Though a depressant, booze can sometimes make you peppy. And caffeine, that elixir of pep, has no power without the brain's help.
Those are just a couple of the myth-busters in "Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine," a new book by science journalist Stephen Braun.
Some examples: Women get drunk faster than men not because they are smaller or have different body fat composition but because alcohol-destroying enzymes found in the human stomach lining work better in men than in women. A "nightcap" can actually disrupt sleep. And caffeine really is able to counteract some of alcohol's effects.
Consuming alcoholic beverages doesn't "kill" brain cells, Braun says. The myth derives from old and now disputed research.
Conventional wisdom simply notes alcohol as a depressant. Although that's true, new research reveals that alcohol can mimic the actions of other drugs such as stimulants, tranquilizersand endorphin facilitators. All can be pleasurable -- and addictive.
Caffeine, on the other hand, interacts with a single chemical in the brain. It neutralizes adenosine, which normally decreases neurotransmitter activity and makes us feel drowsy. This makes coffee an "indirect" stimulant, said Braun, having no power of its own but allowing other natural brain stimulants to rev up your day.
Pub Date: 10/14/96