The newly sequenced genome of the coffee plant reveals secrets about the evolution of man’s best chemical friend: caffeine.
The scientists who completed the project say the sequences and positions of genes in the coffee plant show that they evolved independently from genes with similar functions in tea and chocolate, which also make caffeine. In other words, coffee did not inherit caffeine-linked genes from a common ancestor, but instead developed the genes on its own.
Caffeine Affects Boys, Girls Differently After Puberty
Caffeine intake by children and adolescents has been rising for decades, in large part because of the popularity of caffeinated sodas and energy drinks, which now are marketed to children as young as four. Despite this, there is little research on the effects of caffeine on young people.
One researcher who is conducting such investigations is Jennifer Temple, associate professor in the Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Univ. at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions.
Longer Caffeine Exposure is Even More Helpful to Preemies
The caffeine in coffee that might help get you going in the morning can be lifesaving for premature babies. For more than a decade, neonatologists have routinely given premature newborns caffeine as a respiratory stimulant, helping their immature lungs and brains remember to breathe and reducing episodes of intermittent hypoxia (IH) — short, repetitive drops in blood oxygen levels.
Typically, babies are weaned off caffeine once they’re developmentally mature enough to breathe normally without help, usually around 34 weeks’ gestational age.
As part of a German-French research project, a team led by Christa Müller from the Univ. of Bonn and David Blum from the Univ. of Lille was able to demonstrate for the first time that caffeine has a positive effect on tau deposits in Alzheimer’s disease. The two-year project was supported with 30,000 Euro from the non-profit Alzheimer Forschung Initiative e.V. (AFI) and with 50,000 Euro from the French Partner organization LECMA.
Tau deposits, along with beta-amyloid plaques, are among the characteristic features of Alzheimer’s disease. These protein deposits disrupt the communication of the nerve cells in the brain and contribute to their degeneration. Despite intensive research there is no drug available to date which can prevent this detrimental process. Based on the results of Müller, Blum and their team, a new class of drugs may now be developed for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
The side effects of ingesting too much caffeine — restlessness, increased heart rate, having trouble sleeping — are well known, but recent research has shown that the stimulant also has a good side. It can kill cancer cells. Now, researchers report in the ACS journal Inorganic Chemistry that combining a caffeine-based compound with a small amount of gold could someday be used as an anticancer agent.
Caffeine Addiction is Widespread, Under-Scrutinized
"I’m a zombie without my morning coffee." "My blood type is Diet Coke." "Caffeine isn’t a drug, it’s a vitamin." Most people make jokes like these about needing a daily boost from their favorite caffeinated beverage — whether first thing in the morning or to prevent the after-lunch slump.
But a recent study coauthored by American Univ. psychology professor Laura Juliano indicates that more people are dependent on caffeine to the point that they suffer withdrawal symptoms and are unable to reduce caffeine consumption — even if they have another condition that may be impacted by caffeine such as a pregnancy, a heart condition, or a bleeding disorder — than believed.
For some, it’s the tradition of steeping tealeaves to brew the perfect cup of tea. For others, it’s the morning shuffle to a coffee maker for a hot jolt of java. Then there are those who like their wake up with the kind of snap and a fizz usually found in a carbonated beverage.
Regardless of the routine, the consumption of caffeine is the energy boost of choice for millions to wake up or stay up. Now, however, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Univ. have found another use for the stimulant: memory enhancer.
Drinking several cups of coffee daily appears to reduce the risk of suicide in men and women by about 50 percent, according to a new study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). The study was published online in The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry.
“Unlike previous investigations, we were able to assess association of consumption of caffeinated and non-caffeinated beverages, and we identify caffeine as the most likely candidate of any putative protective effect of coffee,” says lead researcher Michel Lucas, research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH.
Researcher Says Caffeine Withdrawal is a Mental Disorder
The inclusion of caffeine withdrawal in the American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has been widely questioned, since most adults consume caffeine in the form of coffee, tea and cola drinks without experiencing any negative side effects. While caffeine withdrawal is most often fleeting and relatively mild, neurobiologist José Lemos, from the Univ. of Massachusetts, believes it is a very real condition that can negatively impact a person’s ability to function, albeit for a short time, and therefore warrants inclusion in the DSM.
Looking for a new way to get that jolt of caffeine energy? Food companies are betting snacks like potato chips, jelly beans and gum with a caffeinated kick could be just the answer.
The Food and Drug Administration is closely watching the marketing of these foods and wants to know more about their safety. The FDA says it will look at the foods’ effects on children in response to a caffeinated gum introduced this week by Wrigley. Alert Energy Gum promises “the right energy, right now.”
Researchers from the Univ. of Alberta are abuzz after using fruit flies to find new ways of taking advantage of caffeine’s lethal effects on cancer cells — results that could one day be used to advance cancer therapies for people.
Previous research has established that caffeine interferes with processes in cancer cells that control DNA repair, a finding that has generated interest in using the stimulant as a chemotherapy treatment. But given the toxic nature of caffeine at high doses, researchers from the faculties of medicine and dentistry and science instead opted to use it to identify genes and pathways responsible for DNA repair.
Some people may joke about living on caffeine, but scientists now have genetically engineered E. coli bacteria to do that — literally. Their report in the journal ACS Synthetic Biology describes bacteria being “addicted” to caffeine in a way that promises practical uses ranging from decontamination of wastewater to bioproduction of medications for asthma.
You may need a cup of coffee to kick start the day but it seems honeybees also get their buzz from drinking flower nectar containing caffeine.
Publishing in Science, researchers have shown that caffeine improves a honeybee’s memory and could help the plant recruit more bees to spread its pollen. In tests honeybees feeding on a sugar solution containing caffeine, which occurs naturally in the nectar of coffee and citrus flowers, were three times more likely to remember a flower’s scent than those feeding on just sugar.
A new government survey suggests the number of people seeking emergency treatment after consuming energy drinks has doubled nationwide during the past four years, the same period in which the supercharged drink industry has surged in popularity in convenience stores, bars and on college campuses.
From 2007 to 2011, the government estimates the number of emergency room visits involving the neon-labeled beverages shot up from about 10,000 to more than 20,000. Most of those cases involved teens or young adults, according to a survey of the nation’s hospitals released by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.