The central nervous system mainly comprises of the spinal cord and brain along with the network of nerves. While physical protection of the brain and spine are ensured by the skull and spinal column respectively, these vital organs can get affected not just by accidental injuries but by the chemicals which we ingest as part of our diet as well. Caffeine is one such chemical found in beverages like black tea, coffee, chocolates, energy drinks, cola and fruits like guarana berry. On ingestion, caffeine affects the central nervous system. These molecules interact with the brain cells.
Caffeine molecules attach themselves to the adenosine receptors which are proteins in the brain. These proteins are detectors of adenosine in the brain. When the protein detects adenosine in the brain, a feeling of drowsiness is induced. When caffeine molecules are bound the protein, then the brain cells will not be able to bind to adenosine. This averts the feeling of drowsiness and induces alertness. The caffeine molecules affect other centers in the brain which control physiological activities like heart rate. With ingestion of caffeine, the heart rate may also increase.
Some positive effects include assisting in staying awake for long hours of work, improve mental ability so as to increase productivity at work or studies, assist in solving complicated mental tasks, improve reflexes, and increases stamina when fatigued.
Intake of large quantity of caffeine sometimes over-stimulates the sympathetic nervous system which controls response to stress input. Overdose will cause increase in blood pressure, sleep disorder and increase in heart rate. When the effectiveness of the caffeine wears off, other side effects can affect the nervous system like irritability, drowsiness, and headaches and so on. Moderate intake of caffeine to the extent of 250 mg per day which is approximately 2.5 cups of coffee or four shots of espresso coffee is not considered risky.
Some people may feel the side effects of consuming caffeine discomforting for a short period of time while some may end up facing additional health risks with high levels of consumption of this chemical. People suffering from hypertension or high blood pressure should refrain from consuming caffeine since this will worsen their existing condition. One should consult the doctor before drinking beverages or eating foods containing caffeine. Studies conducted at the Linus Pauling Institute reveals that expectant mothers and women wanting to conceive should avoid caffeine or limit intake to a maximum of 300 mg per day.
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LiveStrong: Caffeine and The Central Nervous System