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  • 90% of the world's adults consume some form of caffeine every day, making it the most widely used psychoactive drug on Earth.

  • Michael Pollen, bestselling author of books on plant pharmacology explains why a very strong case can be made that caffeine contributed to the enlightenment and the age of reason and the industrial revolution, all of which required us to think in much more focused linear terms.

  • Caffeine was an amazing aid to the rise of capitalism compared to other beverages.

  • Coffee is a relative newcomer, spreading slowly from africa through the Middle East and into the west only a few centuries ago.

  • Yet it's hard to even imagine a world without it.

  • Before caffeine comes to europe, people were drunk or buzzed most of the day, people would have alcohol with breakfast, water was contaminated with disease, but alcohol, because of the fermentation process would kill a lot of microbes.

  • So you gave your kids hard cider in the morning, there were beer breaks on farms.

  • People addled on alcohol are not going to be so rational, are not going to be so linear in their thinking and are not going to be so energetic.

  • Coffee consumption along with tea and chocolate, all of which have caffeine became widespread in Europe in the 17th century.

  • And coffee houses popped up all over London.

  • So there were coffee houses dedicated to literature and writers and poets would congregate there, there was a coffee house dedicated to selling stock and that turned into the London stock exchange.

  • Eventually there was another one dedicated to science tied to the royal institution where great scientists of the period would get together.

  • And Isaac.

  • Newton was a big coffee fan, Voltaire.

  • The enlightenment figure apparently had 72 cups a day.

  • I don't know quite how you do that.

  • Deodoro wrote the encyclopedia on caffeine.

  • This new sober, more civil drink was changing the way people thought and the way they worked.

  • Once you're doing work with machinery, indoors, doing double entry bookkeeping and all that kind of head work, alcohol is the wrong drug and caffeine is the right drug caffeine allows you also to break your ties to the rhythms of the sun before caffeine basically, people started work when the sun came up and stopped when it went down with caffeine and with light or gas light you could have a night shift, you can have an overnight shift.

  • It's not hard to see a through line from coffee cup workers keeping up with the pace of the machines in the factories To the rise of office culture and the establishment of the coffee break in the 1950s, Caffeine has made a super productive.

  • There's a very interesting body of research that suggests that caffeine does improve focus and memory and the ability to learn.

  • So it seems to help us lock in memories as for focus, it increases our ability to concentrate on a task.

  • It's incredibly important for modern work and of course caffeine also gives us a burst of energy, but how exactly coffee has less than five calories, caffeine seems to be in violation of the laws of thermodynamics, essentially caffeine borrows energy from your future and gives it to you.

  • In the present caffeine occupies a receptor that normally is occupied by a chemical called edina seen.

  • And this is the chemical that over the course of the day builds up and makes you feel tired and prepares the brain for sleep.

  • Caffeine gets in there and blocks that receptor.

  • So you never feel that tiredness and that's the catch caffeine messes with your sleep because 4 to 6 hours after you drink it, half of it is still swirling around in your body.

  • But even if you cut it out earlier in the day, the quality of your sleep may suffer.

  • Not the quantity necessarily, but the quality by which, I mean, you are deep sleep, your slow wave sleep a kind of sleep that's dreamless and very deep.

  • And it's very important to kind of brain hygiene.

  • It's where your brain kind of takes out the garbage every night and cleans up the desktop.

  • And that kind of sleep suffers.

  • There's no free lunch right in nature and in medicine, so is the price we pay for poor sleep worth the benefits that caffeine gives us.

  • There have been decades of research into caffeine.

  • The current research is that on balance, it contributes much more to your health than it takes away and that it's protective against many kinds of cancer cardiovascular disease.

  • Parkinson's dementia in the american diet.

  • Coffee and tea represents the single biggest source of anti oxidants And antioxidants are very important to cellular health and preventing cancer.

  • And we eat so few plants, so few vegetables and fruit in this country that we're getting most of those antioxidants from coffee and tea.

  • It's kind of remarkable that it has such a clean bill of health.

  • With that one exception of what it does to your sleep or what it can do to your sleep, right, caffeine ruins our sleep so that the next morning we reach for more caffeine and the cycle of addiction continues.

  • You know, we tend to moralize addiction.

  • But is it really a bad thing to be dependent on a plant that you have easy access to you can afford that isn't ruining your life and is giving you some benefit.

  • The way in which individuals are addicted to caffeine is mirrored in our society.

  • We have organized our society in such a way with like globe spanning trade, working long hours and changing the climate and changing the environment.

  • We have created a world in which caffeine is indispensable and therefore the coffee plant and the tea plant are indispensable and we've created exactly the world they need in which to thrive.

90% of the world's adults consume some form of caffeine every day, making it the most widely used psychoactive drug on Earth.

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