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The Gender Bias of Caffeine

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					                                   The Gender Bias of Caffeine
                                     Fisher Science Education, Spring 2010


    Doesn't the mention of coffee refresh your mind? If there can be one single drink that enjoys the
equal acceptability all around the world, coffee would probably win. But have you ever thought
about what makes coffee appealing, so much so that many people are tempted to go for it cup after
cup? Well, if you guessed caffeine, you're right. Caffeine, when added to water along with milk, is
responsible for that intense bitter taste that so many crave. This brew not only tastes amazing, but
also boosts energy levels with a feel of heightened alertness. According to the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, a single teaspoon of instant coffee (1.8 grams in weight) contains 57mg of caffeine,
regardless of the amount of water, milk or cream added.

Caffeine Chemistry                                         Too much caffeine can result in caffeine
     It's well known that college (and now, high           intoxication, characterized by nervousness,
school) students often use caffeinated                     excitement, increased urination, insomnia,
beverages to stay awake while studying for                 increased heart rates and sometimes
exams, and drivers use it to push through to               hallucinations.
their destinations. Without the cuppa de
rigueur, most people find it difficult to get              Effects of Caffeine on Men and Women
themselves going. While medically, caffeine is                 Although the effects of caffeine are
known as trimethylxanthine, it is also known               legendary, they are perceived to have a
by other chemical names like coffeine, theine,             stronger effect on boys than on girls. A study
mateine, guaranine or methyltheobromine. It is             published     in    Behavioral     Pharmacology
naturally available from several plants,                   observed the effects of caffeinated beverages in
including coffee beans, guarana, yerba mat,                children between the ages 12 and 17.
cacao beans and tea. Caffeine is known to act                  Jennifer Temple, a neurobiologist at the
as a natural insecticide since it paralyzes and            University of Buffalo, expected caffeinated
kills insects that attempt to feed on the plants.          drinks to work more strongly on those who
It is a little known fact that the leaves of the tea       routinely consumed the most caffeine,
plant contain more caffeine, around 5 percent,             regardless of sex. Instead, the results revealed a
compared to the 1-2 percent in coffee beans.               relationship between gender and the desire for

Short-Term and Long-Term Effects
     In humans, caffeine has been proven to
stimulate the central nervous system, heart rate
and respiration; it also has mood-altering
properties and acts as a mild diuretic. Due to
its stimulating nature, caffeine is definitely
habit-forming, if not addictive; but unlike
nicotine, caffeine is a lot more sociably
acceptable. Nonetheless, it is not without any
ill-effects on human health. It is known to
cause contraction of muscles, increased heart
rate, slowdown of blood flow to the stomach,
and constriction of blood vessels on the skin.
Caffeinated beverages are known to cause
obesity in kids, and too many sweetened
caffeinated drinks can lead to dental cavities.
caffeinated soda. It remains to be determined,                         women and that these effects start just ten
though, as to why caffeine has a stronger effect                       minutes after consumption. Volunteers were
on boys. Temple speculates it's because of the                         asked to consume either a classic espresso
circulating hormones and their effects on the                          (100mg of caffeine) or a decaffeinated espresso
metabolism of caffeine.                                                (5mg of caffeine). Researchers looked for
    A study was conducted where participants                           changes in alertness over the ensuing minutes
underwent a baseline test to determine if they                         or hours and observed that 45 minutes was the
could taste caffeine in the study drinks. In                           maximum       time     needed     for     caffeine
order to familiarize them with study drinks,                           concentration to reach the blood, but levels
the participants were given a week's supply of                         reach half this concentration within a few
test soda, randomized to be caffeinated or non-                        minutes. This effect was perceived to be
caffeinated. They were instructed to drink a 32-                       greater in men as compared to women.
ounce bottle every day for seven days, but no                              Dr. Euan Paul of the British Coffee
other soda or caffeinated products. In the                             Association said, "This new scientific study
second week, they were given a week's supply                           demonstrates interesting differences in the
of the opposite drink. In the next part of the                         positive effects that caffeine may have on
study, participants were equipped with two                             alertness between men and women, an area
computers, one on which they played a                                  that has not been heavily researched in
computer game to earn caffeinated drinks and                           previous scientific investigations. We welcome
on the other, non-caffeinated drinks, although                         further research to investigate with greater
the drinks' caffeine status was not made                               certainty any differences in the stimulant
known. The longer they played, the more                                effects of caffeine that may be experienced
difficult the game was designed to become.                             between gender groups." One thing is clear
Surprisingly, the difference in the reinforcing                        despite the recent findings: most doctors
potential of caffeine was noted to be between                          continue to recommend moderation with
males and females and not, as expected,                                regard to the intake of caffeine. While these
between high and low consumers.                                        studies give hope to those who are hooked on
    Another study headed by researchers from                           their morning cup of coffee, there is still a long
the University of Barcelona, showed that                               way to go to determine the long-term effects of
caffeine has a greater effect on men than                              caffeine use.
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