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The charismatic caffeine

“Can this wait? I haven’t had my coffee yet.”

“I have a headache, and I need some coffee.”

“You look tired! Can I get you some coffee?”

These words are quite common in an everyday conversation, right? Especially if you are around a coffee lover or you are one! Coffee, as many believe, helps stay alert, stimulates the brain, and relieves a headache or fatigue. The magic in here is the chemical called caffeine—the most universally-accepted and used psychoactive drug. Though classified as a ‘drug’ and a ‘stimulant’, it caffeine is legally and socially accepted because of its low toxicity and less likelihood of abuse.

So, how does caffeine help in alertness? Adenosine, a hormone that regulates sleep, builds up in the human brain when a person is awake. Caffeine suppresses adenosine receptors thus reducing tiredness. Although caffeine is known as a vasodilator, which can dilate blood vessels, it also acts as a minimal vasoconstrictor, which reduces blood flow to the brain thus reducing headache in cases of a migraine. Several studies have shown that a moderate intake of caffeine can support weight loss and cognitive functioning, reduce the risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s diseases, and other age-related decreases in mental abilities. A transient drug, caffeine aids in the release of dopamine, increasing focus and concentration.

According to research, caffeine helps postpone sleep, reduces the degradation of performance due to fatigue and boredom and also reduces hand steadiness. There is also evidence of caffeine decreasing the risk of cirrhosis and Hepatitis C of the liver. A recent trend in health care providers is the intravenous supply of caffeine to help patients dealing with epidural anaesthesia and breathing problems.

Caffeine, which has no nutritional value, is also a mood-enhancing chemical. Studies show that it has the potential to reduce suicide risks in regular consumers. It assists in memory and learning where it is observed to be both, a facilitator and an inhibitor, based on the quantity consumed. Like all drugs, no matter how less the abuse potential, caffeine too has its adverse health effects. In high doses, it can increase heartbeat, blood pressure, anxiety, irritability, insomnia, tremors and also sometimes gastrointestinal imbalance.

Love your cuppa coffee? Drink it in moderation, and it will do you oodles of good!