Fw: Caffeine story in National Geographic. 'The world's most popular psychoactive drug'. Sent fyi.

Preston Peet ptpeet at nyc.rr.com
Wed Jan 19 23:30:55 EST 2005

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----- Original Message ----- 
From: Andrew Byrne
To: ajbyrne at ozemail.com.au
Sent: Wednesday, January 19, 2005 10:10 PM
Subject: Caffeine story in National Geographic. 'The world's most popular 
psychoactive drug'. Sent fyi.

Dear Colleagues,

This month the National Geographic Magazine has a 30 page cover story on 
caffeine which makes fascinating reading.  Caffeine is the world's most 
popular drug, even eclipsing tobacco and alcohol.

The history of beverages, nuts and confection containing caffeine makes 
quite a story, paralleling civilisation itself.  Prior to the industrial 
revolution there was little to be gained in keeping awake after dark.  Since 
caffeine increases alertness, improves reflexes and reduces fatigue, it is 
an ideal accompaniment to round-the-clock factory work.  With few proven 
side effects at normal doses, it would thus appear to be the ideal drug for 
the modern era.

After tea, coffee and cocoa, the latest incarnation is in 'energy drinks'. 
We are told that "Red Bull" was an Austrian invention which is now copied 
all around the world.  I recall seeing "Jolt" cola when in Japan over ten 
years ago.  Strangely, it is compulsory in many countries to state contents 
details on the label of most products, but tea, coffee and cola often still 
remain exempt from this requirement.

We are informed that dark chocolate contains up to three times as much 
caffeine as milk chocolate and 12mg is a typical dose contained in a small 
block.  The article quotes a cup of brewed tea at 50mg, about the same as a 
single shot of espresso coffee.  A 20oz (US) bottle of Coca-Cola has 57mg 
caffeine while a small tin of Red Bull contains 80mg.

There is an exhaustive discussion of the benefits versus the potential side 
effects of the drug, including its use in pregnancy and in children.  The 
author's conclusion on balance is parallel with the FDA, that the drug is 
'generally recognized as safe' in doses of up to 300mg daily.  However they 
sound a warning that 'people who consume caffeine have higher rates of 
kidney and bladder cancer, fibrocystic breast disease, pancreatic cancer and 
osteoporosis' even if these are not necessarily causative.  Nervousness, 
panic attacks and temporary increases in blood pressure are also occasional 
associations of caffeine consumption.

Other interesting quotes: "The caffeine extracted from coffee beans to make 
'decaf' is sold to drug and soft drink manufacturers".  "Military studies of 
subjects who had not slept for 48 hours showed that 600mg of caffeine 
improved alertness and mood as much as 20mg of amphetamine".  "The robusta 
coffee beans used in less expensive brands contain almost twice as much 
caffeine as the arabica beans favored by connoisseurs".  "Going without 
caffeine for a day and a half increases blood flow in the brain which may 
explain why people get headaches when they first give it up".  "Cigarette 
smoking nearly doubles the rate at which the body metabolises caffeine". 
"Vietnam is now the world's second largest coffee producer, yet is largely a 
nation of tea drinkers".

See also http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/Press_releases/2004/09_29_04.html 
(Caffeine withdrawal recognised as DSM disorder).

comments by Andrew Byrne ..

   Dr Andrew Byrne MB BS (Syd) FAChAM (RACP)
   Dependency Medicine,
   75 Redfern Street, Redfern,
   New South Wales, 2016, Australia
   Email - ajbyrneATozemail.com.au
   Tel (61 - 2) 9319 5524  Fax 9318 0631
My grandfather Harry Gracie's letters from 1924 trip to Mayo Clinic:


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