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April 25th, 2012

A shot and an espresso? A coffee chaser may be a good thing

Published on April 25th, 2012 | By: Eileen De Guire


A “win-win” ? Inebriation may enhance the benefits of drinking caffeinated coffee. Credit: Wikipedia.

My readers may have figured out what a few of my favorite indulgences are based on stories I’ve done on scotch whiskey, beer and wine. Of course, those are all “after 5:00 (somewhere)” drinks. There is one beverage that I enjoy every day and throughout the day, though—Coffee! I believe it’s a message from the Divine the we are meant to be happy. (I believe the same about potatoes and chocolate. Now you know everything worth knowing about me.)

I’m not alone. According to CoffeeResearch.org, more than half—54 percent—of the American population drinks an average of three cups of coffee every day. Another 25 percent of Americans drink coffee occasionally. What they don’t report is how many tipsy people drink coffee.

Conventional wisdom says that coffee will help you sober-up, but a recent article in the International Journal of Quantum Chemistry suggests that there may be even more beneficial chemistry at work.

M. Singh, a writer for Materials Views, explains all in a blog post published last week and repeated below. It’s probably best to read at Starbucks—before 5:00 (somewhere), ok?

Is coffee healthier for you when you’re drunk?

Strange question to ask. If you are drunk, why worry about health? Right?

Wrong. Maybe.

First of all, computational chemistry is not giving you a license to get drunk (or fat for that matter). It is however telling you that coffee may be more effective in combating oxidative stress when the medium (your blood, perhaps?) is less polar (water is very polar).

In any metabolic process, reactive oxygen species (ROS) are common intermediaries. Think of them as waste by-products of the business of living. Left to themselves, these species can cause oxidative stress that can lead to diverse human diseases such as hardening of the arteries, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s syndromes, cancer, etc. So, it is important that these toxins be regularly removed from the body. Caffeine is one possible precursor biomolecule that helps remove these species from the body.

In a recently published paper in the International Journal of Quantum Chemistry, Annia Galano, et al., find that the anti-oxidant scavenging activity of caffeine is much more rapid in a less polar (possibly alcohol or lipid-based) medium than in water. The authors studied three different possible reaction mechanisms (SET, HT and RAF) for the commonly problematic ROS toxins OH, OCH3, OOH, and OOCH3.

A note of caution before anyone gets carried away.

My guess is that converting the blood solvent into alcohol (as opposed to the 95%+ water we are all made up of) is not a great idea. But should we ever find life on a very different kind of planet/moon, chances are that investing in inter-planetary coffee trade may be the ultimate stock tip.

Until we all get rich, let us try to avoid hangovers.


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