Thursday, February 06, 2020

Michael Pollan on Coffee

Michael Pollan says,
“Something like 90 percent of humans ingest caffeine regularly, making it the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world and the only one we routinely give to children, commonly in the form of soda. It’s so pervasive that it’s easy to overlook the fact that to be caffeinated is not baseline consciousness but, in fact, is an altered state.” 
in a WaPo interview about his new audiobook.

I rarely drink coffee, and not at all when I was younger. I've never gotten a "buzz" from drinking coffee, as far as I can tell. I guess I lack the right allele of the gene CYP1A2, "which controls an enzyme – also called CYP1A2 – that determines how quickly our bodies break down caffeine." If I do drink a cup, which sometimes I do lately for a little more energy in the afternoon or early evening (so caffeine's effect on me isn't zero), I don't drink more than one or else I don't feel right -- not nauseous, exactly, just unpleasant. Pollan does warn that it's disrupted sleep throughout history, and its cultivation once required a lot of slave labor. And this is interesting:
“I think there is a kind of bias against drugs that interfere with the smooth working of the economic machine,” the author says. “As soon as you get into jobs that involve machines or numbers, alcohol is a challenge. And we did try to ban alcohol, without success. I just think it’s too deeply rooted in everyday life to take it on. But in general, you find that the drugs that increase productivity are the ones that are most supported in our society.”
which would be caffeine, aspirin, NSAIDS, Ritalin et al, sleep medications, No Doze.... Others?

This NY Times article from 2016 has a lot of interesting content about genes and caffeine.

1 comment:

Ned said...

"the most widely used psychoactive drug"

Not sure exactly what "psychoactive drug" means in a technical sense. Does sugar qualify? Probably not, though some people (Gary Taubes!) would probably make a case for it.