Friday, November 2, 2007

I'm no quitter

This week, I decided not to drink caffeine. Monday and Tuesday I was fine, though a bit sluggish. Wednesday I had a major headache and no attention span. Thursday I was incredibly sleepy and unmotivated. I love coffee. LOVE. The reason I quit for the week is that I’m not sure coffee is doing much for me anymore, other than getting me wired and then causing a crash later. I wondered—just wondered—if it was causing me undue stress and if I would feel calmer and happier if I took some time off. I don’t think coffee is bad for you, though I’ve read conflicting information about that. The authors of the bestselling book Skinny Bitch write:

Think about how widely accepted it has become that people need coffee to wake up. You should not need anything to wake up. If you can’t wake up without it, you are either addicted to caffeine, sleep deprived, or a generally unhealthy slob…it’s not heroin, girls, and you’ll learn to live without it. Caffeine causes headaches, digestive problems, irritation of the stomach and bladder, peptic ulcers, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, anxiety, and depression. Caffeine raises stress hormone levels, inhibits important enzyme systems that are responsible for cleaning the body, and sensitizes nerve reception sites. One study even links caffeine to an increased susceptibility to diabetes…P.S. it also makes your breath smell like ass.

Ok. It’s clear where they stand on this. The Skinny Bitch authors like to start their day with decaf green tea. But others do not agree. An article on WebMD discusses the benefits of coffee, citing six studies that show that coffee, in fact, lowers your risk of diabetes, Parkinson’s and colon cancer. I admit that I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about my chances of being diagnosed with any of those diseases, but the fact is that people can’t agree on the effects caffeine has on the human body. Weird. Wikipedia (Source of All Truths) states that:

...the mainstream view of medical experts is that drinking three 8-ounce (236 ml) cups of coffee per day (considered average or moderate consumption) does not have significant health risks for adults.

And here’s the thing. After 4 days of no caffeine, I had a cup of coffee this morning. AND I AM SO HAPPY.


Jonathan said...

I see we've ventured back to health-related I can resist commenting.

I read a fairly interesting article on coffee/caffeine. NOT in Men's Health, but in Scientific American (tip to Elizabeth). I haven't cross-checked the information, but the authors sounded fairly credible.

Basically, the article stated that the average american drinks coffee at the wrong time of day for it to be effective. Caffeine works as an uptake inhibitor in the brain, preventing the "sleepies" (my word not theirs) from binding to certain receptors, preventing you from getting tired. When you wake up in the morning, your receptors have essentially been reset "sleey-less" and as you progress through the day, the 'sleepies' begin binding to those receptors until you can't take it anymore and need sleep.

Most optimal time to drink caffeine? Noon to two to prevent hitting that natural lull most people feel around 3-4.

Conclusion (at least for me), your and my, morning coffee addiction is due to a physiological addiction, not the scientific chemical reasons.

As for effects on the human body, I think Skinny Bitch is exaggerating a little here. I agree that coffee could probably do those things but it probably has more to do the with amount of coffee consume coupled with the amount of water not consumed. It's all about the context.

PS. Rumor has it that your birthday is coming up soon? I can only assume there will be celebrating.

Sarah said...

I like the idea about coffee being more effective in the afternoon. I definitely suffer from that afternoon zombie hour. I want to take this opportunity to admit that I was so pleased with the results of my morning coffee buzz that I went to Starbucks at noon and got a double latte. It's a good day.

Joe said...

Arabs discovered the benefits of caffeine around the 12th century. We know what an upbeat part of the world that's been ever since.