Sunday, February 12, 2017



Heath Effects, Reproductive Issues, and Short-Term Memory
Bennett Alan Weinberg, Esq. and Bonnie K. Bealer.
Mr. Weinberg is a medical and science writer.
Ms. Bealer is a researcher, writer and editor.


Editor's Note: The following is excerpted from the book The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World's Most Popular Bennett Alan Weinberg and Bonnie K. Bealer (Routledge, 2001).

What is it in man's devious make-up that makes him round on the seemingly more wholesome and pleasurable aspects of his environment and suspect them of being causes of his misfortunes? Whatever it is, stimulants of all kinds (and especially coffee and caffeine) maintain a position high on the list of suspicion, despite a continuing lack of real evidence of any hazard to health.
-Editorial, British Medical Journal, 1976, I:1031       

Coffee and caffeine have long been suspected of causing illnesses ranging from myocardial infarction, arrhythmias, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, gout, and anxiety, to fibrocystic breast disease, various cancers and birth defects, and osteoporosis. No other agent in the human environment has been as frequently associated with such a variety of chronic-degenerative, even malignant diseases.        

-Siegfried Heyden, "Coffee and Cardiovascular Disease," 1993       

Caffeine and, before caffeine was identified, coffee, tea, and chocolate, have been said to cause, exacerbate, palliate, or cure an enormous variety of diseases and have also been said to confer marvelous benefits, including increases in both intellectual and physical capacities. If, like the great majority of people in the world, you use caffeine regularly, you are faced with a complex, confusing, and often apparently contradictory cacophony of traditional and contemporary claims about its effects on human health. ... In the last half of the 20th century, an explosion of general medical knowledge and a large number of controlled experiments have shed scientific light on many of caffeine's effects. It has been often and truly said that caffeine is the most studied drug in history. Yet, because of its nearly universal use, the variety of its modes of consumption, its presence in and effects on nearly all bodily systems, and its occurrence in chemically complex foods and beverages, together with the complexity of the social and psychological factors that shape its use, caffeine may also be one of the least adequately understood. Despite tremendous scientific scrutiny, many central health questions about caffeine remain unanswered or even unaddressed.

Caffeine is like the air. You don't see it and usually hardly notice it, but it's there all the same, and it becomes part of you in a critical metabolic exchange that involves every cell in your body. Considering that the sensorium and biomass of the human race is virtually awash in caffeine, and has been besotted so for hundreds of years, and that an overwhelming majority of people in almost every nation, including young and old, healthy and infirm, rich and poor, has made the regular use of this psychoactive stimulant more popular than the habitual use of any other drug, what do we really know of caffeine? What do we know of what it is doing for us, doing to us, even doing to our unborn children? The answer, as should become clear after reviewing the very impressive record of studies presented in the following chapters and the appendices, and evaluating both the findings and limitations of this research, is, "not nearly as much as we need to know."

The great majority of babies begin life with detectable levels of caffeine in their blood. The lack of adequate information about caffeine's health effects is evident in the disagreements that exist among experts. For example, the FDA, as recently as the late 1980s, reaffirmed its earlier position that medical evidence demonstrated no adverse health consequences from caffeine in soft drinks, and the National Academy of Sciences' National Research Council and the U.S. Surgeon General's office agreed that no risk to health had been shown for moderate caffeine intake. In contrast, many researchers, adducing the complexity of caffeine's effects on the human body and the many aspects of these effects that have received limited research attention, argue that such a "clean bill of health" is not fully justified. ...       

Caffeine and Birth Defects       

The nature of caffeine's effects on birth abnormalities and fertility is probably the most urgent unresolved question that remains to be addressed by future researchers...

The consensus of the medical and scientific community is that, to avoid risk to the fetus, women ought to curtail caffeine use during pregnancy, although authorities differ about the nature or extent of the dangers of failing to do so. But the worrisome fact is that, despite this admonition, most women using caffeine continue throughout pregnancy, with an average intake among users of more than 200 mg a day. As a result, the great majority of babies begin life with detectable levels of the drug in their blood. Because fetal exposure to caffeine is so pervasive, any unfavorable effect on the health of the newborn, even one with a very low incidence, could mean tens of thousands of defective births a year in the United States alone. It is therefore critical to investigate the effect of caffeine exposure on the outcomes of pregnancy as exhaustively as possible.       

Two facts about caffeine metabolism increase concern over the harm that could be posed by maternal caffeine use.        

    First, caffeine metabolism dramatically slows during gestation. The metabolic rate drops progressively, falling to one-half normal during the second trimester, and to one-third normal during the third trimester, before returning to normal within the week following delivery. This means that caffeine that is ingested by the woman in the last few months of pregnancy will remain in her system three times longer than usual and, consequently, that the exposure of her unborn child to caffeine will last three times longer.        

Second, the livers of the fetus and newborn are unable to metabolize caffeine. Because of the incapacity of their hepatic enzyme systems, their livers cannot transform caffeine into its metabolites, so the drug lingers in their systems much longer than in either children or adults, until it is finally excreted, virtually unchanged, in the urine. One researcher found the mean elimination time in infants being treated for apnea with caffeine was one hundred hours, 15 times the adult average, and other scientists report a range up to about 350 hours in premature infants. These dramatic metabolic decrements, however, are short-lived. The infant's capacity to metabolize caffeine progressively increases in the first months of life until it reaches the adult level of three to seven hours by the eighth month, though full maturity of the metabolic pathways of caffeine may not be achieved until the end of the first year.    

Caffeine and Memory       

    In recent years, in addition to continuing studies of caffeine's effects on complex mental activities such as reasoning and learning, researchers have paid increasing attention to its effects on short-term memory. Overall, the results show that caffeine improves performance on tasks that require remembering small amounts of information and impairs or leaves unaffected performance on tasks requiring remembering a great deal. An example of a more demanding sort of memory task is a test in which subjects listen to or read long lists of words and are then asked to remember as many as possible. The experimenters note either no effect from caffeine or perhaps even a small impairment. Another way of conceptualizing these effects is provided by the Humphreys-Revelle model, according to which tasks that are primarily dependent on information processing, such as vigilance, simple arithmetic, or reaction time, are improved, because they make relatively small demands on short-term memory, while tasks with a high short-term memory component may be unaffected or adversely affected. Unfortunately, there is much ambiguity in the data that do exist about these effects. When weighing the conclusions of existing research, we would do well to remember a well-designed 1974 memory experiment by researcher V. E. Mitchell and his colleagues, the cautionary results of which were reminiscent of the title of Luigi Pirandello's play Right You Are, If You Think You Are, because they seem to demonstrate that performance was improved by caffeine when and only when the participants were told that they had ingested the drug.       

Caffeine may help you to stay awake, but it won't necessarily improve your intellectual skills. Nevertheless, millions of students use caffeine to fuel "all-nighters." Based on the available scientific evidence, how does this use of caffeine affect studying and test taking? Caffeine helps people to feel less drowsy and less fatigued, be better able to perform some manual or perfunctory tasks, such as typing or calculating, and, under certain circumstances, to be more capable of sustaining rapid thought and to remember more. However, some studies have found that caffeine does not significantly alter numerical reasoning, short-term memory of complex data, or verbal fluency. In other words, caffeine may help you to stay awake, but it won't necessarily improve your intellectual skills.       

Students depending on caffeine to extend their study time should also be aware of its possible adverse effects when taken in large quantities and be prepared for the crash after its stimulating powers subside. As Socrates suggested, the best guide for students is to know themselves: From a couple of Vivarin tablets, the sensitive may experience restlessness, anxiety, nausea, headache, tense muscles, and sleep disturbances, or a subsequent letdown, while others, from a much higher dose, might feel fine.

Excerpt from 'ABC's of Asthma, Allergies and Lupus'
by Dr. F. Batmanghelidj

Naturally, the quality of drinking water is most important to health. Water should be water and not just any drink. Asthmatics should observe this instruction to the letter.

Water should be free of chemicals, particularly caffeine and alcohol.

Please bear in mind that caffeine and alcohol are toxic chemicals – addictive drugs – as far as the cells of the human body are concerned. It is true that the manufacturers of these agents have unrestricted permission to contaminate good drinking water with these toxic chemicals and to sell them to the public, but, sooner or later, their detrimental impact on society will also become the focus of attention like the tobacco industry presently is.

It is my sincere belief that many of our society’s problems of ill health can be blamed on the marketing tactics and unceasing pushes of the beverage industry. They tend to cultivate the palates of younger people toward the selection and use of their products in preference to the water that young bodies need to develop naturally and normally. Once teenagers - the target of the industry – became addicted to caffeine, the industry has converted them to cash machines for the rest of their shortened lives! The unfortunate outcome of addiction to caffeine is the “upgrade” effect that forces some children to experiment with harder drugs.

Caffeine is a natural diuretic. It forces more water out of the body than is contained in the caffeinated beverage. Caffeine also acts directly on the brain cells and forces them to use some of their critical energy reserves on trivial actions and whims. It lowers the threshold for triggering an action from cells that would otherwise remain quiet until a more serious engagement is deemed necessary. The effect of caffeine on the brain is energy depletion. Caffeine, if taken repeatedly, eventually exhausts the brain. When the brain needs energy reserves to cope with a crisis, it will be far less effective because it is energy-depleted and depressed. The energy-reserve-depleting effect of caffeine on the brain is one of the primary causes of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).

Caffeine has another detrimental effect on the brain that should be considered as the second main impact that pushes the brain in the direction of reaching an ADD status. The brain maintains its energy reserves to use for new confrontations, experiences, dangers, and exciting, fresh ideas. This is how it learns selectively and from new experiences. Caffeine not only depletes the stored energy pools in the brain, it also inhibits the enzyme system initiated by PD (phospho-diesterase). PD activity is a vital step in “memory making” by the brain cells.

All seeds that are designed to create the next generation of a plant contain in their covering shell one or other chemical to deter food scavengers, such as ants and beetles, from eating the protein-rich seeds before they sprout. If this were not so, these plants would become extinct. Legumes such as lentils, peas and green beans possess a chemical called CCK (chol-e-cysto-kinin), a digestive enzyme inhibitor that causes a form of indigestion in the systems of critters that eat the seeds. It causes gas formation in humans who eat lentils without soaking them well and discarding the skin, or boiling them briefly first, washing them well, and then boiling them a second time until cooked. This is the way to “de-gas” legumes that would normally produce indigestion. Get rid of the CCK.

Caffeine is naturally designed to produce stupefaction of the brain.  Caffeine is used by a number of plants as a nerve warfare chemical against their predators. The coffee plant produces caffeine in its seeds to defend itself. Caffeine inhibits the nervous system and the memory mechanisms in its “food-chain” predators in such a way that they lose their “wit” and their art of camouflage. They become less alert and less reactive, and thus less able to protect themselves. They become much easier prey for their predators.

This is why the coffee plant is plagued by fewer bugs than most other plants during its growth period. Bugs know better than to eat it. But we humans take the caffeine-containing coffee beans, brew them to our desired concentration, and consume the plants chemical poison as a pleasure-inducing beverage. High soda consumption, in my opinion, is the reason so many kids in American school have reading and learning problems. Despite all the money that is spent on their education, their average standard is far below children in less- privileged societies, whose access to caffeine-containing beverages is much more limited.

The beverage industry grows and thrives on the addictive properties of caffeine. A report published in the magazine, The Nation, April 27, 1998, states: “The most conservative estimates have children and teens guzzling more than sixty-four gallons of soda a year – an amount that has tripled for teens since 1998, doubled for the 6-11 set and increased by a quarter for under-5 tots (from a 1994 survey by the Agriculture Department).” This finding confirms what I published several years ago in my book, Your Body’s Many Cries for Water, on pages 104-113. It is also interesting to note that the increased consumption of sodas by infants under five years is most probably why the rate of asthma occurrence in that age group tripled in the years between 1980 and 1994.

The beverage industry’s recent name selection of new brands – Surge, Zapped, Full Speed, Outburst, Josta, laced with caffeine and the pick-me-up herb guarana, that hypes “raw primal power” – is designed to attract children and teenagers to consume more and more sodas. The 12-oz cans of soda that contains high amounts of caffeine include Jolt with 72 mg., XTC with 70 mg., and Pepsi-Cola’s Surge with 51 mg. And you get near double dose when you buy the 20-oz bottles.

At schools, the kids often take sodas in place of milk and the schools profit from the sale of these addictive beverages. They serve the regular 12-oz cans of soda, with Mountain Dew containing 55 mg. Of caffeine per can, Coke containing 45 mg., Sunkist with 40 mg., and Pepsi with 37 mg.

Grown-ups consume so much coffee that coffee bars are growing like mushrooms. It is said that a regular 12-oz cup of regular Starbucks coffee contains 190 mg. of caffeine.

In my professional opinion that caffeine by itself has all the detrimental effects on the brain cells to produce the type of brain physiology that dislocates the brain from stimuli received from outside. In addition, the dehydration caused by extensive caffeine intake produces different health problems, devastatingly and early. Among the symptoms are asthma and allergies. Thus, my protocol for the treatment of asthma excludes any form of caffeine-containing beverage until the body has recovered from caffeine’s unhealthy side effects, particularly on the brain and its nervous system. After that, wisdom will have to take over.  

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