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Gotta Have Your Joe?

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Dear Dr. Levister:
I am a confessed coffee addict. I am virtually a zombie without my morning Joe. I drink 6-8 cups during the day. When I try to cut my intake, I develop headaches. I have convinced myself coffee helps my memory performance. Please help.
Java Junkie

Dear Java Junkie:
Six to eight cups of coffee are excessive and may increase your risk of heart disease, headaches and insomnia. If you are worthless until you have your first cup of coffee, it may be because this favorite of American beverages is both habituating and a genuine brain stimulant.

Apparently caffeine and cocaine act in a similar fashion on some biochemical pathway in the brain. Most people don’t think the effect of their morning coffee would have any similarities to cocaine. But research is showing that the two stimulants have similar effects on brain activity.

Whatever the action, there appears to be positive mental benefits from drinking coffee. One research project tested a group of people age 65 and older to see if caffeine kept their memory from declining during the day, as it normally would.

According to researchers at the University of Seattle (Starbucks country,) participants who drank decaffeinated coffee showed significant decline in memory performance from morning to afternoon. The group who ingested the caffeine showed no decline. The only problem is that the buzz is short lived.

The American Dietetic Association suggests that is why we often drink cup after cup. So what are the health risks? Many studies have tried to find a link between caffeine and coronary heart disease, but the results are conflicting.

Overall, most feel that moderate coffee drinking (1-2 cups per day) isn’t harmful. The American Heart Association notes that caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, releases free fatty acids from fatty tissue and increases urination, possibly leading to dehydration. Coffee is a cardiac stimulant and is contraindicated in individuals with cardiac arrhythmias such as PVC’s, PAC’s or other cardiac irregularities.

Studies have also linked caffeine to decreased insulin sensitivity, possibility leading to diabetes. For some that may be reason enough to go caffeine free.
Limit your caffeine intake to one to two cups per day. Cut back slowly to avoid caffeine-withdrawal headaches. If you are unsuccessful at cutting back, consult your doctor for help.

Dr. Levister welcomes reader mail concerning their body but regrets that he is not able to answer individual letters. Your letters will be incorporated into the column as space permits. You may direct your letters to Dr. Levister in care of Black Voice News, P.O. Box 1581, Riverside, CA 92502.

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