Caffeine is one of a group of compound called methylxanthines, which act directly to stimulate certain neurotransmitters in the central nervous system, with effects throughout the body, Depending on how much you consume, it can temporarily step up your heartbeat and your metabolism, increase stomach acid secretion and urine production, dilate some blood vessels, and constrict others. It wards off drowsiness and increase alertness. One of the documented effects of caffeine is that it shortens reaction time. Precisely how it affects intellectual activity is hard to define, German researchers have found that caffeine improves reading speed without increasing errors. Another study stated broadly that “caffeine produces an increased capacity for sustained intellectual effort.”” Other studies, however, have shown that caffeine does not affect verbal fluency, numerical reasoning, or short term memory. As for athletes, some researchers have claimed that caffeine may enhance performance at endurance events for a variety of reasons, but the evidence is inconclusive.

Aside from shortening simple reaction time, caffeine does not appear to help in the performance. Of more complex motor tasks, and it may even be slightly disruptive. Depending on your body weight and physical condition, your habituation and sensitivity to caffeine, as well as the amount you consume, caffeine can produce trembling, nervousness, chronic muscle tension, irritability, throbbing headaches, disorientation, sluggishness, depression, and insomnia otherwise known as coffee nerves. Some people can drink two or three cups of coffee in an hour without experiencing much of an after effect. Others, if unaccustomed to caffeine, can get jittery after ‘one cup.

Caffeine is mind altering drug, possibly the most popular drug there is, as well as one of the most ancient. It occurs naturally in more than 60 plants and trees that have been cultivated by humans since the beginning of recorded history. Whether they get their caffeine in coffee, tea, cocoa, headache remedies, or soft drinks, nearly everyone ingests at least some caffeine daily. Most adult Americans begin their day with coffee or tea; others, including many children, get their morning start with a cola (12% of all soft drinks are now drunk at breakfast). The average American coffee drinker consumes three cups a day. Yet many people worry about caffeine’s side effects. In sufficient amounts it can bring on the jitters, and at one time or another caffeine has also been accused of causing pancreatic cancer, heart disease, breast disease, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol levels, and birth defects, but does it?


Article extracted from this publication >> July 15, 1988