What connects Camellia sinensis, Coffea seeds, Kola nuts as well as the yaupon holly leaves, Amazonian holly guayusa leaves. The common factor is a simple but bitter, white crystalline purine, a methylxanthine alkaloid compound popularly consumed globally as “Caffeine”. The growing role of “caffeine” related beverages is evidenced by the celebration of March as the National Caffeine Awareness Month” by foodimentarians globally.
Like the two sides of a coin, caffeine has its’ own merits and demerits. Primarily playing its’ role as a central nervous stimulant as well as inhibitor of two major enzymes, phophodiesterase and adenosine; caffeine of coffee, tea as well as the medically available pure form has its’ indicated uses and merits.
From treating to preventing major diseases in neonates (like bronchopulmonary dysplasia, apnea of prematurity) as well aiding asthmatics in reducing their exacerbation; caffeine aids in reducing fatigue, drowsiness and improving coordination and reaction time. Imagine the endless night shifts, cramming before exams, pulling all nighters before the term exams in university and aiding to stay awake during classes after late night events; caffeine was always a life saver. In moderation, caffeine aids in reducing depressive symptoms as well as suicide idealizations.
“It was a pleasant cafe, warm and clean and friendly, and I hung up my old water-proof on the coat rack to dry and put my worn and weathered felt hat on the rack above the bench and ordered a cafe au lait. The waiter brought it and I took out a notebook from the pocket of the coat and a pencil and started to write.” Ernest Hemingway
Not just students or night shift workers, for the gym goers, caffeine helps in improving their endurance, aids weight loss as well as increase the training or exercise volume. Moderate consumption of caffeine reduces dementia and Alzheimer’s risk, neuroprotective for Parkinson’s patients, reduces liver fibrosis and cirrhosis as well decreases risk of throat, mouth, colon and skin cancer.
On the other hand, more than 400 milligrams of caffeine intake has been associated with health risks ( Health Canada limitations) while toxic doses are in the range of ten grams or more of caffeine (50 -100 coffee cups with 80-175 mgs of caffeine per cup). Adverse effects of caffeine have a physical as well as psychological manifestation. In the former group would include raised blood pressure, headaches, increase gastrointestinal motility, increase bone loss in postmenopausal women, stained teeth, increased eye pressure in glaucoma patients, loss of essential minerals like iron and calcium as well as decreasing collagen synthesis i.e. more wrinkles.
“As long as there was coffee in the world, how bad could things be?” Cassandra Clare, City of Ashes
From a psychological viewpoint, increase caffeine can lead to addiction, mood swings, dependency, anxiety disorders, tremors as well as irritability and sleep less nights. For the pregnant women, balancing the daily intake to two or less cups of coffee ( less than 200mg ) helps to reduce the caffeine induced pregnancy complications.
Caffeine consumption, highly depends on the way and reason we take it. From a simple homemade coffee to the “calorie laden coke” (laced with additional compounds) or the simple morning and evening ritual of tea, caffeine intake can be regulated. The more carefully we regulate the caffeine intake, the longer we can enjoy the merits than be affected by their demerits.
“Adventure in life is good; consistency in coffee even better.” Justina Chen, North of Beautiful