Coffee contains purine alkaloids, with the main ones being caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline. It also contains trigonelline and carbonisation products of hemicilluloses and chlorogenic acid. The acids present in coffee cause calcium to be drawn from the bone to neutralize them. The effects are absorbency and astringency, a stimulatory effect on the central nervous system and the gastric secretions, and an increase of psychomotor stamina. Decaffeinated coffee removes only caffeine, and not theobromine or theophylline, which are also stimulants. It takes over 100 different chemicals to remove caffeine from the coffee bean. This is in addition to the chemicals sprayed on them as they enter the US for processing. Not all of the caffeine is removed from decaffeinated substances. There can still be about 10 mg. per cup, depending the size and how it is brewed.
The history of coffee is obscure but most often is attributed to the story out of Ethiopia. Too tired to go any further, a herd of goats began eating some red berries from a strange bush. Unusual behavior soon followed. Noticing this, the herder tasted the berries himself and soon he, too, was racing around the hillside. When he took these berries to the local monastery, “evening prayers became more pleasant.” Until the 10th century, coffee was considered a food, but later fermented into wine. Later, it was used as a medicine. Pope Clement VII was skeptical of this pagan drink until he, too, succumbed, stating that it could not possibly be pagan. This decree released coffee from requiring a prescription.
Caffeine is the most popular drug in the western world. In the US alone, over 400 million cups of coffee are consumed every day. Found in some eighty plant species, caffeine is thought to be a protective agent against insects, fungi, and bacteria. Most of the caffeine consumed is via coffee, tea, cola drinks, medications, and chocolate. Other forms include such herbal drinks as guarana, yerba maté, ephedra (ma huang), and supplements that contain green tea.
Caffeine is a member of the alkaloid family. Other relatives include morphine, nicotine, and cocaine, yet caffeine is the only one singled out as being “relatively harmless” and not subject to any warning labels. For all the health problems it causes, it should not be considered harmless.
Many of those “relatively harmless” ideas can be attributed to studies conducted by the International Life Sciences Institute. For decades, they have been in the forefront of information sent to governments, academics, and other public institutions, yet few realize they are funded by the caffeine industry, including Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo, Hershey Foods, NutraSweet, and Proctor and Gamble. With backing of that caliber, it is safe to assume that results dare not be anything other than favorable toward the industry. In addition, they play the numbers game.
When the industry uses “standard” or “normal” amounts, they list those as being 5-6 ouces. A teacup holds 6 ounces and rare is the person that consumes only a teacup full of coffee or soda. The average mug of coffee sold now is 20 ounces, while a can of soda is 12 ounces. The “standard” numbers are used so that people will not be shocked if and when they glance at the labels. While 300 mg. is indicated as being the cutoff before toxicity, people are consuming much more than that in a single day without even realizing it. An 8-ounce cup of coffee has about 100 mg. of caffeine in it (more or less, depending on the type) and starts many-a-day. Add this to continual refills and a parade of breaks, sodas, chocolate, and medications taken throughout the day, it is not uncommon for most to have consumed 600 to 1000 mg. or more.
According to the FDA, almost 1000 prescription drugs and 2000 over-the-counter drugs contain caffeine in amounts ranging from 30 mg. to 200 mg. per dose. Many of the caffeinated medications include stay-awake meds, cold tablets, and pain relievers. Prior to the Controlled Substance Act of 1970, most diet pills contained amphetamines. This not only suppressed the appetite, but also caused an addiction. When the FDA banned amphetamines, manufacturers developed similar effects through the combining of two nervous system stimulants – caffeine and PPA (phenylpropanolamine). By the mid 1980’s, a number of people had died after using substances with this combination, forcing the ban of this dangerous mix. While research showed that, separately, each component caused an elevation in blood pressure, the combination brought a massive increase in strokes and heart attacks. Since the latest ban, only PPA is used in diet pills – minus the warning that caffeine should not be taken with it.
Caffeine takes effect within fifteen to forty-five minutes of ingestion, but can last up to eight hours or longer. Therefore, taking caffeine throughout the day, in any form, is bound to cause sleep disturbances at the very least.
*100-300 mg. of caffeine causes sleep disturbances.
*300-600 mg. of caffeine per day indicates an addiction and risks for ulcers and fibrocystic diseases. Malnutrition begins since caffeine hinders the absorption of many nutrients.
*600-900 mg. of caffeine per day will elicit mood and energy swings, and heart disease rates double.
*Over 900 mg. per day indicates severe addiction, producing significantly higher rates of heart attacks and strokes, psychological disorders, and gastrointestinal diseases.
*Addiction is defined as the compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance characterized by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal. This description certainly fits caffeine and all its cousins – nicotine, morphine, and cocaine. Classic signs of addiction include withdrawal, a dependence on a substance, the inability to quit, and the ever-increasing tolerance levels produced by prolonged use.
*Withdrawal always produces symptoms with the classic ones being headaches, depression, profound fatigue, irritability, disorientation, increased muscle tension, and nausea and vomiting.
Caffeine is rapidly absorbed by every organ and tissue in the body. Going everywhere, it easily crosses the blood-brain barrier. Caffeine remains in the brain and bloodstream of a child much longer than it does an adult. The effect of caffeine on children’s growth was documented in a Guatemalan experiment. In just five months, the growth of children, who stopped drinking caffeinated beverages, increased by 22%. This same group also displayed a 46% greater weight gain and a decreased incidence of illness. Caffeine also inhibits the enzyme PDE (phospho-di-esterase) involved in the learning process and memory development. Therefore, those with Alzheimer’s or learning disabilities should never use caffeinated drinks.
Most people would not allow their children to put 9 tsp. of sugar on their morning cereal, yet they do not realize that this is the amount in the average can of soda. Soft drink sales have skyrocketted to the conservatively estimated amount of 55 gallons for every man, woman, and child in America. Peak consumptions are recorded at 3, 13, and 17 years of age. Incidentally, it is illegal for companies to sell anything in schools that is not of a healthy nature. The soft drink industry skirts these regulations by putting their vending machines into schools free of charge. The schools are allowed to keep the proceeds, and most of them finance their sports and bands with the funds collected.
Contrary to popular belief, caffeine does not produce energy. The effects felt are simply those common with any addiction. There is a high followed by a low. The “high” can only be regained with another “fix.” In actuality, caffeine competes by blocking energy production receptors and taking them for itself. These receptors lie on the surface of cells in the brain, fat tissue, liver, kidneys, heart, and eythrocytes (red blood cells). This blocking action is much like being able to fit a key into a lock, but not being able to turn the key, making entry possible. The result is that the lock is made unavailable to energy producing substances.
Caffeine molecules are similar to adenosine naturally manufactured by the body to keep the brain from becoming overstimulated. The receptors on the brain will mistake caffeine for adenosine, causing the brain to be in a perpetual state of overstimulation. The more caffeine that is consumed, the more receptors that are manufactured, requiring more caffeine to feed them. This is how the tolerance level increases. This overfeeding does not produce any of the desired quality in clarity and sound reasoning. It only produces, what can best be described as, “a spinning of wheels.” The effect of caffeine on the brain has a two-fold result. The neurons increase their firing, making the brain more active, while, at the same time, blood circulation is diminished, making the brain less productive. Those that have “kicked the habit” relate how their job performances have dramatically improved.
Caffeine lowers stress thresholds so that normal everyday events become insurmountable. Caffeine also reduces the brain’s ability for problem-solving. Caffeine sends the body into a constant emergency-alert mode. This can be equated to a nation’s perpetual state of alert following a terrorist’s attack. During this time, the pupils dilate so as to increase visual acuity – looking for a place to run. The muscles tense, ready for flight. The heart rate and blood pressure increase to supply fuel to the muscles. The airway dilates to increase availability for oxygen. Circulation is reduced to the digestive tract in order to make more blood available to the muscles. The liver releases sugars and fats into the bloodstream to fuel the survival support systems. Small blood vessels in the extremeties constrict also making more blood available to the muscles. This perpetual rearrangment of bodily systems inevitably have a long-term effect on health.
As we have recently seen during the threat of attack, financial drains are placed on governing bodies. Eventually, reserves are depleted, with no way of replenishing them without considerable effort. The physical body is in the same situation. It cannot recover unless the threat, such as caffeine, is removed. The body that has run out of reserves will have to face the consequences in the form of diseases and disorders. For instance, the dumping of fats and sugars into the bloodstream clog the arteries. Diverted blood flow affects circulation, especially in the brain and the digestive system. Foods waiting to be digested sit and ferment, creating a putrified mess void of any nutrients. In addition, an increased harmful bacteria level has developed by the time food is allowed to resume passage. Studies have shown conclusively that caffeine causes anxiety, irritability, panic attacks, depression, and anger. With high levels of caffeine in the blood, even minor annoyances produce monumental reactions. Ironically, when people feel so stressed, they reach for more caffeine.
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is the “vitality” hormone produced by the adrenal glands. In youth, it creates energy, optimism, and sex drive. By the age oftwenty-five, levels begin to drop because of a reduced ability to repair and rebuild tissues caused by poor diets – and caffeine use is but one cause. Caffeine elevates cortisol levels. Cortisol is also manufactured by the adrenal glands; but it inhibits DHEA production, causing a deficiency of the very hormone so sought after today. When DHEA production drops, ageing escalates.
Melatonin is a vital hormone produced only at night during sleep. It is essential for the immune system and also plays a part in the sleep/wake cycle. It also appears to have anti-cancer abilities, and is an excellent scavenger of free radicals. Sleep patterns are dramatically disrupted with the use of caffeine, causing the immune system to suffer. Sleep disturbances have been seen in all age groups exposed to caffeine use. Some newborns are inconsolable because of caffeine withdrawal after birth. Pregnant and nursing mothers who use caffeinated beverages pass this along to their infants. Because the infant cannot sleep, neither can the mother, who then resorts to more caffeine to stay awake; and the cycle begins. Hyperactive children who start on caffeinated products at a young age become wild and uncontrollable and, without it, end up having to resort to stronger stimulants. It has also been found that these same youngsters usually have to sedate themselves later on with alcohol or other drugs.
A huge study was done, showing that homocysteine levels in the blood dramatically increase with the use of caffeine. This finding was not popular among members of the coffee-drinking medical profession. Homocysteine damages blood vessel walls. When substances are sent to repair that damage, caffeine prevents it taking place. These substances – proteins, calcium, and cholesterol – build up over time and clog the arteries. Homocysteine affects the blood vessels ability to dilate. With each heartbeat, the vessels expand to allow for the increased pressure of the blood passing through. When the vessel can no longer accommodate this passage, blood pressure increases to force the blood through. With rigid and clogged blood vessels, attacks soon follow. Magnesium is an important mineral for normal heart function, but caffeine depletes stores and prevents any future uptake.
Women who consumed the greatest amount of caffeine had three times the risk of heart attacks than those who drank only one cup of coffee a day. In the US alone, 235,000 women die each year from heart disease, with another 44,000 succumbing to breast cancer. Caffeine has been shown to play a significant role in the formation of each. Women are also chronically anemic, yet few look at the possibility of caffeine robbing their systems of the much needed iron. Osteoporosis is another disease peculiar to women. Again, the consumption of caffeine is rarely given as a cause of the bones being robbed of calcium. Caffeine also plays a significant role in menopausal symptoms, depression, PMS, fibrocystic diseases, miscarriages, spontaneous abortions, and malformed fetuses.
Caffeine causes deficiencies in other nutrients, including the B vitamins (needed for stress), calcium (needed for bones), iron (needed to prevent anemia), as well as magnesium, potassium, and zinc. In addition, since caffeine affects the digestive process, B12 cannot be manufactured. Caffeine neutralizes HCl, contributing to a number of other digestive disorders as well. Without these nutrients, diseases and disorders soon develop.
Sight accounts for about 75% of all our perceptions. Every structure of the eye is under constant repair and is nourished by extremely fine blood vessels, along with a fluid known as aqueous humor. This fluid maintains the intraocular, or internal, pressure; and, if impaired, pressure increases, damaging the eye, resulting in a condition known as glaucoma, a major cause of blindness. Caffeine significantly increases intraocular pressure while, at the same time, decreasing the microcirculation in the eye. Just as in the brain, caffeine markedly constricts vessels, limiting the delivery of oxygen and vital nutrients to the eye. Reduced circulation to the macula (the central portion of the retina) is the cause of macular degeneration, resulting in vision loss and blindness in those over 65. More than 16,000 new cases are reported each year in the US alone. In addition, the diruetic effects of caffeine can make the eye so dry that wearing contact lenses becomes impossible and potentially hazardous.
Usually, the kidneys help the liver to detoxify a substance, but in the case of caffeine, the liver has to go it alone. As the kidneys try to get rid of the caffeine molecule, it is quickly reabsorbed into the bloodstream before it reaches the urinary tract, placing the burden strictly on the already overworked liver. Many drugs such as birth control pills, antibiotics, and such medications as Tagamet interfere with the liver’s ability to detoxify the chemicals found in coffee. Most of these drugs do not include a warning not to take them with caffeinated beverages but by doing so, the risks of liver disease and cardiac arrythmias dramatically increase. Some drugs have been shown to raise the blood levels of caffeine by 600%. With some liver diseases, a single cup of coffee can sustain elevated blood caffeine levels for two to six days.
Caffeine is not the only drug with which the liver has to contend when coffee is ingested. There are the toxic PAH’s (also found on barbecued meat), all the aldehydes, alcohols, and sulfides, in addition to the scores of pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides used in the growing. In addition, the imported beans are sprayed again to prevent anything harmful entering the country. Caffeine alone is broken down into more than twenty-five by-products, each having its own chemical effect on the body. To date, over 700 volatile substances have been identified in coffee, including more than 200 acids, a vast number of alcohols, aromatic compounds, carbonyl compounds, esters, hydrocarbons, heterocyclic compounds, and terpenoids. The body, especially the liver, has to contend with them all.
Commercially-grown coffee is the most heavily sprayed crop in the world, next to cotton and tobacco. Some of the most dangerous chemicals known, many of which are banned in the US, are used on the coffee plant. Brazilian coffee beans have been shown to have low levels of pesticide residuals – and this is widely advertised. However, what is not included in that information is that tests authorized by the FDA do not include many of these harmful chemicals, and only a small fraction are tested at all. More sensitive testing has revealed high levels of DDT, BHC, lindane, aldrin, and chlordane, all known carcinogens. Contrary to popular belief, many of these residuals are not destroyed during roasting.
Brands of the same type of product can contain caffeine or be caffeine-free; and, as of March 1998, the FDA was still reluctant to force companies to label caffeine. For example:
1) Dannon Light Coffee Yogurt has as much caffeine as a 12-oz. Can of Coca-Cola. Dannon Light Cappuccino Yogurt, however, is caffeine-free.
2) Sunkist Orange Soda has more caffeine than Pepsi, but Minute Maid Orange Soda has no caffeine.
3) Some brands of root beer contain significant amounts of caffeine, while others do not.
4) Coffee ice cream can have as much as 40 mg. of caffeine per serving.
Caffeine is showing up in more and more foods without benefit of labelling. This revelation is the result of work done by the CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest), plus ten other health and consumer groups and thirty-four scientists from such institutions as Johns Hopkins, Yale, Harvard, Duke, U of Michigan, U of California at Berkeley, and others.
Herbal sources of caffeine are becoming popular. Gaurana is a South American herb polularized in “energy-type” drinks and in supplements said to enhance sex drive, mental acuity, and stamina. In reality, it contains more caffeine than coffee; and it is the caffeine producing these short-lived effects. Some manufacturers are hiding caffeine under such botanical names as Ilex paraguayensis or Paulinia cupana. The chemical name for caffeine – trimethylxanthine – is also used. Until the 1990’s, caffeine was forbidden in the health care industry. Once-respected health magazines have joined the money-making bandwagon and adopted phrases like “herb” and “natural” to condone its use. Caffeine certainly has not changed. It is still the same drug stimulant as its cousins – nicotine, morphine, and cocaine.