Caffeine – What it is
Wikipedia says that Caffeine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant of the methylxanthine class. It is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug. Unlike many other psychoactive substances, it is legal and unregulated in nearly all parts of the world. There are several known mechanisms of action to explain the effects of caffeine. The most prominent is that it reversibly blocks the action of adenosine on its receptor and consequently prevents the onset of drowsiness induced by adenosine. Caffeine also stimulates certain portions of the autonomic nervous system.
Caffeine – How it Works
Caffeine is a bitter, white crystalline purine, a methylxanthine alkaloid, and is chemically related to the adenine and guanine bases of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA). It is found in the seeds, nuts, or leaves of a number of plants native to South America and East Asia and confers on them several survival and reproductive benefits. The most well known source of caffeine is the coffee bean, a misnomer for the seed of Coffea plants. Beverages containing caffeine are ingested to relieve or prevent drowsiness and to improve performance. To make these drinks, caffeine is extracted by steeping the plant product in water, a process called infusion. Caffeine-containing drinks, such as coffee, tea, and cola, are very popular; in 2005, 90% of North American adults consumed caffeine daily.
Caffeine – What it “Does”
Caffeine can have both positive and negative health effects. It can treat and prevent the premature infant breathing disorders bronchopulmonary dysplasia of prematurity and apnea of prematurity. Caffeine citrate is on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines. It may confer a modest protective effect against some diseases, including Parkinson’s disease and certain types of cancer. One meta-analysis concluded that cardiovascular disease such as coronary artery disease and stroke is less likely with 3–5 cups of non-decaffeinated coffee per day but more likely with over 5 cups per day. Some people experience insomnia or sleep disruption if they consume caffeine, especially during the evening hours, but others show little disturbance. Evidence of a risk during pregnancy is equivocal; some authorities recommend that pregnant women limit consumption to the equivalent of two cups of coffee per day or less. Caffeine can produce a mild form of drug dependence – associated with withdrawal symptoms such as sleepiness, headache, and irritability – when an individual stops using caffeine after repeated daily intake. Tolerance to the autonomic effects of increased blood pressure and heart rate, and increased urine output, develops with chronic use (i.e., these symptoms become less pronounced or do not occur following consistent use).
Caffeine is classified by the Food and Drug Administration as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). Toxic doses, over 10 grams per day for an adult, are much higher than typical doses of under 500 milligrams per day. A cup of coffee contains 80–175 mg of caffeine, depending on what “bean” (seed) is used and how it is prepared (e.g. drip, percolation, or espresso). Thus it requires roughly 50–100 ordinary cups of coffee to reach a lethal dose. However pure powdered caffeine, which is available as a dietary supplement, can be lethal in tablespoon-sized amounts.
Caffeine is not a nootropic but is a mental and physical stimulant and lends itself well to nootropic blends. “Caffeine exaggerates the stress response,” says James D. Lane, PhD, professor of medical psychology at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., and a long-time caffeine researcher. “At the cellular level, caffeine locks the receptor normally used by adenosine, a brain modulator that provides feedback to avoid overstimulation of nerve cells. If adenosine is locked up, nothing keeps the nervous system from getting too excited at a cellular level.” In other words, adenosine is the messenger that says “I’m sleepy” and caffeine is the gag that silences the message.
Caffeine can improve memory, decrease fatigue, and improve your mental functioning, study after study suggests. It can improve your short-term memory and speed up your reaction times, according to a study presented in 2005 at the Radiological Society of North America. Coffee drinking, the researchers say, may help prevent type-2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and liver disease, including liver cancer, and it doesn’t appear to significantly increase heart disease risk or cancer. But, they warn, those with high blood pressure, as well as children, teens, and the elderly, may be more vulnerable to caffeine’s adverse effects. While there is no direct research to extrapolate coffee’s benefits to caffeine, there seems to be no problem with a daily intake of 200 – 400 milligrams of caffeine.
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