Addiction can be a lonely place. Whether we hide our vices or not — stealing a secret cigarette while the wife isn’t looking, sipping a sly cocktail at the end of the bar by ourselves or knocking back a few shots of espresso despite our doctor’s orders — it can sometimes feel isolating. But we should take some comfort in the fact that we are, in fact, not alone. At least, not in nature.
Joining the ranks of our friendly Russian drunk chimpanzee Rostov (who was recently sent to rehab to break his boozing and smoking ways) are our favorite little pollinators: Bees! A study conducted by the University of Haifa found that bees had a preference for nectar that included trace amounts of caffeine and/or nicotine in it. When we first ran across this story, we thought, ‘of course, coffee cherry flowers would have caffeine in them’ but we were surprised to learn that nicotine and caffeine chemicals are found in the flowers of many fruits — even grapefruit (which has some of the highest concentration around)!
Scientists created synthetic nectar (which is comprised of sugars) that was neutral, had caffeine or had nicotine and then let the bees loose. They were able to then track the bees’ preference for the nectar with the caffeine or nicotine over the neutral, sugar-only nectar. The assumption is that this evolutionary development on behalf of the flowers in question was to create an addictive relationship, thus spurring the bees to visit often and spread the pollen far and wide.
So there you have it — the next time you’re ruing your addiction to caffeine, know that you are in great company.
(And, while it’s not often we wish we were a talented illustrator, this story should have been accompanied by an illustration of a greasy looking bee with a five o’clock shadow, a cup of coffee and a cigarette hanging out of its mouth. If you are a talented illustrator, there’s a free bag of Velton’s Bonsai Blend in it for you if you can draft something and send it our way.)
Let’s face it: Life can be a little rough around the edges sometimes — and we’re not afraid to smooth out said edges by administering a well-crafted cocktail. We’ve written in the past about a delicious stout that incorporates espresso and about one of our favorite espresso and hazelnut-infused vodkas on the market, so you can imagine our concern when we started reading news last fall that the FDA was examining whether or not the combination of caffeine and alcohol was safe for public consumption.
In November of 2009, the FDA sent out requests to manufacturers who have been producing drinks that have both caffeine and alcohol in them, asking that the companies provide evidence that the combination can be safely ingested. Included in this investigation, however, were a few smaller breweries and distilleries that were incorporating coffee into their drinks.
With health agencies around the world examining the energy drink market because of the adverse impact it has had on the health of some populations (specifically college students), it’s no surprise that alcoholic beverages with an additive of caffeine might also come under scrutiny. But will the FDA’s inquiries lead to the discontinuation of the gourmet microbrews and distilled spirits that have a little kick in their step?
We followed up with PR rep Michael Herndon of the FDA to see where the investigation was at, and what type of impact — if any — the ruling may have on our favorite java stouts and coffee vodkas. According to him, none. “This FDA action is not directed at products that are flavored with coffee. At this time, the FDA is focusing its attention on products in which caffeine has been intentionally added to alcoholic beverages by the manufacturers.” As of this writing, only 19 of the total 27 inquiries have received responses, and the next step is to review any scientific data on the subject. While there is no specific timeline in regard to when the FDA will make its final ruling on the subject, Herndon noted that it is a high priority at the agency.
A recent study by a group of South Korean researchers indicates that the amount of caffeine present in coffee and green tea may have a positive impact on the development and growth of brain cancer causing cells.
Collecting the data through unidentified animal testing, the researchers found that the caffeine equivalent of two to five cups of coffee or green tea per day suppressed the growth of inositol trisphosphate receptors IP3R), which are closely linked to the most common and aggressive type of brain tumor in humans, the glioblastoma. The researchers note that calcium plays a part in spreading these tumor cells, but the caffeine counteracts it.
A recent study published this month in the journal Hepatalogy indicates that a daily intake of about 308mg of caffeine (equal to what’s found in 2.25 cups of regular coffee) had a positive impact on liver fibrosis.
Based on behavioral questionnaires combined with the regular test results of 177 patients with liver disease, the study found that people with a lower level of the scarring that can lead to cirrhosis had a higher level of caffeine intake via coffee. But while the data suggests that coffee itself might have some kind of hand in it as well, the numbers of the study are low enough to question the reliability of the data, given that 71% of those studied were coffee drinkers. Further analysis is required to determine if caffeine therapy on its own is beneficial, or if there is an additional element present in coffee that also plays a part.
We’ve talked before about how much caffeine is in different forms of coffee preparation, and we’ve even covered the relative caloric intake of many drinks compared with food. But if you’re looking for something a little more visual-oriented, check out the Caffeine Poster created by Randy Krum over at Cool Infographics.
Now it’s easy to reference how much caffeine you’re taking in each day via different drinks — from different forms of coffee to the legendary Jolt soda. Plus, it has a couple of fun facts incorporated in it, such as the date of National Coffee Day (wait, isn’t that every day?!) and how much caffeine you have to ingest before you feel the, uh, love.
Sometimes you just need a caffeine fix without all of the java-related details. Sometimes that caffeine fix needs to taste like fruit punch, sometimes it needs to be the color red and sometimes — just sometimes — it needs to come from an IV bag and remind you of a blood transfusion. Sure, we’ve all been there.
If you didn’t get enough blood n’ gore during last night’s spooky festivities, infuse your life with a little gross out all year round by keeping some Blood Caffeinated Energy Potion on hand. Courtesy of ThinkGeek, this delicious (?) concoction is said to incorporate elements of the real thing, plus a caffeine kick, so you get a nice buzz with 100% less dead neighbors.
Really, there’s a lesson in this for all of us.
Tracked as a potential contributor to a low birth weight in babies, caffeine is among the 3,508 other things mothers are encouraged not to ingest during pregnancy. OK, we grabbed that number out of the air but it’s, like, a lot. (No brie? Really?! Inhuman.) But caffeine does function as an effective respiratory stimulant, and so has often been used during neonatal care in hospitals for newborns with respiratory issues.
That may end, however, if this recent Canadian study is corroborated. Scientists dosed infant rats with caffeine and then tracked how it affected them as they grew into adulthood. Comparison trends in the rats who had been dosed with caffeine in infancy showed signs of sleeping disorders as adults: reduced sleeping time, a longer time to reach the first stage of sleep and fragmented non-REM sleep. Additionally, the rats that weren’t treated with caffeine had higher breathing at rest than those that were treated with caffeine.
The study reviewers indicated that it is a cause for concern and there will likely be more testing to analyze and determine just what type of neurological and/or developmental effect caffeine has on babies. Since breathing problems are one of the main reasons newborn babies are hospitalized and a primary cause of their death, we hope that determining how caffeine therapy effects the developing brain and then figuring out alternate treatments if necessary is a fairly high priority.
And when they’re done with that, they should figure out how to get brie back on the expectant mother menu.