Read “Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine” (130/366)

“The molecule itself is laughably simple – as boring and static as a pinball.  But let a few trillion of those pinballs fall into the machinery of the mind – into the flashing, deafening confabulation that is a human being – and anything can happen.  Anything at all.”
~ “Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine


How much do you really know about alcohol and caffeine?  Do you stay away from them?  Do you consume them both with vigor?  Chances are, you use at least one of these very popular mind-altering substances.  That’s right, they are *mind-altering*.  I was reading an article a little while ago that quoted this book and was intrigued – I’m always interested in learning about the human body and mind, and how outside factors like food and drink affect us.  I ordered it from Amazon and finally got a chance to read it today.

“Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine” looks at how scientists that tried to study the effects of alcohol and caffeine on the body didn’t have the technology to test out their theories, and that’s why many of our ideas of caffeine and alcohol are based on decades of speculation, not definitive research.  Caffeine is not the stimulant it’s widely thought of as, and alcohol is not really the depressant it’s been deemed as either.  The chemical reaction of these two drugs – the two most consumed in the world – is much more complicated and fascinating than that.

Some cool points in the book:

– Coffee doesn’t rev the body up the way many people believe – it actually blocks sensors in the brain that make our systems slow down.  Instead of coffee pushing our “car’s” accelerator, the car essentially keeps going because it has no breaks.

– Alcohol isn’t merely a depressant.  It stimulates and depresses many different parts of the brain, which is why for example it makes people talk more, but slows their motor skills down.

– Almost all the caffeine in soft drinks is purchased by soda manufacturers from the makers of decaffeinated coffees and teas – caffeine is a valuable by-product of the decaffeination process.

– Unlike alcohol, which is the body is able to partially eliminate in the breath and urine, caffeine simply circulates until it is destroyed by enzymes in the liver.

Theodore Roosevelt who was an avid coffee drinker sampled coffee merchant Joel Clark’s brew at a 1907 county fair.  He drained the cup given to him in one gulp, and, setting down the empty cup, the President turned to the people around him and declared the coffee “good to the last drop,” giving Clark and his coffee – Maxwell House – its famous slogan, still used today.

There are a TON of really interesting facts and stories in this book – I find it fascinating that there is so little that is really known about these two most popular, legal drugs of choice in the world – and I’m really glad I read this book that shined a bit more light on them.

Related Links:
Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine

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