We promised to point you toward NPR’s coverage of all things coffee, so here we go with our wrap up.
We start with one of the most salient points about coffee: the caffeine. (The others, for those wondering, are coffee’s role in social life and how darn good it tastes.)
Just how does that caffeine work? Here are some answers:
According to Braun, caffeine works by blocking receptors for adenosine, a compound in the brain that makes you feel sleepy. In other words, he writes in the book, consuming caffeine is like “putting a block of wood under one of the brain’s primary brake pedals.”
Of course, there’s a huge amount of variation in how caffeine affects individuals, which depends on genetics, tolerance and other factors. But several small studies have shown that at low doses (between 100 and 250 mg), caffeine improves alertness and mental performance, especially in people who are already tired. Neuroscientists report that it makes us more supportive of each other in social situations. And one study even found that higher caffeine consumption helped reduce the risk of workplace accidents.
“Its indirect action on arousal, mood and concentration contributes in large part to its cognitive enhancing properties,” according to a review article in the Journal of Alzheimers Disease.
As Allison Aubrey reported last month, caffeine also seems to improve short-term memory — if you’re exhausted. But researchers said it didn’t have any beneficial effects on memory among people who are well rested.
All that sounds pretty good to us. But then NPR ends its story with this:
Braun has a theory on how to get the most out of caffeine, and it involves taking regular “caffeine holidays” five or six times a year.
“I find it to be most useful when I start at a virgin state, so I taper down slowly,” he says. “I switch from coffee to black tea, and then peppermint tea. So when I get that first cup of java again, it’s such a great feeling.”
Tapering down also reminds him that he can function perfectly well — and sleep better — without caffeine.
Taper off? Crazy.
Here’s the full archive of NPR’s Coffee Week.
And I suppose it is worth directly linking you to what appears to be NPR’s big “catch” in this piece: Jerry Seinfeld called and talked to them. Here’s the link and one of the things he said:
On why coffee is so central to our culture
“I think the answer is we all need a little help, and the coffee’s a little help with everything — social, energy, don’t know what to do next, don’t know how to start my day, don’t know how to get through this afternoon, don’t know how to stay alert. We want to do a lot of stuff; we’re not in great shape. We didn’t get a good night’s sleep. We’re a little depressed. Coffee solves all these problems in one delightful little cup.”
It just so happens Seinfeld has a coffee-related show, so… that explains that. We were never big Seinfeld fans.
Now, time for today’s second cup.
Posted by Steve