What is Caffeine? Is it Safe
Caffeine is a stimulant, that when used in moderation, can yield beneficial results. The numerous psychological and physical benefits attained by supplementing with caffeine outweigh the side effects that accompany this drug. Many labs, corporations, and even the United States Military consider caffeine safe and reliable. This research paper should present the reader with enough information to make an informed decision on the health benefits of consuming caffeine. The purpose of this paper is to advise the readers of ways caffeine can affect their body: biologically, physically and psychologically.
Caffeine Affects Body Chemistry
Using caffeine affects the body’s natural mechanism that slows the nerve cell movement in order to calm itself and come to rest. Caffeine acts as an inhibitor of Adenosine (ie, the mechanism) by blocking the receptor slots designated for it, thereby not allowing the rest period to occur (Encyclopedia4u, 2004). The body reacts by releasing neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine, dopamine, acetylcholine, serotonin, glutamate and GABA. (Institute of Medicine, Food components 29) These neurons are primarily responsible for “triggering movement, muscle action, emotion, attention, mood, alertness and memory” (Myers 58).
Physical Advantages of Caffeine Usage in Sports
The physical advantages of taking caffeine can be very productive. Many sports including the Olympics have banned a certain level of caffeine consumption. In order to explain the positive advantages clearly, the following are the results of a study that tested performance enhancement due to caffeine. During endurance exercises, the benefits from caffeine (300mg) are clearly seen. The studies demonstrate how the intensity of the participants increased by 7% and the test subjects were able to exercise for 19% more time (Schwenk, 2004). During a different study, involving cyclists, the control group was able to bike for 75 minutes, whereas the group who consumed 300mg of caffeine in advance biked for 90 minutes. That is a 20% increase (Raforth, 2004).
Caffeine Helps You Breath Better
A person’s lungs are able to benefit from caffeine usage (dosages over 100g). The caffeine allows for “smooth muscle relaxation and bronchial dilation, possibly accounting for its anti-asthmatic effect” (Institute of Medicine, Food components 31). Another benefit of caffeine is its help with lipolysis (the breakdown of fatty tissue), which increases the person’s heart rate and metabolism (Schwenk, 2004).
The Bad Side-Effects of Taking Caffeine
Bad side-effects sometimes occur while using caffeine. The first bad side-effect that I will mention is high blood pressure. Though only a temporary increase, it is important to mention that this increase is usually only seen in new users of caffeinated sodas, coffees and energy drinks. Along with high blood pressure, a person could suffer an occasional irregular heartbeat. If this occurs, the dosage of caffeine should be decreased and a doctor should be notified if one is concerned about this side effect (Harvard School of Medicine 3). Caffeine is a diuretic, causing one to urinate more often, which could lead to dehydration. New users who consume more than 250mg of caffeine may “experience headaches and nervousness” (Schwenk, 2004, np).
Another bad side-effect occurs while attempting to stop using caffeinated products. “Following the cessation of caffeine use, withdrawal-like symptoms are sometimes seen in humans, such as headache, irritability, nervousness, and a reduction in energy…Although the development of withdrawal symptoms might indicate an addictive property, caffeine does not have a convincing profile as an addictive drug” (Institute of Medicine, Food components 31).
Psychological Benefits of Caffeine Usage
There are many psychological benefits of using caffeine. This paper will introduce some studies, which will present a safe range of caffeine for ingestion. Because the body absorbs caffeine quickly, the effects will happen quickly as well. One study by the National Academy of Sciences concludes that doses of caffeine (300mg-600mg) can reverse “performance degradations and alterations in mood and alertness” due to lack of sleep. This reversal is able to last for several hours. The scientists conducted this study using sleep-deprived subjects consuming “large doses (up to 600mg) of caffeine [to show that it is effective] in improving a variety of cognitive performances.” A test, given to the volunteers before and after the administering of caffeine, included tasks necessary to measure speed, accuracy and mental processing. The results show the “relatively long-lasting effects of this drug… reversing the effects of sleep deprivation on cognitive performance (Institute of Medicine, Caffeine for 423).”
A couple other studies have been performed which yielded similar results. In one, dosages of 250mg were given to one group and the other group received a placebo, the group administered caffeine are recorded as being substantially more alert and having faster reaction time than that of the placebo group. In the other, volunteers were administered dosages of caffeine ranging from 0mg-256mg. The volunteers reported being overwhelmed with “vigor”, as well as their “fatigue, depression and hostility” decreased (Institute of Medicine, Food components 38). Some negative psychological side effects include cases of “restlessness, nervousness and insomnia (Encyclopedia4u, 2004).
Does Caffeine Affect Pregnancy?
Some questions rose over the past few decades asking whether problematic births or heart diseases relate to caffeine ingestion. Researchers have searched for the truth and have produced contradictory results, which do not conclude whether caffeine is one of the contributing factors responsible (Harris, 3-4). As always it is best for the opinion of a doctor to be requested regarding caffeine use during pregnancy on a case by case basis.
Final Thoughts on Caffeine
There are many examples throughout this paper presenting evidence for both positive and negative ramifications linked to the consumption of caffeine. These side-effects affect a person’s body and mind positively and sometimes negatively. In the future, more research will be conducted, which may reveal the mysterious secrets of caffeine.
Encyclopedia4u. (n.d.). Caffeine. http://www.encyclopedia4u.com/c/caffeine.html
Harris, M. (2004). The buzz on caffeine [Electronic version]. Vegetarian Times, 71-73. Coffee: for most, it’s safe. Harvard Women’s Health Watch 2-3.
Institute of Medicine. (2001) Caffeine for the sustainment of mental task performance: Formulations for military operations (423). http://www.nap.edu/openbook/0309082587/html/index.html
Institute of Medicine. (2001) Food components to enhance performance: An evaluation of potential performance-enhancing food components for operational rations (30-38). http://www.nap.edu/books/030905088X/html/
Myers, D. G. (2004) Psychology: Seventh Edition in Modules. New York: Worth Publishers.
Raforth, D. Cycling performance tips (n.d.). http://www.cptips.com/caff.htm
Schwenk, T. L. (1997, January). Psychoactive drugs and athletic performance [Electronic Version]. The Physician and Sportsmedicine, http://physsportsmed.com/issues/1997/01jan/schwenk.htm