Caffeine Descriptive Essay
Many believe that coffee is a mandatory attribute of each man who leads an active life. Consumption of drinks containing caffeine is the part of modern culture and daily life. First, when visiting friends or family, the first offer is a cup of tea or coffee. Nowadays, coffee pot is an obligatory attribute in most offices. Even important business meetings are interrupted for a coffee break. One or two cups of coffee give a rush of energy required every morning for office workers, as well as truck drivers at night. Moreover, in everyday life, people drink caffeinated drinks when solving mental tasks such as business meetings, writing letters, and complicated mathematical problem solving. However, in reality, despite its energetic and “awaking” influence, caffeine in these drinks has a devastating effect on mental performance and the body in general, especially if it is used without control and proper dosage.
Positive Sides of Caffeine
It is found that caffeine significantly increases wakefulness and clarity of thought. For some time, the intellectual process is facilitated, decision time is shortened and, according to some people, attentiveness is increased (“Caffeine” n.d.). The initial rise of the forces caused by caffeine temporarily eliminates fatigue and drowsiness. Hot cup of coffee as a mean of emergency relieves bronchial asthma because caffeine enhances bronchioles – the main part of lungs taking part in gaseous exchange (Astorino and White 2012, 365). Some people believe that a cup of coffee removes small headache. Many medicines for colds and headaches contain caffeine and are said to be very efficient. However, all the above positive effects of caffeine are temporary. After a short lived exciting and restorative effect, the presence of caffeine in the human body leads to longstanding negative outcomes.
The Mechanism of Caffeine Action
The chemical name of caffeine is 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine (Astorino and White 2012, 43). Pure caffeine is a bitter white powder similar to powdered sugar. It is very soluble in water and therefore easily enters the bloodstream and quickly reaches the brain where manifests remarkable effects. Caffeine is determined in blood within 10 minutes after drinking the beverage. Peak concentration of caffeine in the blood occurs in 30-60 minutes after consumption, but at filled stomach, the absorption is slower (Fisone, Borgkvist, and Usiello 2004, 859).
Experimental studies, during which the electrical activity of the brain was measured, showed that caffeine in one or two cups of instant coffee significantly alters the level of brain activity from the normal state of rest to a highly active state. That is why caffeine is sometimes called “psychotropic drugs.” Caffeine affects the brain by blocking the action of adenosine, other chemical compound affecting the psyche. Adenosine slows the release of mediators – chemicals that transmit nerve impulses from one nerve cell to another. This is the calming effect of adenosine on the human body. Without the calming effects and control of adenosine, nerve cells become rapidly excited. Caffeine blocks the action of adenosine and, thus, has a stimulating effect on human nervous system.
Caffeine also stimulates the adrenal glands increasing the blood level of stress hormones – adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol. These hormones are produced when a person is anxious, frightened, angry or excited, and generate in response to stress. These hormones also excite and stimulate the brain. Overall, caffeine not only increases the degree of stress in the organism (generation of stress hormones), but also blocks the action of adenosine, one of the chemical compounds, relieving stress. No wonder that after every cup of coffee, a person feels energized and active.
Caffeine Action Duration
Caffeine continues to have an effect until persists in the bloodstream. Meanwhile, liver enzymes resolve a chemical compound and output it from the body. The half-life of caffeine is the time it takes the liver to recycle the half of the amount taken. It depends on the body’s individual features. Regular half-life of caffeine in the adult body varies between two and ten hours, averaging about four hours (“Medicines in my Home” n.d.). This great difference explains why some people can drink a lot of coffee without much effect while others feel nervous, restless and even cannot tolerate caffeine. Men and women have to define different levels of caffeine metabolism, i.e. its exchange in the body.
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Smoking induces the activity of substances (enzymes) involved in the metabolism of caffeine; however, smokers have a 50% higher rate of metabolism compared to nonsmokers (Mandel 2002, 1233). This means that smokers experience the effects of caffeine in a shorter time and possibly need to drink more caffeine-containing drinks to “wake up.” Other stimulants such as alcohol reduce the degree of caffeine cleavage, and oral contraceptive drugs can triple the half-life of caffeine. Thus, the women taking these drugs strongly react to the second dose of caffeine, i.e. the large amount of undissolved caffeine remains in blood.
In Sports. Caffeine is extensively used as tonic substance by athletes. It is believed that it has a positive effect on the body during exercise; in particular, it increases the amount of energy, the response time and the activity and adds endurance. The researches have shown that it works as a stimulant for muscles to use a larger amount of fat as an energy source than at the absence of caffeine in the blood (Astorino and White 2012, 365). Thus, the same athlete will be able to train longer and harder after drinking a cup of coffee.
It is believed that before the training (in 15-20 min), it is enough to drink three cups of coffee, and even better to accept this amount as a tablet, about 200 mg, to achieve better results in training than usually. However, the result is individual, and it depends on what one wants to obtain. Therefore, the dosage is determined individually.
To “Charge” the Brain. Another benefit of caffeine is its ability to increase and improve cognitive function of the brain. It was shown that 75-150 mg of caffeine increases neuron (nerve cells) activity in certain regions of the brain that helps perform simple intellectual tasks (Smith, Uma Gupta and B.S. Gupta 2006, 49). Many people talk about the positive results from taking caffeine before active mental activity, for example, before preparing for the exam. It is believed that caffeine provides a memory support. People suggest that caffeine may help to recall the information since it plays a role in the allocation of adrenaline/norepinephrine (the stress hormone) in the brain and, in turn, helps to recreate the right moments from the past.
To Reshape the Body. To get rid of extra kilograms, one many turn to caffeine in its most common form – coffee or use it as a supplement. Caffeine enhances and burns lipolysis (fat) during physical activity. It is also believed that it suppresses appetite. In addition, due to the mentioned characteristics, caffeine is the key ingredient used in modern food supplements for weight loss (Nawrot et al. 2003, 10).
In Medicine. Caffeine is widely used as an anesthetic, primarily for the treatment of a headache. As mentioned, caffeine helps increase the blood flow to the brain in order to nullify the pain. It stimulates breathing reflex in infants with apnea (unintentional stop of breathing). Additionally, caffeine may be used in those cases when breathing attenuated (e.g., with an overdose of heroin and other narcotics or drugs). Caffeine extends the respiratory tract, and thus, it is considered useful in treating asthma. However, according to some studies, its use is fairly modest (Nawrot et al. 2003, 12).
Regular consumers of caffeinated beverages develop a resistance to caffeine. This means that to achieve the desired effect they should drink more and more drinks. In fact, as soon as one reaches this level, caffeine begins to provide other undesirable side effects on the body. To a certain extent, the person becomes over-stimulated; one can observe increased nervousness, anxiety, agitation, erratic movements due to violation of coordination and connection between the nerve cells and nerve endings. All these changes lead to a dependence on the first morning cup of coffee and, as a result, caffeine.
Caffeine is often called a narcotic, which means it has a certain narcotic and addictive influence on the human body. It is a substance getting into the habit and leading to the addiction, although formally, caffeine is not classified as a narcotic drug because not every person becomes dependent on it (Juliano and Griffiths 2004, 8). Nevertheless, of course, many people are dependent on caffeine and even suffer severe withdrawal syndrome. This is because its initial stimulating effect is erased with time, and a person yearns for more and more caffeine-containing substances to experience the familiar rise of forces. Consumption of four and more cups of caffeine-containing drinks a day usually results in the addiction to caffeine and likeliness to suffer from the ravages of withdrawal.
Caffeine depletes energy potential. Despite the fact that its consumption makes the initial influx of physical and mental strength, soon, this process slows down, and the person feels less energetic. Accustomed to caffeine people often show symptoms of fatigue, lethargy and irritability. The substance also increases diuresis (the formation and excretion of urine). Caffeine causes a loss of calcium as it increases calcium excretion in the feces and urine resulting in a deficiency of calcium and other minerals such as sodium, magnesium, potassium and others. The loss of calcium is particularly increased when taking caffeine together with sugar.
Caffeine increases the level of cholesterol in the blood. Brewed coffee contains lipid, which greatly increases the cholesterol level in blood serum. Four cups of coffee raise cholesterol levels in the blood at 5%, and about ten cups – at 12% (Astorini and White 2012, 258). In addition, it hinders the process of assimilation of food in the gut. When consuming coffee, intestinal mucosa envelops and impregnates with chemical compounds that interfere with the proper involvement of the intestine during digestion. Consumption of caffeine can enhance other disorders of the digestive tract such as colitis and hemorrhoids (Nawrot et al. 2003, 16).
Coffee and caffeine containing drinks lead to a deficiency of B vitamins. When consuming large amounts of caffeine, the body loses vitamins B complex. These vitamins play an important role in energy metabolism, and high caffeine intake results in the loss of nutrients required for energy release. No wonder that people feel tired both physically and mentally without regular caffeine intake. Moreover, caffeine has a negative effect on the heart. It causes palpitations and irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), increases blood pressure. This leads to an increased load on the heart and can be potentially dangerous for people suffering coronary heart disease.
Caffeine increases the acidity of gastric juice. It arouses the secretion of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Increased secretion causes heartburn, indigestion and aggravates the ulcer. These problems become more acute when coffee is used under stress condition because during the stress response, stomach lengthens the evacuation of its contents, coffee retains longer in the stomach, and the adverse side effects are seen for a long time. That is why people with violations of gastric acidity must reduce consumption of coffee and tea, and people suffering from a stomach ulcer should completely abandon the consumption of these drinks.
Among other side effects, one can find a sleep disturbance. Caffeine alters the normal rhythm of sleep. Caffeine consumers are easily aroused due to sudden noises, harder to fall asleep and do not feel the influx of fresh forces after sleep. It is assumed that caffeine affects the quality of the “REM sleep” (active sleep with dreams) (Astorino and White 2012, 291). Without adequate “REM sleep”, a person becomes restless, irritable, tense, and has a reduced ability to concentrate.
Finally, caffeine causes headache, irritability, and anxiety. Victims of caffeine often complain of headaches, as after a hangover, irritability, anxiety, depression. In fact, coffee and tea were included in the list of factors that trigger migraines. It also has negative effects on the kidneys and liver. In people abusing coffee, kidneys and liver are “overworked” and therefore disrupt their normal activities. This is the reason that people with impaired renal and hepatic function are advised to refrain from drinking coffee and tea.
Dosage and Medical Necessity
As it was already mentioned, caffeine can be found in different foods. Its amount can differ markedly. For example, many popular drinks contain stunning amounts of caffeine in comparison to the average coffee cup (volume 200 ml) which contains about 100 mg of caffeine. The medical estimated safe single dose is 100-200 milligrams of caffeine per day and no more than 1 gram. Roughly speaking, 1-2 cups of coffee drunk in the morning do not hurt a healthy person (Nawrot et al. 2003, 18). Lethal dose depends on the weight of human and individual susceptibility to the substance, ranging from 150 to 200 mg per 1 kg of weight. Thus, if one weighs 75 kg, then 15g of caffeine may have a lethal effect.
People who suffer increased excitability and insomnia, have hypertension, atherosclerotic disorders, glaucoma, disorders of the cardiovascular system should abstain from caffeine (Smith 2002, 1247). In addition, coffee is not healthful for elderly. One should know that people who are nervous, prone to depression, and even in a state of extreme fatigue do not improve their performance by using caffeinated beverages. In this case, instead of the desired vigor, one can get the opposite effect as the body will begin to struggle with the process of excessive excitability of the nervous system.
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For many centuries, caffeine has been one of the most widely used drugs in the whole world for several reasons: firstly, it provides a stimulating effect which often causes a dependence on its use, secondly, the person has a physical and psychological support, thirdly, it is found in many popular products, and finally, it is used for medical and therapeutic purposes.
It is believed that the dependence on caffeine is so great that if tomorrow it will disappear, then performance in the world will decline by 70%. It is necessary to stick to the recommended rate of consumption of beverage specialists – not more than 2 cups per day in order to avoid transformation of an excessive love of coffee into health problems in the future. In such a case, the effects of caffeine exposure for you will be only high efficiency, good spirits and good humor. In light of its popularity and these advantages, caffeine is very useful even in moderate amounts. Just know the measure and enjoy its benefits.