A few years back I went on The UltraMind Solution Diet. Among the things forbidden on this diet, was caffeine. I went six weeks without drinking coffee, sodas, or anything else that had caffeine added to it. After the diet was over, I was on a long drive and bought a Red Bull. Wow. You really can’t appreciate what this stuff does to you until you stop using it for a couple of months.
Caffeinated tells the story of caffeine, one of the three most abused drugs in America, the other two are nicotine and alcohol. The story starts with the Good Old Days, when caffeine was found naturally in coffee beans and coca beans and the like. We move through the years quickly, with a number of interesting things happening to people who sell and use caffeine.
Seems a little company named Monsanto got it’s start processing caffeine form waste tea leaves around the turn of the 20th Century. But that was before we had Better Living Through Chemistry. Now the good people at Coke and Dr Pepper and countless others, buy tons of pharmaceutical grade caffeine from China. Caffeine made in a lab is a lot cheaper than caffeine extracted from natural sources.
Once the story makes its way to the present, we find the proliferation of Energy Drinks, Energy Gums, Enegry Strips, Energy Drops, and pretty much anything that caffeine and the word Energy can be added to. What is troubling about this is something rattled off right at the start of Caffeinated:A 64th of a teaspoon is a good dose for a habituated user. A 1/4 teaspoon will lead to bodily unpleasantness-racing heart, sweating, and acute anxiety. A tablespoon will kill you. The trouble is not so much that one can of Red Bull or Monster or a Large Frappicino with a Double Shot will kill you, it’s what happens when you have all of them over the course of a day, every day. What is this doing to us? The odds are good that chemists at Coke and Pepsi know, but they aren’t going to tell anyone.
Caffeinated is an amazing book about a drug that I didn’t know that much about. It’s also a drug that I have been known to use a little too much on long drives.
Like sugar, fat, and salt, it’s now hidden everywhere. Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts, and Hooks Us by Murray Carpenter was a good book and well worth reading.