Today we’re going to talk about caffeine. It is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug, most commonly consumed as coffee. Unlike many other psychoactive substances, it is legal and unregulated in nearly all parts of the world. What exactly is caffeine? What does it do to your body and is it good for you?
Most people associate caffeine with coffee but it is also found in tea, chocolate, and some plants. Plants produce caffeine as a pesticide. In high doses as it is found in leaves and seeds of some plants, it is toxic to insects. However in smaller doses as it is found in nectar, it can help them remember and revisit flowers.
In the human body, caffeine acts as a stimulant for the central nervous system. Caffeine blocks the receptors in the body for a compound called adenosine. Under normal circumstances, adenosine triggers the receptors and causes a feeling of relaxation and drowsiness. Caffeine prevents this from happening while also increasing the production of dopamine and noradrenaline. This inhibition of adenosine gives us the feeling of alertness when we drink a cup of coffee.
There is evidence that caffeine effects on adenosine and dopamine receptors can have long term benefits such as reducing the risks of diseases like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and some types of cancer. Caffeine can also improve the body’s ability to burn fat and increase the power output of the muscles. Between 1972 and 2004, Olympic athletes had to stay below a certain blood-caffeine concentration to compete.
Of course, there are also some side effects that you can get from using caffeine. It can raise your heart rate and blood pressure, cause increased urination and diarrhea. It can also cause anxiety and insomnia. Your brain can adapt to regular consumption of caffeine. If your adenosine receptors are always clogged, your body will form more receptors thus requiring you to take in more caffeine to achieve the same amount of alertness. You may also experience an unpleasant withdrawal if you suddenly quit caffeine, getting symptoms such as headaches and depressed moods. However, in a few days, the extra adenosine receptors will disappear and your body will readjust.
For those of us who enjoy coffee or any caffeine related products, I think we should really know what it does to our body and how it affects us. This is a psychoactive drug that we’re taking everyday.
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