Friday, April 25, 2008

Caffeine – A health Supplement?

Ever since coffee was touted as a health tonic because it contains beneficial antioxidants, every government approved health supplement manufacturer has been jumping on the bandwagon. But should everyone beware of caffeine’s possible risks?

By: Vanessa Uy

From caffeine containing wake-up pills to cellulite removal cremes, it seems like this primary component of our morning coffee has become the health tonic du jour almost overnight. Apart from the somewhat still disputed claims of the health benefits of anti-oxidants found in our age-old drinks like coffee and tea, caffeine’s effects for boosting our metabolism is well-known – as is its dangers to our cardiovascular system when taken in high doses. Nonetheless, caffeine made possible the efficient running of the North American Space Command’s Cheyenne Mountain complex. And it has performed these and other thankless tasks despite the miserly praise.

The cosmetic arm of the healthcare industry has been exploiting caffeine’s ability to improve our skin’s aesthetics by adding it to various topical creams ranging from spray-on tans to cellulite removal cream. Though its effectiveness ranges from the just noticeable to marketing on a yet-to-be-understood-human-physiological-function. But first, let’s briefly examine the rational behind these caffeine-containing products.

Cellulite elimination creams exploit on our skin’s ability to absorb caffeine through our skin, increasing our metabolic rate. Thus allowing us to burn excess fat with somewhat increased ease. Cellulite elimination creams work but only in conjunction with an exercise regime. Though losing weight by this means can increase the workload of your liver and lymphatic system, not to mention your own heart rate.

Caffeine containing shampoos – though pricey – has steadily gained widespread acceptance due to user’s positive testimonials. Caffeine containing shampoos can make your hair grow back and is the most commonly prescribed cure against hormonally induced baldness. Since too much testosterone – especially in men – is the leading cause of baldness, women with hormonal imbalances – though rarely - are also affected, thus the market for these shampoos are not restricted by gender. But the science backing up this product is somewhat misleading. Caffeine containing shampoos’ positive laboratory results are due to the product being tested on hair culture, not on the actual scalps of human test subjects. Nevertheless, the skin improving benefits of topically applied caffeine is retained despite the product’s being on the knife-edge of being to costly compared to the much-touted yet marginal benefits.

Caffeine containing pills works – no ifs and buts – but consult first with your General Practitioner before using such products if you have a preexisting heart or other cardiovascular condition. Heavily featured in ads since the end of World War II as wake-up pills and weight loss pills, caffeine containing pills should be used with caution since they contain as much caffeine as ten cups of coffee, some even more. Also, if you’re daily diet includes chocolate, tea and coffee. Caffeine containing pills certainly are not a good idea.

Caffeine certainly has benefits for our health and well being. Latest research shows that moderate amounts can stave off heart attacks, strokes, and other coronary afflictions. Also, caffeine improves our skin appearance, improves our alertness, and lets face it without it, our now industrialized labor-intensive civilization will grind to a halt without it. But, in my personal experience, caffeine is better taken via our regular cup of coffee. Not only that it is less expensive compared to other alternatives, but its more effective – albeit slower acting – compared to the competition. And coffee drinking provides the much-needed job security of coffee growers were the majority of which resides in the more economically depressed parts of our planet.

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