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Health benefits of caffeinated beverages.

We drink for a variety of reasons--or in many cases, mechanically for no reason at all -- or unthinkingly from force of habit. Specific purposes for selecting individual beverages include water or low calorie soda to quench thirst; regular soda for its energy boost from its sugar content; milk for its nutritional value; sports beverages for electrolyte replacement; hot liquids for their heating value on cold winter days and vice versa; caffeine for brews for their stimulations; wine, beer and distillates for their relaxing effects, etc.

Many consumers take a negative approach to their beverage seeking liquids that are alleged to avoid harmful effects -- that do not cause heart trouble, circulatory diseases, obesity. cancer and other degenerative diseases. The more astute select beverages that have a positive effect on their mental acuity and energy requirements, that sharpen their intellect and aid in meeting the strenuous demands and problems of their daily work.

Progress in fundamental studies of psychology and physiology is changing our comprehension of the human brain and human intelligence. There are new concepts of what intelligence is and why some people are smarter than others. The old belief that our intelligence is determined bigenetics is now obsolete and the old belief of a fixed intelligence is often untrue. Now it is known that mental capacity can be developed and increased. Professional and creative workers, artists, writers, mathematicians, scientists, many executives seek and expect cerebral benefits from their brew and are often lost or unhappy without it.

As consumers are exposed to a world of constantly increasing complexity and competitiveness - faced with an information explosion and sensory overload, it is becoming widely recognized that memory sharpness and improved thinking ability becomes imperative. With sudden and unexpected unemployment, many no longer do the same job for their entire life. Successful careers require continued education and adaptation. All corporations are structured so that employees must compete intellectually for promotions and raises. Competition in the market place is as real and as intense as on the playing field.

While many drink their beverages automatically and without conscious anticipation from their intake; a growing number are beginning to realize they do get appreciable physiological and psychological benefits from its caffeine content and look forward to their coffee break with great enthusiasm; as well as to their stimulating beverage at other times. They expect it, are eager for it, and are often lost without it.

Advantages of a cup of brew are immediately apparent and has been often measured to indicate that they persist for a period of time. These benefits have been shown to be: increased alertness, mental energy and concentration ability; also improved ability to concentrate over longer periods of time; increased ability to memorize has been demonstrated on numerous occasions. Greater productivity, organization and planning performance have also followed coffee ingestion. Improved verbal memory and increased problem solving ability have been the subject of several research papers on coffee properties. Elimination of drowsiness and its wake-up properties are noted daily at the breakfast table. Alleviation of depression and better overall health has often been observed and even elevated sexual performance has been documented as physiological properties of caffeine. In some circles caffeinated drinks are referred to as smart beverages in contrast to alcoholic ones which are categorized as "stupefying" beverages; while water and decaffeinated products are referred to as "neuters."

The mechanism whereby "smart" beverages improve mental acuity is multi-functional. and not all factors have been clearly defined. A basic consideration is that caffeine is a respiratory stimulant and increases the flow of blood to the brain. This increases the flow supply of oxygen, thus accelerating brain metabolism and removing carbon dioxide and other waste products - clearing the cobwebs in the vernacular, and thus promoting clearer thinking. This is in contrast with alcoholic beverages, which slow respiration, reducing oxygen access; and in greater contrast with cigarette smoking which generates carbon monoxide to replace the oxygen in the cerebral blood.

For its cerebral activity, coffee exerts three different actions: it stimulates the cerebral breathing control center thereby increasing the rate and the volume of inspired air; it relaxes lung muscles so that breathing tubes expand and take in more air; it also relaxes lung blood vessels increasing amount of blood oxygenated. This also improves muscular performance and relieves tiredness.

In addition, shortly after coffee is imbibed, the caffeine enters the blood stream and flows into the cerebral cortex. The caffeine molecule is small enough to be transferred directly into brain cells where they exhibit their stimulating action. Long term studies have proposed several other hypotheses of caffeine cerebral activity which await verification. There is some indication that caffeine retards the effect of aging on brain cells. A number of studies have shown that it improves learning ability which tends to diminish with aging. In some animal studies it has been found to have brain cell nourishing and protective effects as aging progresses.

Accordingly one specific area where stimulating beverages might be expected to have value is in age related mental decline. There is the classic story of the elderly psychology professor giving his annual lecture on mental deterioration in senior citizens. "There are three characteristic symptoms of senility. The first one is loss of memory", he stated, and then after a long pause, "and I can't remember the other two."

Moderate cerebral insufficiency usually begins to become evident at around age 60 and can increase at a 20-40% rate over the next two to three decades as a result of aging. With ailments such as disease, organic brain syndrome or other forms of senility, deterioration can commence as early as age 30 or 40 and proceed to 100% loss of mental facilities in a decade. Stimulating beverages could provide temporary mental clarity; and it is unfortunate that during this time of greatest need, they are often denied - sometime for sound medical reasons, but more often for groundless anti-caffeine prejudice.

People who approach their beverage with no great expectation will rarely be disappointed. Those who hold cerebral anticipations from their drink will often be pleasantly surprised and gratified.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Lee, Samuel
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Article Type:Column
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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