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with Michael Breus, PhD, ABSM

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Caffeine Facts

Photo Credit: Jason Wilson

While catching up on my reading about caffeine I came across a story featured in the April 23, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report. The facts I was able to pull out were simply amazing:

  • A police officer in Alaska has invented a combination of caffeine and lip balm.
  • An inventor in Durham, NC has perfected the recipe for a caffeine-infused doughnut or bagel.
  • The number of 18-to-24-year-olds who drink coffee daily has doubled, from 16 percent to 31 percent.
  • Energy drinks like Red Bull and Cocaine, with several times the buzz of a can of Coke, have mushroomed into a $3.5 billion-a-year industry.
  • Children’s consumption of soft drinks has doubled in the past 35 years, with sodas supplanting milk.
  • A 2003 study of Columbus, Ohio middle schoolers found some taking in 800 milligrams of caffeine a day — more than twice the recommended maximum for adults of 300 milligrams. (Learn how to cut back on caffeine intake.)
  • Test subjects dosed with the amount found in a cup of coffee come out ahead on problem-solving tasks.
  • By triggering the release of adrenaline to help muscles work harder and longer, caffeine so clearly enhances athletic performance that until 2004 it was considered a controlled substance by the International Olympic Committee.
  • The latest findings on coffee suggest that it even staves off disease. Caffeine reduces the risk of Parkinson’s disease, for example, by blocking receptors for adenosine, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in motor function. It is now being tested as a Parkinson’s treatment. Caffeine also heads off migraines by contracting blood vessels in the brain.
  • Coffee, like blueberries and broccoli, contains potent antioxidants. It appears to reduce the risk of colon cancer, gallstones, and liver cancer, among other illnesses.
  • In 2005, Harvard researchers found that drinking six cups of coffee or more daily cut the risk of getting type 2 diabetes by half in men and 30 percent in women.
  • One study of 80,000 women showed that those who drank more than two or three cups of coffee daily reduced their risk of suicide over 10 years by a third.
  • The young adult crowd who favor caffeine with their alcohol appear to be putting themselves at some risk, too. According to Mark Fillmore, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky, “Caffeine seems to restore the speed of your behavior but not the accuracy.” This gives a whole new meaning to “The Quick and the Dead!”
  • “Coffee culture” has become so much a part of American culture that 36-year-old Starbucks, once considered a gourmet’s treat, now boasts 9,401 stores nationwide and has focused growth on economically struggling neighborhoods far from the yuppified precincts of its early success.

So what have a learned from all of these factoids?

First, I think it is safe to say that very few people who use caffeine really know the pros and cons and how to use it appropriately.

Second, I know almost no one who thinks about their use or abuse of caffeine.

And finally, it made me think twice about my single morning cup a few days per week.

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Posted by: Michael Breus, PhD, ABSM at 9:00 am

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