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Know your Coffee

Know your Coffee It is quite common to discuss something with someone over a cup of coffee. The coffee vending machine is also an indispensable fixture in offices. A cup or two of coffee seems to give the burst of energy sought by office workers each morning.

However, the caffeine contained in all these drinks plays havoc with your body and mind.

What is Caffeine?

In its pure form, caffeine is a bitter tasting fine white powder that looks like icing sugar. It is soluble in water and so is easily absorbed into the blood stream and rapidly reaches the brain. In general, a single dose of caffeine will appear in the bloodstream within 10 minutes of consumption. It reaches a peak concentration between 30 and 60 minutes later, but absorption is much slower on a full stomach.

Psychoactive Drug?

Experiments that measure the electrical activity of the brain have shown that the caffeine in just one or two cups of instant coffee dramatically changes the pattern of brain activity from a typical resting state to that of an alert, awake person.

Caffeine also stimulates the adrenal glands to raise the level of stress hormones. These are the ones that are released when we are anxious, scared, angry or nervous and produce the ‘fight or flight’ response. These hormones also energise and stimulate the brain. Hence, caffeine not only increases the body’s stress levels, but also blocks the action of one of the body’s de-stressing chemicals.

Duration of effect:

It takes 24 hours for one cup of coffee to pass through the kidneys and urinary tract. People who have had several cups of coffee will have lots of caffeine in their bloodstream, inhibiting sound sleep. The body must expend energy in expelling the caffeine and as it is, due to lack of sleep we have less energy, causing a terrible cycle.

Caffeine will continue to affect your functioning as long as it remains in the bloodstream. Enzymes in the liver also break down the drug and remove it from the system. Some people can drink large amounts of coffee without much effect, while others feel jittery, anxious and simply cannot tolerate caffeine. Smokers experience its effects for a shorter time while women on the pill react to it strongly.


Caffeine is habit forming. Many people certainly depend upon it and suffer significant withdrawal symptoms (headaches, dizziness, sluggishness, fatigue et al) when they stop consumption abruptly.

As the initial stimulating effect of caffeine wears out, the person craves for another cup to experience the same lift. People taking more than four cups a day become dependent on it. These symptoms are often relieved by rushing to another cup of coffee, which creates a vicious circle re-enforcing the addictive habit further.

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