What is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a substance which is considered to be a stimulant found in various seeds, leaves and fruits of some plants. In plants it acts as a natural pesticide that paralyzes and kills certain insects feeding on the plants; it also enhances the reward memory of pollinators. It is a bitter, white crystalline xanthine alkaloid which is extracted from the seeds of the coffee plant and the tea leaves and as well as other drinks made from the kola nut. It is often infused as a drink taken by people. Other sources of caffeine include yerba matÃ©, guarana berries, guayusa, and the yaupon holly.
Once it has entered the body, caffeine acts as a central nervous system stimulant which can eliminate drowsiness and restore alertness. It is a psychoactive drug yet only a few people know it is. Some studies have actually shown that caffeine may have a protective effect against diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, and certain types of cancer. Sleep disruption may occur after consumption of caffeine in some sensitive people. Health experts say that pregnant women should limit their coffee consumption to about two cups per day. It is said that caffeine can affect blood pressure and can bring about increased urinary frequency. Tolerance may result to increased and regular consumption of caffeine may lead to tolerance. After heavy use, there may be several autonomic effects such as elevated heart rate and muscle twitching, but not to the cognitive or arousal effects of caffeine.
Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and the body's metabolism. It can reduce physical fatigue and restores alertness when drowsiness occurs. It can make one feel awake, alert, have clearer thought, increased focus and increased coordination. It also seems to improve performance even when one is derived of sleep. Athletes are also known to benefit from caffeine intake with improved strength, endurance and performance. However one should be careful of consuming excessive caffeine because they may develop a condition called caffeinism. Caffeinism is a condition wherein one is dependent on caffeine consumption along with a wide range of unpleasant signs and symptoms such as nervousness, irritability, restlessness, insomnia, headaches, and heart palpitations.
As to its benefits, caffeine is said to lower the risk for cancers. Experts attribute this to a decrease on the reisls for endometrial and hepatocellular cancers as well as colorectal cancers. However some experts say that heavy coffee consumption can increase the risk for bladder cancers. It may also decrease the risk for cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Moderate consumption cannot increase the risk for hypertension however heavy consumption can increase blood pressure. Caffeine is said to protect people from liver cirrhosis yet it can also increase intraocular pressure in people with glaucoma. Caffeine can also relieve asthmatic symptoms by being a weak bronchodilator and may also treat other breathing disorders. Caffeine treatment is also said to be neuroprotective and it is said by some experts that children exposed to caffeine are less likely to have cerebral palsy as well as language and cognitive delays.
Post-pubertal Girls and Boys May React to Caffeine Differently
A recent study done by researchers from University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions has shown that after puberty, boys and girls experience different heart rate and blood pressure changes after consuming acaffeine. Girls also experience some differences in caffeine effect during their menstrual cycles. This study will be published in the July 2014 edition of the journal Pediatrics. The researchers have found a relationship between gender and caffeine dose, with boys having a greater response to caffeine than girls, as well as interactions between pubertal phase, gender and caffeine dose, with gender differences present in post-pubertal, but not in pre-pubertal, participants. This study is useful because it may recommend certain guidelines regarding the use of caffeine among children and teenagers.
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