, but the effects are more dramatic and predictable. Here are some other ways that caffeine is useful: Headache Relief Caffeine is an active ingredient in some over-the-counter painkillers, such as Anacin and Excedrin, and prescription painkillers, such as Darvon Compound-65. It is particularly helpful for tension and migraine headaches because it stimulates the body's natural painkilling mechanisms. Studies at Chicago's Diamond Headache Clinic showed that caffeine eliminated headaches in nearly two-thirds of participants -- and took effect 30 minutes faster than ibuprofen. Rx - Take 200 mg of caffeine at the first sign of a tension headache or migraine and continue to take 100 mg every two to three hours, as needed. For additional relief, take caffeine with 200 mg to 400 mg of ibuprofen. This combination increases the analgesic effects, without risk. Weight Loss Caffeine stimulates the release of cholecystokinin (CCK), a hormone that suppresses appetite, delays the onset of hunger and promotes a feeling of fullness. In addition, caffeine promotes efficient fat-burning (lipolysis) and increases metabolism. Rx - A daily 200 mg dose helps burn 50 to 100 extra calories. That means a loss of five to ten pounds a year. You will eat less if you consume caffeine 15 minutes before a particularly tempting meal. Maximize Workouts Caffeine enhances nearly every aspect of physical activity, including endurance, speed and lung capacity. It also helps damaged muscle cells recover. Rx - A 200 mg dose will improve endurance by as much as 20% when riding an exercise bike, running on a treadmill or doing other moderately strenuous workouts. Prior to more strenuous exercise -- like running a marathon -- take 300 mg to 400 mg of caffeine. It works best when it's taken on an empty stomach. For maximum absorption, drink one cup of coffee or tea without sugar and with a little milk. If you are sensitive to coffee or dislike black tea, try guarana tea, a natural caffeine source that is often sold in health food stores. Drive Safely Driver fatigue is the leading cause of highway fatalities. A study by the US Department of Health, Education and Welfare showed that drivers who consumed 200 mg of caffeine had significant improvements in alertness and reaction times as compared with people who were not given caffeine. Rx - If you are sleepy while driving, pull off the road ... drink coffee of take a caffeine pill ... and take a nap for 15 minutes. The caffeine enters your bloodstream while you rest, making you more alert when you are back on the road. Caution: Most people rest, then drink coffee when they resume driving. That's dangerous -- if you are groggy from the nap, and the caffeine hasn't had time to take effect. Fight Jet Lag About 94% of long-distance travelers suffer fatigue, irritability, headaches and/or gastrointestinal discomfort due to jet lag. Your body needs one day to adjust for every time zone you cross. Rx - Before your trip, avoid caffeine to increase its effects later. But don't stop using caffeine suddenly. This can result in withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches and anxiety. Instead, taper off, reducing your intake by 150 mg a day for example, by eliminating one cup of coffee. By the time you leave on your trip, you should have stopped having caffeine entirely for a day or two. Take one 200 mg caffeine pill or drink about one and a half cups of coffee immediately after arriving at your destination. You can expect the dose every three hours until you reach your personal caffeine cutoff point. The boost in energy will help you stay awake and shift your body clock to the new time zone. Caffeine Sources

  • Caffeine is in coffee, tea, chocolate, colas, many sodas, some drugs, most 'energy' drinks and guarana.

A 6 oz cup of:

  • Percolated coffee has about 120 mg of caffeine

  • Black tea has about 70 mg of caffeine

  • Green tea about 35 mg of caffeine

  • Leading colas 45 mg of caffeine

  • Mountain Dew 54 mg of caffeine

  • Brewed decaf has 5 mg of caffeine

  • Milk chocolate has 6 mg per ounce

  • Baking chocolate has 35 mg per ounce.

Other side of the coin (anti-caffeine) The following is from "What you should know about caffeine" published by the International Food Information Council (IFIC) in Washington DC. After many phone calls Cherniske finally got a list of 'supporters' of the IFIC. The list included Pepsi, Coca-Cola, M&M, NutraSweet, Nestle and Hershey - all of whom have caffeine in their drinks and foods. 'Partners' of the IFIC included groups such as the National Association of Pediatric Nurses and the Children's Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureau Inc. This brochure says that "Caffeine is normally excreted within several hours after consumption". In fact, only 1% is excreted. The remaining 99% has to be detoxified by the liver. It can take up to 12 hours to detoxify a single cup of coffee. Many studies regarding coffee and hypertension were flawed, because the test studies came off coffee for only one or two weeks. It takes many more weeks than this for stress hormone levels of the body to return to normal. The 'half-life' of a drug is the time it takes the body to remove one half of the dose. Caffeine is a drug. The half-life of a single dose of caffeine ranges from three to TWELVE hours. Caffeine puts your body into stress. A single 250 milligram dose of caffeine (the equivalent of about 2.5 six ounce cups of coffee) has been shown to increase levels of the stress hormone epinephrine (adrenaline) by over 200%. Caffeine triggers a classic fight-or-flight reaction. The fight-or-flight response was designed for events that happened only occasionally (such as a lion chasing you). Now, we put our body in fight-or-flight every day with caffeine!!! Since we are in society, we don't respond in a fight-or-flight way. Instead, other things may happen. For example, sugar and fat get dumped unused in the bloodstream. The sugar creates more stress. The fat clogs the arteries. The digestive system slows or shuts down. Caffeine DOES NOT improve learning or memory. In fact the exact opposite is true. Scientific studies show that caffeine as normally consumed can reduce cerebral flow by as much as 30%. That means less oxygen to the brain and reduced memory and cognition. It is also believed that this reduced blood flow to your head is a contributor to vision and hearing loss typically associated with aging. Caffeine DOES NOT give you a lift. Caffeine is referred to as a mood elevator but this is inaccurate. If you take a person who doesn't drink caffeine and give them some, it doesn't elevate their mood. It makes them uncomfortable and tense. In habitual users, caffeine appears to elevate mood, but research clearly illustrates that it's simply enabling them to avoid the depression and fatigue associated with withdrawal. It's a classic addiction scenario. If you deprive a smoker of their cigarettes, they feel miserable. You give them a cigarette, they feel much better. Does that mean cigarettes give you a lift, or are somehow good for you? And… Not only is caffeine addictive, it also encourages other addictions to substances like nicotine. Women's Health. Caffeine is far more damaging to women, and Caffeine Blues contains an entire chapter devoted to women's health issues. It Highlights the effects of caffeine on bone mass and fracture risk, heart disease, anxiety and panic attack, menopause, PMS, anemia, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, depression, fertility and conception disorders and complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Caffeine does not give you energy. It stimulates your nervous system and adrenals. That's not energy, that's stress. Imagine going to a bank for a loan. The loan officer agrees to your loan. But as you leave the bank you notice the fine print - the loan has to be repaid at 75% interest! The 'energy' that you think you get from caffeine is really just a loan from the adrenals and liver, and the interest you have to pay is very high. Stress is a major factor in disorders such as anxiety, insomnia, depression, ulcers, rheumatoid arthritis, headache, hypoglycemia, asthma, herpes, hypertension and heart disease. And yet hospitals provide coffee and tea, which put your body into stress!!! DHEA is our vitality hormone. A decreased level of DHEA is a cause of aging. Caffeine consumption leads to DHEA deficiency. Caffeine lowers the stress threshold in virtually everyone. That is, if you have had caffeine, it will be easier for you to suffer from emotional stress. (Therefore, when research is done that is designed to show how safe caffeine is, any test subject who is under significant stress is removed from the study). Caffeine is implicated in ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome: GABA is produced in the intestinal tract, where it calms anxiety and stress. Caffeine disrupts the normal metabolism of GABA. Caffeine disrupts sleep. Deep sleep is CRITICAL to good health. When there's caffeine in your bloodstream, you are unlikely to experience deep sleep at all! Caffeine AT ANY TIME of the day can cause sleep problems, especially if you are under stress. People do not develop a tolerance to the anxiety-producing effects of caffeine. Rather, people simply become accustomed to the feelings of stress, irritability and aggressiveness produced by the drug. Caffeine contributes to depression in well-defined ways. This is particularly due to the withdrawal effect, which can cause headache, depression and fatigue, even in light users (p. 111). Cherniske reported that 90% of people who came to him who suffered from depression and gave up caffeine completely for 2 months reported that their depression went away! If you are a coffee (or tea or cola) drinker, you may be thinking, "Well, I drink coffee and I'm not depressed." It's necessary to state that everyone is different, and also that depression can be subtle. Throughout the book, Cherniske suggests that you will never know the full effect the drug is having on you until you experience what life is like caffeine free (which takes two months to do). Over the years, Cherniske has heard similar responses from hundreds of clients: "Wow, I never realized that caffeine made me so (select one: anxious, depressed, irritable)." Students the world over use caffeine not only to stay awake, but also they believe the drug will improve their performance on exams. Solid research, however, illustrates that as little as 100 milligrams of caffeine (one cup of coffee, two cups of cola) can cause a significant DECREASE in recall and reasoning. When people are relaxed and given caffeine, caffeine does not raise blood pressure significantly. But how many people are relaxed? When people are stressed and given caffeine, blood pressure is raised significantly. Women who consume more than 24 ounces of coffee (6 moderate cups) per day had almost twice the risk of heart attack compared to non-coffee drinkers. Moderate coffee drinkers with high cholesterol had more than seven times the risk of heart attack, while heavy coffee drinkers had eighteen times the risk of non-coffee drinkers! Malnutrition is one of the most well-defined effects of habitual caffeine intake. A single cup of coffee can reduce iron absorption from a meal by as much as 75%. Caffeine also depletes your supplies of thiamin and other B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc. Magnesium is known as the anti-stress mineral. Many biochemical and physiological processes require magnesium. It is necessary for vitamin C and calcium metabolism. It keeps teeth healthy, brings relief from indigestion and can aid in fighting depression. Thiamine aids growth, maintains normal carbohydrate metabolism and nervous system functioning. It helps alleviate stress conditions, anxiety and trauma. Potassium is of great physiological importance, contributing to the transmission of nerve impulses, the control of skeletal muscle contractility, and the maintenance of normal blood pressure. Deficiency symptoms include weakness, anorexia, nausea, drowsiness and irrational behavior. Iron is a vital component of many enzymes; it can promote resistance to disease and prevent fatigue. Deficiency can cause anemia, resulting in impaired concentration, reduced physical performance and work capacity, and decrease immune function. Zinc is an essential trace element that must be supplied in the diet of human beings so that growth and health can be maintained. It is necessary for protein synthesis and the metabolism of vitamin A; it helps the healing process of internal and external wounds, decreases cholesterol deposits and promotes mental awareness. A deficiency can cause loss of appetite, growth retardation and immunological abnormalities. Caffeine increases calcium loss and risk of osteoporosis. In one large study, the risk for hip fracture for those women who consumed the most caffeine was 300% greater than it was for the group that consumed little or no caffeine. Take the Challenge! Most people have no idea what life would be like without the background of caffeine and stress hormones coursing through their veins. Even if you're only having a few cups a coffee, chances are your personality is affected in ways that may be too subtle for you to associate with caffeine. I want to encourage you to conduct a trial period without caffeine. You owe it to yourself. Don't go 'cold turkey'. To avoid headaches etc. when giving up caffeine, Cherniske recommends taking up to six weeks to come off it. Drink the same NUMBER of cups, but each week reduce the strength or amount in each cup.

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