Coffee Beetle Withstands Extremely Toxic Concentrations of Caffeine

Coffee Berry Borer

The coffee berry borer is the most destructive coffee pest in the world.  This coffee beetle, found in most regions where coffee is cultivated, can reduce a crop yield by 80 percent.

This insect is the only coffee pest that uses the coffee beans as its sole source of food.  It bores into the bean and spends most of its life tucked inside, where it’s exposed to what we might think would be an extremely toxic amount of caffeine for its mass:  the equivalent of a 150-pound person drinking 500 shots of espresso.

Caffeine evolved as an insecticide and anti-microbial to protect plants.  But the coffee berry borer relies on the bacteria in its gut to degrade and detoxify caffeine.  Researchers also found the most prevalent of these bacteria boasts a gene that helps break down caffeine.

The war against the coffee berry borer beetle continues.  “Instead of using pesticides, perhaps we could target the coffee berry borer’s gut microbiota.  We could develop a way to disrupt the bacteria and make caffeine as toxic to this pest as it is to other insects,” says Javier Ceja-Navarro, a scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Earth Sciences Division and lead author of the paper.

The scientists analyzed coffee berry borers from seven coffee-producing regions:  Mexico, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, India, Indonesia and Kenya.  They also studied a colony reared at the USDA’s lab in Beltsville, Maryland.

The scientists immersed the gut bacteria in a special medium containing caffeine as the main nutrient, so only the bacteria that degrade caffeine survived. Fourteen bacterial species were isolated, most of which were found in beetles from all seven coffee-producing regions and the laboratory colony.  These bacteria appear to subsist on caffeine as their sole source of carbon and nitrogen.  One of the bacteria, Pseudomonas fulva, was the most prevalent, according to their DNA-based geographic survey.

The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program at Berkeley Lab, and Mexico’s National Council for Science and Technology.

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Caffeine-Based Gold Compounds May Fight Cancer

It has been known for some time that caffeine can kill cancer cells.  In fact, the therapeutic power of caffeine has been documented for potentially treating brain cancer, head and neck cancer, breast cancer, uterine cancer, liver cancer, skin cancer, oral/pharyngeal cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, and even lung cancer.  Now, researchers report in the American Chemical Society journal Inorganic Chemistry that a combination of a caffeine-based compound with a small amount of gold could someday be used as an anticancer agent. Cancer researchers Angela Casini and Michel Picquet and their colleagues note that even though caffeine may serve as a possible anticancer treatment, drinking gallons of coffee, sodas and energy drinks is not practicable.  The reason is that the amount of caffeine in these drinks might start to have harmful effects on healthy cells, too, at the levels necessary to kill cancerous ones.  However, because gold can wipe out cancer cells also, and, like caffeine, it can harm healthy cells, the research team put the two together to see whether the new caffeine-based gold compounds could selectively stop cancer cells from growing without hurting other cells. Researchers made a series of seven new compounds, called caffeine-based gold (I) N-heterocyclic carbenes, in the laboratory and studied them. They found that, at certain concentrations, one of the compounds of the series selectively killed human ovarian cancer cells without harming healthy cells. Breakthroughs like this one support the tremendous value of CHAT, Inc. (Caffeine Health and Therapeutics, Inc.), an organization that is currently being founded as a non-profit corporation to encourage and promote research into and the development of pharmacological derivatives of caffeine that offer improvements over caffeine’s numerous established therapeutic and health benefits.  For information about CHAT, Inc., write to

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Wake the Dead with Caffeine!

An Englishman was recently was found dead in his West Midlands flat, and, at his inquest, the Black Country Coroner, Mr. Robin Balmain, blamed his death on a “massive overdose of caffeine.”  In fact, the man had consumed a bag of twelve caffeinated Hero Instant Energy Mints containing a total of 500 mg of caffeine.  This is about the amount of caffeine in two 8 oz cups of filter-drip Arabica coffee or of a large cup of Starbucks burned Robusta brew.

This coroner announced he would write to the Department of Health to express concerns over the death of the former painter and decorator.  He said, “This is a potentially very dangerous situation.  The level of caffeine is enormous.”

Still Alive!

The good news is that, if this Englishman really was not exposed to any other cause of death, then he must still be alive!  This is so, because such small amount of caffeine would not kill anyone.  If it could, stretchers would be filled with Starbucks patrons and other coffee drinkers, carrying them to emergency trucks and to the morgue.

Obviously, caffeine paranoia is alive and well!  Reasonable people would do well to sit down, enjoy a cup of caffeinated coffee or a caffeinated energy mint, and recognize that, for most of us, caffeine safely boosts our mood and improves our health.

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Judge Converses with Horse

Perhaps you sometimes wonder why our government is run so poorly.  One reason might be the intellectual incapacity of our judges, our legislators, and our President.  And, possibly, if these people would use more caffeine, they just might be a bit smarter and more competent.  This video illustrates the mental weakness of one judge who, obviously, just doesn’t use any caffeine!


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Memories, Memories — Good News about Caffeine!

A new study from Johns Hopkins University has proven for the first time that caffeine consolidates and preserves long-term memory. 

It has long been known that a little caffeine ramps up concentration, attention, vigilance, visuospatial reasoning, and the ability to perform calculations and think logically.   It has also been recognized that caffeine improves short-term memory, for example, remembering a telephone number you have just looked at before you dial it.  In addition, caffeine has been shown to improve the sometimes declining memories of older people.  However, until this study was completed, no one knew if caffeine’s benefits to mental processes extended to boosting long-term memory in people of all ages.

The New Study

To conduct this study, researchers picked over 150 volunteers who did not usually consume much caffeine.  The volunteers were asked to study pictures of flowers, musical instruments, and other objects.  After the participants viewed the pictures, the scientists gave half of them a pill containing either 100mg, 200mg, or 300mg of caffeine–-the amount found in a 4oz, an 8oz, or a 12oz cup of filter-drip coffee—and gave the other half an identical looking placebo.  Neither the subjects nor the researchers knew until the study ended who had taken caffeine and who had taken the placebo.     

The next day, researchers showed the volunteers more pictures, asking the volunteers if these pictures were the same, different, or different but similar to the pictures they had been shown the day before.  The subjects who had been given 200mg caffeine pills performed significantly better at spotting and identifying pictures similar to the ones they had seen the previous day than did the subjects who had been given a placebo.  In further tests, the researchers discovered that less than 200mg of caffeine conferred little or no benefit, while 300mg did not improve memory performance any more than the 200mg had done.  (“Post-study caffeine administration enhances memory consolidation in humans,” Nature Neuroscience, Daniel Borota, et al., January 12, 2014.)

Building Brain Connections to Help You Remember

How can caffeine help us to improve our ability to preserve and retrieve memories?  A section of the brain called the “hippocampus” is responsible for maintaining long-term memory.  Decades ago, researchers at the Weisman Institute in Israel discovered the astonishing fact that caffeine causes dendritic spines, the branching extensions at the ends of nerve cells that allow them to make synaptic connections with each other, to grow longer and even caused new spines and branches to develop as well (“Release of calcium from stores alters the morphology of dendritic spines in cultured hippocampal neurons,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, E. Korkotian and M. Segal, US, 96:12068-72, 1999).  The recent Johns Hopkins study provides the first direct evidence that this proliferation of dendrites actually does improve long-term memory in human beings.   This study demonstrates that caffeine is the only known substance that can augment brain functions by altering the physical structure of the brain

Modest Amounts of Caffeine Work Best

Modest amounts of caffeine do the most.  If you take more than you need, the benefit for long-term memory is eroded.  So how much caffeine is best for memory consolidation?  It turns out that, for many people, about 200mg of caffeine, the amount in an 8oz cup of filter-drip coffee, is excellent for cementing your memories.  Up to 300mg seems to do even more;  but, as we said, significantly more than this may actually start to reverse the memory benefits.  However, remember that caffeine sensitivity and the way caffeine is metabolized varies widely.  Some people will do better with much less caffeine, while others do better with considerably more.  For example, genetic predispositions dramatically alter the effects of identical amounts of caffeine on different people.  Therefore, the only way to really know how much caffeine you should take is by trying caffeine for yourself and seeing how you do and how you feel.

How to Get Your Caffeine Memory Boost

An 8oz cup of filter-drip coffee, containing about 200mg of caffeine is a good source of caffeine to help your memory.  Some people may even prefer a 200mg caffeine tablet.  Other sources of caffeine can provide the same benefit. 

Below is a list of the approximate amounts of caffeine in some commonly consumed products:

  • Arabica filter-drip coffee (8oz): 200mg
  • Robusta filter-drip coffee (8oz): 400mg
  • Dark chocolate bar (1.45oz):  31mg
  • Soda (12oz):  40mg
  • Diet soda (12oz):  45mg
  • Energy drink (12oz):  115mg (on average)
  • Black tea (6oz):  50mg
  • Coffee ice cream (8oz):  60mg

(Note:  Arabica coffee beans are better quality beans and have half the caffeine of harsher tasting Robusta coffee beans.  You might want to know that Duncan Donuts and MacDonald’s use Arabica beans, while most coffee shops use Robusta beans.)

So, if you want to ramp up your memory, don’t forget caffeine!

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Forbes Blasts FDA for Unconstitutional “Regulation by Intimidation”

In a recent groundbreaking editorial, Forbes magazine called the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to account for playing into the hands of politicians seeking publicity and attorneys trying to win judgements.  Forbes specifically accuses the FDA of levying threats and intimidation against companies using caffeine in their products.  According to the editorial, this bullying is not only morally wrong, it is actually unconstitutional.

FDA Corrupted by Money and Powerful Interests

The editorial lampoons the FDA for making partisan condemnations of companies that sell products containing small to moderate amounts of caffeine, while ignoring coffee companies selling products with far larger amounts of caffeine:

Hey you!  Yes you, food company (no, not you,
coffee proprietor). We’re not happy that your product has caffeine in it. Um, you know, you really might want to reconsider that particular ingredient.

The editorial explains that the FDA is marshaling “unsubtle threats and heavy-handed persuasion.”   However, because Forbes is a firm believer “in due process, fair notice, consistency, and transparency from our Fourth Branch of government,” it cannot approve the FDA’s high-handed “saber-rattling.”

“The FDA frequently takes its cues on caffeine from professional activists and publicity-seeking politicians,” Forbes charges.  U.S. Senators and state attorneys general have been busily besmirching (and subpoenaing) energy drink makers, and the FDA seems to have jumped on board for the bumpy ride of controlling behavior by using threats.   Then, last November, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nutty activist group invested with paranoia about caffeine, dispatched a two-page letter to FDA on the “new craze” of adding caffeine to processed foods.  True to form, the FDA responded by raising a club to intimidate the companies involved.

An example of FDA “regulation by intimidation” surfaced on May 3,  when Michael Taylor, the FDA Deputy Commissioner, called out gum maker Wrigley on a new product, stating that, while formal regulation might be forthcoming, “we hope this can be a turning point for all to prevent the irresponsible addition of caffeine to food and beverages. Together, we should be immediately looking at what voluntary restraint can be used by industry.”  Wrigley got the message and on May 8 announced a halt in production of the gum.

“The agency’s approach circumvents every constitutional and statutory check and balance purposefully placed on bureaucratic action,”  the editorial states.  The intellectual bankruptcy of the FDA stance is luridly proven by the facts that, “Coffee is a much more widely available source of caffeine, and an equal-sized portion of it can contain twice as much caffeine as one demonized energy drink.  But no one at FDA is looking to seize your or even your children’s cup (or two, or three or four cups) of Joe.”

Furthermore, Forbes says that, “as long as FDA’s actions aren’t tethered to standards or science, they threaten to sweep in products that don’t merit any concern or scrutiny.”  An example is the successful FDA effort ”to drive some caffeine-infused alcoholic beverages, like Four Loko” out of business, even though Ivy League studies have proven that caffeine poses no danger when combined with alcohol, and Irish coffee, a common bar drink, contains far more caffeine and alcohol than any Four Loko product.

Of course, we might well wonder why adult citizens of a free country should be forced to submit to FDA politicos sitting behind desks in Washington who presume to tell us what medicines we can take and what medical treatments we can receive.

Perhaps the next step by the FDA will be to actually deprecate and attack beverages that get their caffeine from natural products like coffee, chocolate, or tea.  Where will all of this abuse come to and end?  Asks Forbes, “Where indeed?”

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