The powerfulness of Caffeine

Published: 05th April 2011
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The prevailing hypothesis of why caffeine increases alertness took shape only in the early 1970's. The theory holds that caffeine interferes with the depressant effects of adenosine, which is one of the chemicals that the body makes to control neural activity. Adenosine triggers a series of slowing effects: it depresses mood and alertness, lowers the need to urinate and slows gastric biological process and respiration. After it is released by nerve endings in the brain, adenosine must reach receptors on the surface of certain brain cells in order to succeed. Caffeine, the theory has it, acts as an adenosine pretender. Molecules of caffeine counterfeit molecules of adenosine, locking into the adenosine receptors on brain cells. They dupe the body into thinking that adenosine is circulating, but they make no depressive effect of their own.

Caffeine speeds you up, then by not slowing you down. Its effects are the diametric of what adenosine does: it makes you seem brighter and more alert, increases gastric secretion, makes you urinate more and stimulates respiration.

Proponents of caffeine talk of its ability to increase vigilance and heighten the ability to perform different tasks. Its effects are most pronounced, however, when compared with performance levels that are low because of weariness, boredom or caffeine abstinence. Too, its effects appear to vary by personality type. For example, caffeine appears to assist extroverts keep performing vigilance tasks better than introverts, who can evidently plow through such tasks unassisted.

Despite the generations of writers who have believed that coffee help them think more clearly, caffeine seems only to increase intellectual speed, not intellectual power. Subjects in experiments do thinks like read and fill out crossword puzzles faster - but not, unfortunately more accurately.

Caffeine quickens response time and can heighten both hand-eye coordination and the capacity for muscles to work. This boost to overall endurance has led to its use by cyclists and runners. But caffeine also has a diuretic consequence, increasing frequency of urination. Caffeinated drinks are thus dehydrating, advantageous for neither athletes or flyers: dehydration is one of the worst problems of air traveling and a prime cause of jet-lag.

Caffeine speeds up the metabolic process and makes you burn calories faster, although not so much faster that it will help you lose weight. Its inclusion in over-the-counter diet pills in place of prescription-only amphetamines ("speed") seems to be for the most part uneffective. Amphetamines, Which decrease appetite, work differently than caffeine does on the brain.

This general quickening does not mean that coffee can sober you up - either black or with milk. Your motor functions will be just as impaired by alcohol as they were minutes before you drank that mugful of coffee, and even if you feel more awake, you're just a unsafe a driver, Similarly, caffeine does not counteract the effects of Phenobarbital and other barbiturates. It does, however, help reverse the impairment of cognitive activity cased by benzodiazepines, the compounds that are the basis of Valium and many other tranquilizers. This reversal affects how you think as opposed to how speedy you react If you are taking a muscle relaxant or tranquilizer that you think might be one of these compounds, ask your physician; he or she will probably advise you not to defeat the effects of the drug by drinking coffee.

Several researchers speculate that a similar restorative effect on cognitive activity might happen in the interaction between caffeine and alcohol, but no one yet knows. Remember, though, that the question is whether caffeine can assist you think more clearly after you have drunk alcohol - not whether it will improve your reflexes. No one imagines that coffee can make you a safer driver after you've been boozing.
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