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Can You Become Immune to Caffeine?

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Scientists in the UK and Germany conducted a study that suggests that those who consume copious amounts of coffee and other caffeinated beverages are “immune” to the positive benefits associated with it, such as a higher level of alertness.

They gathered 379 volunteers made up of medium to heavy coffee drinkers and non/low consumers.  They gave some of them 100 mgs of espresso, and the other half a placebo with no caffeine.

The heavy coffee drinkers who were given the placebo were more likely to suffer from headache, and a decreased level of alertness.  Those who consumed the caffeine did not suffer from those symptoms.

However, after the heavy drinkers consumed the caffeine, their alertness level was no higher than the non/low consumers who received a placebo (BBC).

The researchers believe this shows that a boost of caffeine in the morning seems to give heavy coffee drinkers a “kick”, when in actuality it’s simply bringing them up to a “normal” or baseline level of alertness.  They maintain that the first cup of the day is counteracting the withdrawal from caffeine that some suffer from after a night’s sleep.

They also contend that heavy consumers keep drinking a lot of caffeine in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms.

Possibly, but caffeine IS a stimulant that effects levels of local dopamine in the brain; when dopamine is released in the brain, feelings of well being and alertness  follow.

Similarly, caffeine also reduces blood flow to the brain, as do certain stimulant medications used to treat ADHD, such as Ritalin.  According to some studies, caffeine and Ritalin both help students with ADHD stay more focused and alert (mymancy.com).

And for those of us who love our espresso, Sandra Tester, a mental health professional in Arkansas, said it best:   when her doctor suggested she give up caffeine, her response was “I decided to keep drinking it, because being without it doesn’t make life worth living!”

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