Caffeine

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The brain and central nervous system are both affected by caffeine and amphetamines, which act to delay fatigue by increasing mental and physical activity. This forces the body to use emergency reserves that should be replenished by rest. Physiologically, caffeine triggers a flow of stimulating chemicals from the adrenal glands into the bloodstream, causing blood sugar levels to rise. This causes blood vessels to constrict and can raise the blood pressure as much as 10 percent. The pulse rate slows down slightly.

The pros and cons of drinking coffee in relation to heart attacks have gone on for years. Some people in medical research claim that people who drink from one to five cups of coffee a day stand a 50 percent greater risk of heart attacks than those who drink none. On the other hand, other major studies have shown no link between coffee drinking and heart problems. One study showed that people who drank coffee were more likely to survive heart attacks than nondrinkers because caffeine serves as a mild stimulant.

In view of these conflicting opinions, healthy individuals should follow a course of moderation in drinking coffee and pay close attention to its reaction on their own body. Coffee does increase the output of stomach acid in the urine, and the excretion of magnesium is more than quadrupled. A magnesium deficiency will cause nervousness, tension, and hangover jitters similar to those brought on after a night of drinking heavily.

Some people who are more prone to coffee jitters than others try to avoid the problem by drinking decaffeinated brands. They should be aware that the caffeine is removed by using methylene chloride, a solvent that can cause cancer when taken extensively. Although the methylene chloride is rinsed away from the coffee beans, a residue still remains, and is potentially dangerous when ingested continuously over a long period of time.

Recently, a process using steam to remove caffeine from coffee without leaving dangerous residues like methylene chloride was developed in Switzerland; however, this product is high-priced and not normally stocked in most markets Since espresso is also made by steaming, a great deal of the caffeine is dissipated along with the steam, making it safer to drink than regular coffee, which is perked or kept hot for long hours in coffee shops and restaurants. Being steamed quickly under pressure, espresso is low in acid as well as caffeine.

If you are particularly susceptible to the caffeine in coffee, take note of the fact that caffeine is found in more than 160 other plants and used in a number of drugs, food items, and beverages. Tea, with the exception of herb teas labeled "no caffeine," contains almost as much of the stimulant as coffee. It is also found in soft drinks, chocolate, stay-alert tablets, prescription drugs for headaches, and Anacin, Excedrin, Midol, and aspirin.

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