Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Caffeine
1. What is caffeine?
Caffeine is a stimulant to the central nervous system. Scientifically, it is known as a xanthine alkaloid and is found both beans and leaves.
2. Is caffeine really a drug?
Yes. In fact, caffeine is the most popular drug in the world. Although most often associated with beverages, caffeine can also be found in candy and medicine.
3. Is caffeine addictive?
There has been some debate about whether caffeine is truly physically addictive. Although a recent study by doctors at Johns Hopkins Univ. confirmed that caffeine withdrawal is an official disorder, others claim that since the withdrawal symptoms are usually not very severe and rarely last longer than a week, it should not be characterized as truly addictive in comparison to other drugs such as tobacco or heroin. While it may not be as difficult to quit the caffeine habit as to quit the smoking habit, most people who’ve been forced to go without their coffee for a day will agree that caffeine is most definitely addictive.
4. How does caffeine work?
Caffeine works by…well, the chemical process involves such concepts as adenosine receptors, epinephrine, and cAMP-phosphodiesterase. If you are in any way familiar with those words, then you’ve probably already skipped past this part of the FAQ. Suffice it to say that caffeine enters the blood stream upon consumption and makes the trip to all parts of the inner universe that is the human body. The effects include a faster heart rate, an increase in urine, facilitation of the digestive process, relaxation of the body’s smooth muscles, and stimulation of the brain cells.
5. Does caffeine have a taste?
In its natural form, yes. In a word: bitter. Although the caffeine content itself typically can’t be tasted in a beverage, it is often used as a flavoring agent in soft drinks. Can you taste the difference between caffeinated and non-caffeinated versions of the same soda? Decaffeinated coffee is typically made from beans of inferior quality so that may account for the difference in quality of taste, but many people notice a significant difference in flavor between caffeinated and non-caffeinated soda so, yes, caffeine may be a factor in taste. Then again, it could be all psychological. Do a blind taste test and see if you notice a difference.
6. Are there any benefits to caffeine consumption?
Yes. Caffeine can temporarily improve mental alertness and provide a physical jolt of energy. Caffeine is also an ingredient in most pain relief medications and is often especially effective in treating headaches, including migraines. Caffeine is used in some treatments of sleep apnea in newborns because of its ability to stimulate breathing. In addition, it has also been used to stimulate breathing in people who have overdosed on opiate-based drugs.
7. Is caffeine safe for children?
Soft drinks are the beverage of choice not only for adults in America, but most children as well. The research indicates that most kids consume more caffeine than recommended, but moderate amounts have thus far not been proven to produce any long term health problems. On the other hand, since continued use of caffeine produces a tolerance to its effects, kids who consume daily doses may find themselves needing more as they grow older to stave off withdrawal.
8. What happens during caffeine withdrawal?
Regular consumption of caffeine increases the body’s tolerance to its effects. The more caffeine consumed, the less sensitive one becomes to its effects, creating a need for more caffeine to enjoy the positive aspects. Unfortunately, that sensitivity works in reverse when the body is denied its caffeine fix. Terminating or suddenly reducing the amount of caffeine you normally ingest results in a hypersensitive reaction that increases blood flow to the head and causes a drop in blood pressure. Although a massive headache is the most common symptom of withdrawal, most people also experience one or more of the following: irritability, nervousness, anxiety, jitteriness, fatigue, drowsiness, and depression. Extreme cases may produce nausea and/or vomiting.
9. If caffeine is a drug, does that mean you can overdose on it?
A caffeine overdose is known as caffeinism. The amount require to produce this effect varies according to the individual and the symptoms include restlessness, headache, problems sleeping, nausea, and lightheadedness. Extreme overdose, usually resulting from ingestion of over 750mg in a short time may produce anxiety, vomiting, diarrhea, and breathing difficulties. A fatal overdose would require drinking about 100 cups of coffee at one sitting.
10. Are there any serious health risks associated with caffeine?
There have been no scientific studies proving that caffeine is a serious contributor to any major health risk. It has not been found to play any part in causing any kind of cancer. However, there is some debate over whether cutting down on caffeine consumption may help women who are at a high risk for developing osteoporosis. Pregnant women should always check with their doctor first, but the general consensus is that moderate consumption either during pregnancy or while breastfeeding has no ill effects upon infant development. Excessive consumption during pregnancy, however, is still not recommended.
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