Dr. Varsha Sharma
If you believe the TV commercials, nothing is as natural & satisfying as starting the morning with a mug of hot coffee or tea. In fact, this precisely what a lot of people do & a good many of them drink several more cups throughout the day.
What exactly is the allure of coffee? Some people like the bitter taste of coffee & tea; others enjoy the ritual of making it or they like its soothing warmth. But whatever reason people give you, the primary attraction of coffee & tea is caffeine.
Caffeine is listed as an ingredient in an array of everyday foods & drugs: soft drinks, chocolates & soft candies, baked goods, gelatins & puddings, frozen diary products, headache remedies, painkillers, allergy & sinus medications, weight control pills, & more than 1,000 over the counter & prescription drugs.
The best thing is to learn what caffeine does & how to reduce the risks of using it. It has specific short term effects & long term effects. Tea leaves have more caffeine per weight than coffee beans. But a cup of tea has about half the caffeine of a regular cup of coffee because the ratio of water to tea leaves is greater than the ratio of water to coffee ground. Furthermore, coffee is usually brewed longer than tea, & the longer the infusion, the more caffeine. Caffeine is usually circulating throughout your body within half an hour after you ingest it. But how it effects you depends on your body size, metabolism, age, sex & even your emotional state.
* Caffeine is a stimulant that interferes with the chemicals that help brain cells send messages to one another. (Specifically it affects adenosine, a neurotransmitter that normally) acts as a natural tranquillizer.
* A mild dose of caffeine can increase mental alertness, ward off drowsiness, create a general sense of well being, improve reaction time, enhance accuracy & increase muscle capacity of work. That’s the “up” side of caffeine’s psychoactive effect. But there is a “down” side to using such a stimulant on a regular basis. Caffeine can cause nervousness, anxiety & jitteriness.
* It interferes with normal sleep. People who consume large amount of caffeine have a harder time in getting sleep than moderate users or abstainers.
* Caffeine has the potential for disrupting complex mental & nervous functions.
* People who drink coffee at work or before exams should know that caffeine can impair short term memory processes by about 20%.
* People who are subject to bouts of debility, disabling anxiety should be warned that caffeine has been found to exacerbate these panic attacks.
* Caffeine is a diuretic; this means that it activates the kidneys to reproduce more urine. Besides being inconvenient, this dehydrates the body & can wash away essential salts, water soluble, vitamins, & even calcium. This is probably a bad news for women, since calcium loss & inadequate, calcium intakes are major factors in the development of osteoporosis, a gradual thinning of bones that affects 25% of women over 60.
Studies show that the average calcium intake by the young women is not enough to maintain strong bone tissue.
Hence caffeine has several harmful effects which should be avoided at once to prevent one from suffering from these effects. “Your health lies in your hands.”
DR. VARSHA V SHARMA
139/B, SINDHI SOCIETY,
CHEMBUR, MUMBAI- 71