The debate on coffee is an age old one, which has been occurring now for centuries. Pope Clements VIII was asked by the Roman Clergy to ban coffee because it was the ‘Devil’s Drink’ in 1600. Fortunately, the Pope enjoyed it so much that he blessed it, and converted it to a Christian beverage.(Hons, caffeine) Caffeine in its multiple forms, is the only drug that is distributed freely across the world. While many people link caffeine with a multitude of health risks including Osteoporosis, heart arrhythmia, as well as several others. In moderation there are no studies which have as of yet which prove these accusation to have any factual evidence, actually the opposite is proving to be true. While many people steer away from caffeine because of the belief in its addictive nature, coffee drinkers, do not require increasing amounts of caffeine over prolonged periods of time (which is the characteristic of an addictive substance), they can also moderate or change there consumption with little difficulty. The actual description of “Addiction is a strong dependence on a drug characterized by three elements: 1) severe withdrawal symptoms; 2) tolerance to a given dose, or the need for more and more of the substance; and 3) the loss of control, or the need to consume the substance at all costs. Addicts may exhibit anti-social behavior or even commit crimes to perpetuate the abuse.”(Leviton, Coffee and Health) Evidence shows that coffee drinkers do not exhibit these symptoms of addiction. Which proves that by definition caffeine is shown to be a non-addictive substance.
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How Caffeine works
Caffeine, medically known as trimethylxanthine, is a cardiac stimulant as well as a mild diuretic. It operates using the same mechanisms as amphetamines; cocaine and heroine do to affect the brain, although it does so on a more mild level. In side the body caffeine, to a nerve cell appears to be the same as adenosine, and is able to bind to the adenosine receptor. Yet, although adenosine slows down the cell’s activity, caffeine blocks the receptors and speeds up the cell. It also causes the brain’s blood vessels to constrict as it also blocks the adenosine’s ability to open them. This block causes an increased firing of the neurons within the brain, the pituitary gland notices this activity and interprets the information as the occurrence of an emergency. It then releases hormones which tell the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline (epinephrine), this then causes the following effects on the body: dilated pupils, opening of the breathing tubes, increased heart rate, blood vessels on the surface constricting to slow blood flow while increasing the blood flow to the muscles.(unknown, How Stuff Works)
Caffeine also increases dopamine levels in the same way that amphetamine’s do (heroine and cocaine also manipulate dopamine levels by slowing down the rate of dopamine re-uptake). Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that, in certain parts of the brain, activates the pleasure center.(unknown, How Stuff Works)
Advantages and Disadvantages
While caffeine can have both advantage’s and disadvantages on the body the primary effect is giving your mind and body a short burst of energy, too much caffeine can be harmful causing fever, confusion, muscle twitching and difficulty sleeping. Aside from the extremely rare overdose however, the effects of caffeine can be fairly beneficial. Recent studies on mice, show that skin lotion containing caffeine can actually reduce the number of cancer tumors from 50 – 70%, Dr. Allan Conney, a professor specializing in cancer research at Rutgers University found that it can remarkably kill any abnormal skin cells, while keeping normal ones intact.(Leviton, Coffee and Health)
Another Study done by Dr. G. Webster Ross at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Honolulu, found that men who drank 28 ounces of coffee or more per day were 50-80% less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease then those who drank no coffee. These results however are only based on Japanese-American men and as of yet it is inconclusive weather ethnicity affected the results.(Hons,Caffeine)
Another advantage of caffeine from the American Medical Association is that men who drink 2-3 cups of regular coffee daily, have a 40% less chance of developing gallstones than those who do not drink coffee. Gallstones are lumps of cholesterol in the gallbladder caused by consumption of both heavy and fatty foods. Caffeine protects against these by using stored fat to increase the energy output. It also can absorb the fluid that causes gallstones, increasing the flow of bile through the gallbladder.(Hons, Caffeine) Studies are constantly being done all over the world to discover whether caffeine can protect against similar effects on any other parts of the body.
Caffeine and Exercise Performance
Caffeine can improve both high intensity and endurance in exercise performance, while not produced by the body it is considered to be a nutritional ergogenic aid because it is a natural constituent of several common beverages, especially coffee. In relatively small amounts taken before exercise, caffeine can improve performance in both intense effort and in endurance. This is due to the adrenaline released and the subsequent stimulation of lipolysis in the adipose tissue, increasing the free fatty acid supply to the muscles, sparing muscle glycogen and delaying the point of muscle fatigue. Caffeine is so effective in this form that while it is not banned by the International Olympic Committee its use is regulated and a drug test in which an athlete has a concentration of caffeine exceeding 12 mg/l is considered to have committed a doping offense.(Gleeson, Sports Nutrition)
Anthropologists believe that some cultures began to ingest caffeine-containing plants as early as the Stone Age, in approximately 1100CE, the first coffee plants are suspected to have been planted on the Arabian Peninsula. It was here where it was given the name coffee, coming from the word “qahwa” which means that which prevents sleep.(unknown, How Stuff Works) By 1763, the city of Venice contained over 200 coffee shops and today the coffee industry is a multimillion dollar industry. The United States alone consume over one-fifth of the worlds coffee which is equal to 45 million pounds per year. With this amount of caffeine consumed in the world today, there are more then 19,000 scientific studies to date conducted on caffeine, effects according to the National Library of Medicine and it is still “Generally Recognized as Safe.”(Hons,Caffeine)
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