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Coffee and caffeine are invariably linked. Just how bad is caffeine.. or coffee?

Today the use of coffee as a daily table beverage is widespread throughout the world and is probably the most widely consumed of all hot beverages. Broadly speaking it seems to have met a natural necessity or at least to have fulfilled a natural desire on the part of many millions of people.

The actual food value of coffee as brewed from the roasted and ground seed is practically nil. Dieticians would classify coffee as an auxiliary substance used mainly as a flavouring agent to food. And coffee is better known for its aroma and flavour and as a stimulant.


The characteristics flavour and aroma of coffee stem from small quantities of aromatic and volatile products which are released by roasting, an operation which many coffee lovers prefer to perform themselves. The stimulating effect of coffee is mainly due to the presence of caffeine, a substance that does not affect the odour and flavour of coffee.

Caffeine is an alkaloid substance which acts on the nervous system. A moderate amount of caffeine produces a mild exhilaration, a feeling of buoyancy and well being. Acting through the nervous system it increases the pulse rate, lightens the sense of fatigue and makes possible sustained or prolonged muscular exertion.

Acting on the brain centres, caffeine eliminates the feeling of tiredness and exhaustion. It stimulates the imagination, increases mental activity and quickness perception. Many people have discovered that drinking coffee makes it possible for them to carry on sustained intellectual work without any depressive after effect. There are however a great many individual differences in caffeine tolerance and in the quickness of response to caffeine. For some people an excessive dose of caffeine can bring on nervous excitation, trembling and insomnia.

Caffeine can also affect the heart. It tends to increase the rate and strength of the heartbeat by direct stimulation of the heart muscles. Excessive intake of caffeine however will cause palpitations and irregularity of the heartbeat.

Another effect that caffeine brings is that of a digestive stimulant and diuretic. The length of time for food to pass through the digestive system speeds up when coffee is taken. Coffee tends to stimulate the stomach to slightly increase the secretion of hydrochloric acid and to increase intestinal peristalsis.

Studies have shown that coffee taken in moderation is without harmful effects. It therefore becomes in part a question of quantity. Just what constitutes moderation depends on the individual, the strength of the coffee consumed and on its method of preparation. Careful studies have brought out the interesting fact that with coffee as with other types of food, there are personal or individual tolerances. A small percentage of the population responds unfavourably to caffeine stimulation and a still smaller percentage cannot use coffee without unfavourabe results, although they may be able to drink tea which also contains caffeine.

For those who are unable to tolerate caffeine there is decaffeinated coffee in which coffee beans are broken up by steam introducing chloroform or some other solvent and then eliminating this liquid by heating and roasting. After roasting, the coffee retains the same taste as ordinary coffee which has not been treated, but without having any of its stimulating properties.

Coffee whether it is percolated, infused, boiled or dripped will not make any difference in its caffeine content. But even after all that is said and done, lovers of coffee will agree that it is not the amount of caffeine present but the inherent soothing character of coffee that makes this brew so special and appealing.

In: General/ Posted by admin

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