Caffeine, the Universal Stimulant, Effects and the Benefits
Caffeine is most often used
as a stimulant –
and an extremely effective one,
as many late-night drivers and
last minute scholars can attest.
It’s quick too.
Caffeine gets into the blood stream within minutes.
And an effective dose of caffeine remains in the body for two to eight hours. Caffeine keeps you awake by stimulating the central nervous system. Too much caffeine over stimulates the system, causing increased heart rate, insomnia, nervousness, headache, irritability, diarrhoea, and frequent urination.
It is one of the most ancient mental stimulants known to man, occurs naturally in over 50 plants. In the consumer market, it makes it’s presence felt in coffee, tea, cola, chocolates, and other cocoa based products. A cup of coffee contains 100 to 150 mg of caffeine; a cup of tea 50 to 100 mg.
Doctors call it caffeinism, the rest of us know is as jitters or ‘coffee nerves.’ How much caffeine is too much? It varies among individuals. It is not unusual for heavy coffee drinkers to build up a tolerance to caffeine and its effects. On the other hand, a can of high caffeine Jolt Cola (the label brags: “twice the caffeine”) might make someone who never drinks coffee or cola bounce off the walls. For most people, avoiding negative side-effects means getting no more than 300 milligrams per day.
That works out to a maximum of three cups of regular coffee or six cups of tea While caffeine is well know as a natural stimulant, you may not know about its possible link to asthma prevention. It is chemically related to a common asthma drug called theophylline. In fact, coffee can be used as an emergency asthma medicine, since one of caffeine’s effects is to relax the bronchial passages, only for milder forms of asthma.
What about the long term negative effects of caffeine? The evidence shows that, for the most part, they have been greatly exaggerated. Caffeine in moderation is much safer than most people think. Many of the population studies that have linked coffee consumption with various diseases have either been disproven, or else caffeine has been exonerated as the guilty ingredient. There are several hundred chemicals in coffee. Thus, coffee aggravates ulcers, but caffeine isn’t the irritant – decaffeinated coffee has the same acid-producing result. And while some studies show that coffee may raise cholesterol levels, an equal number have failed to establish a link.
And even if caffeine does raise blood cholesterol, that link in itself does not correlate with heart disease or heart attack risk. The prestigious Framingham Heart Study found no link between coffee consumption and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. And a recent review of research in this area, published in Heart &Lung, found that, even in heart disease sufferers, caffeine intake did not increase the risk of heart attack.
However, pregnant women are still cautioned to avoid or at least minimize, coffee consumption because the jury’s still out on whether caffeine – or some other chemical in coffee – increases the risk of miscarriage.
Is Caffeine bad, or Good for You?
It turns out that caffeine has got itself an unfair deal. For example, there have been reports that caffeine raises blood cholesterol levels, but there is a catch, while coffee does indeed contain compounds that can raise your cholesterol levels, when you filter the coffee, these compounds are removed. Assuming that you are filtering your coffee, its hard to come about anything damning about coffee.
Caffeine in coffee does cause heart palpitations in a small percentage of the population, which is why it is not recommended for heart arrhythmia patients. In the rest of us, coffee raises the pulse temporarily, as anyone who downs two cups on an empty stomach knows. but after decades of heart health studies, not one single heart condition has been linked to coffee consumption.
And although coffee can raise your blood pressure, The temporary rise brought on by a cup or two of coffee is less than the change in pressure when you stand up. Or sit down. So relax, because stress can push up your pressure a lot quicker than coffee. If coffee has one great drawback, it’s the fact caffeine creates a physical dependence.
People who consume coffee on daily basis may experience headaches, muscle aches, and fatigue if they quit it abruptly. Just going overnight without coffee can be long enough to induce mild caffeine withdrawal symptoms, though most people start to feel crummy after about 18 caffeine free hours. It doesn’t matter how much coffee you consume per day – one. three, five cups – you can still become physically dependent on the stuff.
Benefits of consuming Coffee
Caffeine boosts endurance by delaying fatigue. Research shows that when consumed an hour before an endurance event, three or four cups of coffee (about 400 milligrams of caffeine)can help athletes run or cycle up to 20 minutes longer than their caffeine free competitors. To achieve this boost, daily caffeine users must abstain from caffeine for four days prior to the athletic event. This way, you body is re-sensitized to it and you will receive a true benefit from it.
but even if you don’t swear off the sauce, a cup of coffee before heading out for your daily run may enhance your alertness. It wont help, however, in power sports or strength training. Coffee is great for stimulating your bowels. This is the other reason endurance athletes drink coffee before competition. They want to lighten their load before they start running or cycling for hours. And coffee does the trick.
Coffee was a staple in college when you were cramming for tests, and it may have done more than just keep you awake all night. Studies show that coffee also improves long term memory. The thinking is that coffee facilitates the storage of information in your long-term memory bank because it keeps the brain alert and attentive. The exact mechanism of coffee’s effect on memory is still unknown, but it does seem to help people hold on to what they have learned.
You know coffee is diuretic. Pulling off the Western highway for a cup on a long trip means pulling off the highway an hour later for other reasons. But this stimulating effect my keep your kidneys stone-free. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public health found that drinking coffee daily can reduce your risk of kidney stones by 10 percent. By the way, beer work too.