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November 19, 2008

The Buzz About Caffeine

There are all kinds of studies about caffeine and its effect on the body. Its use is discouraged among pregnant mother, and with good reason. Caffeine can affect fetal development may cause heart defects, low birth weight, or miscarriage.

Besides the precautions for pregnancy, over-consumption of caffeine constitutes a type of drug abuse. Like aspirin and many other over the counter medications, the availability of these substances lulls people into a false sense of safety because of their easy access. Caffeine especially, because of its availability in carbonated beverages, has no warning labels about excessive use.

If you do use caffeine, remember the old maxim: "Everything in moderation." One thoughtful essay has taken an interesting look at caffeine and the role it plays in the brain for enhancing attention.

Caffeine has a number of effects on the body, but the one that is relevant here is that it blocks adenosine receptors in the brain (by tricking your brain into thinking it is adenosine.) A decrease in the activity of adenosine (which is a sleep chemical) increases neuron firing rate and increases focus and concentration.

Some people say that caffeine actually has the reverse affect on them: shortly after consuming caffeine they get a short energy burst and then they fall asleep. I've trolled the internet for an answer to that paradox and have found some commentary about the use of stimulants to treat hyperactivity disorders. However, I found no explanation for how or why caffeine works this way in some people's bodies. If you have an answer, let me know.

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Posted by linda at November 19, 2008 7:56 PM

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