Caffeine: Scourge Or Salvation?

Submitted By rcarter98
Words: 2461
Pages: 10

Deloris Carter
Mr. Messer
English 102
01 December 2013
Caffeine: Scourge or Salvation? We are a nation of addicts, and caffeine is our drug of choice. The proliferation of Starbucks, or some other coffee house franchise, on nearly every street corner testifies to our obsession with caffeine. Store shelves, both grocery and convenience, are packed with an ever growing assortment of caffeine fueled energy drinks. Although caffeine may not fall into the same category of addictive substances as something like heroin, if one were to attempt to introduce another equally addictive drug into the mainstream market today, the public outcry would be deafening and the lawsuits would begin. Caffeine however, is almost as widely available as water. In fact, one can purchase caffeinated water, if one is so inclined. There is one slight problem, though. The debate over caffeine’s benefits vs. its risks remains unsettled. The fickle pendulum of public opinion seems to sweep from caffeine’s pros to its cons with rhythmic regularity. For every study pronouncing the dangers or ill effects of caffeine, another study seems to materialize lauding its benefits, and often categorically overturning the previous findings. Whether this phenomenon is due to scientific advancements and more tightly controlled studies, or clever lobbying by those whose profits are vulnerable to unfavorable findings related to their products isn’t completely clear. One thing is clear, however: we have been fans of caffeine and its effects for centuries. The website states, “African folklore sets the discovery of coffee’s energizing properties around 800 A.D. European and Asian accounts indicate that coffee and tea were local staples as early as the 1400’s” (Brain, Bryant, and Cunningham). It wasn’t until 1820 that a German scientist discovered the magical compound in coffee beans (Reid, “Caffeine” 15). “The newly discovered substance was dubbed ‘caffeine,’ meaning something found in coffee,” relates National Geographic author T.R. Reid (“Caffeine” 15). Today, this substance, in either its organic or synthetic form, is found in a mind-boggling variety of items. Food and beverages are, of course, included in the array. Aside from the usual suspects that one might find in any local coffee house, where caffeine content ranges from a few milligrams to several hundred per cup, caffeine is also present in chocolate, albeit in lesser amounts. The actual number of milligrams of caffeine in a chocolate bar can vary dramatically depending on the percentage of cocoa and other ingredients used. This means an average sized chocolate bar, one weighing less than 2 ounces, might contain as little as 3 milligrams of caffeine or as much as 63 milligrams (Brain, Bryant, and Cunningham). The caffeine found in chocolate is still primarily put there by Mother Nature, unless it has been added for an enhanced stimulant effect as in the case of a “Snickers Charged” or a “Butterfinger Buzz” bar. These revved-up candy bars aren’t even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to unusual caffeinated products. There are sunflower seeds, chewing gums, breath mints, jelly beans, lollipops, and gummy bears. One can get an energy boost from caffeinated beef jerky, oatmeal, ice cream and beer. Many of these items also contain other ingredients that are added to enhance their stimulant effect. The addition of B vitamins, which are known to promote an elevation in energy levels, as well as other “natural” energy supplemental ingredients might be a method of increasing the effectiveness of the product. It could also be a means of begging the question: If a product contains healthy ingredients, how can it be bad for me? Frequently, the labels on such products display the quantitative amount of these “healthy” ingredients, but only list caffeine qualitatively. In this case, the non-caffeine stimulant additives might serve as a red herring meant to distract consumers from the