This is Your Brain on Caffeine

Brain on CaffeineSusan Brown Health and Wellness Editor

Did you know that caffeine is considered a psychoactive substance? Consumed regularly by over 90 million adults, caffeine is thought to be America’s leading nonprescription drug. However, unlike drugs of abuse that lead to dopamine release, caffeine does not act on the dopaminergic structures in the brain related to reward, motivation and addiction. Caffeine is naturally occurring in tea, coffee, kola nuts, cocoa beans and more than 60 plant species. It is also added to soft drinks, energy drinks, pharmaceuticals and a number of OTC medicines, including analgesics, diet-aids and cold remedies. Data suggests that genetics may play a critical role in determining the amount of caffeine one is likely to consume, as well as any side effects of consumption. Some people are less sensitive to the stimulating effects, while others may see their blood pressure rise or their sleep negatively affected by caffeine consumption.

Following oral consumption, caffeine is absorbed into the bloodstream and body tissues. Its effects can last for several hours depending upon how quickly or slowly it is metabolized by the body. The liver is largely responsible for caffeine metabolism, and certain lifestyle factors appear to determine how quickly caffeine is utilized and eliminated. Smoking status, liver disease, alcohol consumption, diet and some medications may all influence caffeine’s effects. For example, smoking stimulates caffeine clearance, whereas alcohol intake prolongs caffeine’s effects and decreases clearance. As a central nervous system stimulant, caffeine can boost alertness, enhance cognitive performance, improve energy and aid athletic endurance.

U.S. dietary guidelines, as well as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), advise that daily consumption of up to 400 mg, equivalent to 4 – 5 cups of coffee, can actually be part of a healthy balanced diet and active lifestyle. For genetically predisposed caffeine-sensitive individuals, one cup can cause uncomfortable or jittery side effects. Ingesting greater than 400 mg daily or more than 200 mg in a single dose can result in insomnia, irritability, and nervousness, as well as tachycardia in those who already have a rapid heart rate.

Consumed very quickly in high doses, caffeine has the potential to be both toxic and dangerous to health. However, the negative effects of high-dose caffeine consumption appear primarily in a small group of caffeine-sensitive individuals. Moderate consumption does not ordinarily lead to health risks. In fact, recent studies show that coffee in moderation may actually boost longevity and potentially provide protection against cirrhosis, some cancers and type 2 diabetes, as well as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cardiovascular diseases.

So how does caffeine affect the brain? Caffeine interacts primarily with the brain’s adenosine receptors. In so doing, it alters neural activities that influence mental performance, resulting in increased alertness and wakefulness. Adenosine is a naturally occurring compound commonly found in DNA or RNA. It is present in various forms in all bodily cells and is an essential component of energy production and utilization. Adenosine receptors are widely distributed in the central nervous system, where it acts to depress neuronal activity. When adenosine binds with receptors, it causes drowsiness, which in turn causes blood vessels in the brain to dilate, letting in more oxygen during sleep.

To a nerve cell, caffeine appears structurally similar to adenosine, which allows caffeine to bind with adenosine receptors essentially blocking adenosine activity. Contrarily to adenosine, caffeine speeds up nerve cells, constricts blood vessels and increases neuron firing. Constricting blood vessels in the brain can help to stop a vascular headache, which is why some headache remedies contain caffeine. Increased neuron firing causes the pituitary gland to sense an emergency of some kind, activating the flight or fight response and signaling the adrenals to produce adrenaline. So, after consuming a big cup of coffee, the pupils dilate, the heart beats a bit faster, blood pressure rises, the liver releases sugar for increased energy and muscles grow tense and ready for action. Who knew your morning cup of joe could actually elicit such far-reaching effects?

Largely as a consequence of blocking the uptake of adenosine, caffeine has profound effects on many other major neurotransmitters such as dopamine, acetylcholine, serotonin and, in high doses, norepinephrine. By helping to regulate neurotransmitter balance, caffeine may enhance mood and suppress appetite. Cognitively, caffeine appears to sharpen reasoning, concentration, decision-making and perception. Physically, it improves speed, endurance, energy output, and reaction time. Therapeutically, in moderate use, it appears to protect brain cells from certain kinds of long-term damage, while also aiding pain relief. While the effects of caffeine continue to be studied, you can continue to enjoy antioxidant-rich coffee in moderation and receive not only the short-term effects but the long-term health benefits as well.

Coffee and hormones: Here’s how coffee really affects your health.
Neurological Effects of Caffeine.
Caffeine overdose is extremely rare – but here’s how it can happen.
How Caffeine Works. Caffeine and Adenosine.
13 Health Benefits of Coffee, Based on Science.
9 Reasons Why (the Right Amount of) Coffee is Good for You.

Professional Supplement Center New Formulations

PSC_RideWaveSusan Brown Health and Wellness EditorProfessional Supplement Center® has added six new formulations to our growing line of professional grade nutritional supplements. These high quality products are designed to support optimal health maintenance, as well as address a variety of specific wellness needs. Scientifically researched and manufactured to the highest cGMP standards, all products are formulated with superior quality raw materials assayed for identity and purity. Professional Supplement Center adheres to truth in labeling to ensure products contain only the listed components. Products are guaranteed to contain the purest and most potent ingredients without preservatives, impurities, or artificial ingredients.

To see the complete line of Professional Supplement Center brand products, please visit

Adrenal Pro EnergyAdrenal Pro Energy:  ON SALE! This comprehensive adaptogenic and B vitamin formula provides support for adrenal hormone production and a healthy adaptogenic response. High quality ingredients include a standardized extract blend of cordyceps, rhodiola and ginseng, along with bioavailable PABA and vitamins B5 and B6 for energy production, a healthy immune response, antioxidant activity and cellular protection. Free of wheat, gluten, yeast, soy, animal and dairy products, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, and artificial colors, sweeteners and preservatives. Non-GMO formulation.

Allergy Immune...Allergy Immune Balance: ON SALE! This formula provides specific nutrients for multifaceted support for hypersensitive individuals. Ingredients include bioflavonoids, micronutrients, proteolytic enzymes and botanicals in highly absorbable forms. These nutrients support the nasal and sinus passages, provide antioxidant protection and regulate an overactive or distressed histamine response to environmental allergens. Free of wheat, gluten, yeast, soy, animal and dairy products, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, and artificial colors, sweeteners and preservatives. Non-GMO formulation.

Cortisol ResetCortisol Reset: ON SALE! This multifunctional herbal formula features a unique blend of clinically tested patented ingredients that aid the body in resisting and recovering from the effects of everyday stress. Ingredients include high levels of bioactive constituents of ashwagandha, a stress-fighting, cognition-enhancing adaptogenic herb; a pure form of L-theanine, an amino acid associated with a relaxed but alert mental state; and other traditional botanicals known to support relaxation and reduce the perception of stress. Free of wheat, gluten, soy, dairy, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts and artificial colors, sweeteners and preservatives. Non-GMO formulation.

Mood StabilizerMood Stabilizer: ON SALE! Mood Stabilizer provides key nutrients including vitamins, minerals and amino acids that enhance the synthesis of certain inhibitory neurotransmitters in support of relaxation, healthy mood and healthy nervous system function. Ingredients include vitamin C, GABA, magnesium glycinate chelate, selenium, L-theanine, L-taurine and 5-HTP.  Free of wheat, gluten, soy, dairy and animal products, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, and artificial colors, sweeteners and preservatives. Non-GMO formulation.

Magnesium BalanceMagnesium Balance: ON SALE! This proprietary blend of patented magnesium is formulated for superior absorption in support of bone, cellular, joint, nerve and tissue health. As magnesium participates in more than 300 enzymatic reactions, far-reaching health benefits of adequate magnesium intake include support for energy production as well as cardiovascular and muscle health and function. Free of wheat, gluten, corn, yeast, soy, animal and dairy products, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, and artificial colors, sweeteners and preservatives. Non-GMO formulation.

Spectrum EnzymesSpectrum Enzymes: ON SALE! This broad spectrum comprehensive formula provides key digestive enzymes that function in a wide pH range to support and facilitate healthy digestion and effective absorption of nutrients. Spectrum Enzymes provides principal and complementary enzymes in support of fat, protein, carbohydrate, fiber and lactose digestion. Free of wheat, gluten, yeast, soy, animal and dairy products, fish, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs and artificial colors, sweeteners and preservatives. Non-GMO, vegan formulation.



Amino Acid Primer

AminoAcidsJacquie Eubanks RN BSNMacronutrients, specifically carbohydrates, fats and proteins, are energy providing substances the body requires in relatively large quantities. Together with micronutrient vitamins, minerals, enzymes, trace elements and phytonutrients, macronutrients provide essential nutrition necessary to thrive, as well as support proper function and good health. Of these, getting sufficient protein intake may be uppermost in minds of those who are paying close attention to their diets. Yet many official nutrition organizations recommend a fairly modest protein intake for most people. There are certain groups of people who do benefit from a larger proportion of protein in their diet relative to fats and carbohydrates. This can include body builders, elite athletes, dieters or those with dietary restrictions, as well as seniors seeking to counteract muscle loss often associated with aging. While high protein diets for weight loss have been trending for several years, many healthcare practitioners tout a largely plant-based, whole food diet with healthy combinations of nutrients for overall good health, weight management and proper bodily function.

We may think of protein strictly in terms of dietary intake, yet proteins in various forms provide the structure for all living things. In the human body, protein substances make up the muscles, ligaments, tendons, organs, glands, hair and nails, as well as vital body fluids, enzymes and hormones. In order to build specific proteins required, the body must first break down dietary protein into its constituent amino acids. Held together by a peptide bond, amino acids are comprised of hundreds or even thousands of smaller units attached to one another in long chains of polypeptides. As proteins are not interchangeable, the sequence of these links determines their unique functions and characters, with each protein tailored for a specific need. So while we think in terms of protein’s role in nutritional health, it is actually amino acids that are vital to the chemical processes that sustain life.

In order to perform biological functions, the body typically utilizes 21 types of amino acids. Certain conditionally-essential and nonessential amino acids can be synthesized by the body.  Ten are deemed essential amino acids, as they cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained from dietary plant or animal protein sources. Amino acids are necessary for cellular growth, as cells continually break down and rely on a fresh supply of amino acids to build new proteins. They also serve as precursors from which the body produces the remaining non-essential amino acids. As well, certain amino acids act as neurotransmitters or precursors to neurotransmitters that carry information between cells. Because some amino acids can pass the blood brain barrier, which functions to protect brain tissue, they can be utilized by the brain to communicate with nerve cells elsewhere in the body.

  • Optimal balance of amino acids in the diet and in circulation is crucial for whole body homeostasis.
  • In additional to their protein building roles, amino acids regulate key metabolic pathways necessary for growth, maintenance, reproduction and immunity.
  • Just like protein, amino acids provide an energy source of 4 calories per gram.
  • Certain amino acids are converted into other amino acids, proteins, glucose, fatty acids or ketones.
  • Specific amino acids function as neurotransmitters in the nervous system.
  • Some amino acids are key precursors for neurotransmitter and amino acid based hormone synthesis.
  • Specific amino acids are precursors to nucleic acids, parts of DNA.
  • Branched chain amino acids are thought to stimulate muscle recovery and may decrease muscle soreness after exercise.
  • In individuals with sleep disorders, amino acids hydroxytryptophan and GABA taken before sleep can reduce time to fall asleep, and support sleep duration and sleep quality.
  • Supplemental amino acids may help to balance chemical messengers in the brain including epinephrine, norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin, aiding healthy mood, focus and quality sleep.
  • Dietary supplementation of amino acids may be beneficial for ameliorating health problems, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome.
  • Amino acids may optimize efficiency of metabolic transformations to enhance muscle growth and athletic performance, while preventing excess fat deposition and reducing adiposity.
  • Insufficient vitamin and mineral intake, especially vitamins C and B6 can interfere with the absorption and transport of amino acids.
  • Vitamins and minerals require amino acids for performance, absorption and assimilation.

The process of breaking down proteins into amino acids, as well as assembling amino acids to make proteins, is continuous. The body produces different types of proteins as the need arises. Impaired absorption, infections, trauma, stress, age, and imbalances of other nutrients may all contribute to deficiencies of amino acids.  Failure to supply the body with sufficient amino acids daily can hinder the synthesis and reduce body levels of necessary proteins. This can lead to a gradual breakdown of tissues, such as found in muscle wasting, as well as a negative nitrogen balance. When the body lacks sufficient nutrients, it struggles to properly carry out bodily and cognitive functions. In order to reduce the risks of metabolic disorders, optimal nutrition can be achieved with a healthy varied diet, as well as intake of vitamins, trace elements and minerals to replace what is utilized each day to promote overall vitality and wellbeing.

Professional Supplement Center offers many high quality formulations in support of homeostasis and overall wellness:

Free Form Amino CapsFree Form Amino Caps by Douglas Laboratories®: This formula provides a nutritionally balanced blend of essential, conditionally-essential and non-essential amino acids in their physiological L-crystalline forms. Free of wheat gluten, soy, yeast, dairy, sugar and artificial coloring, preservatives and flavoring. Contains phenylalanine.


Amino Acid Base...Amino Acid Base Powder Unflavored by Metabolic Maintenance®: This powdered proprietary formula provides therapeutic levels of nine amino acids blended with vitamin B6 and bio-activating agents for optimal utilization. Gluten and lactose free, vegan formulation. Contains phenylalanine.


Amino Acid ComplexAmino Acid Complex by Professional Complementary Health Formulas: This high potency formula provides a balanced blend of 19 naturally occurring amino acids for overall good health and maintenance support. Contains phenylalanine.


Essential AminosEssential Aminos by Pure Encapsulations®: This hypoallergenic formulation provides free form amino acids in support of healthy muscle and body tissues. Gluten and soy free, Non-GMO vegetarian formulation.


Super Shake Plus -...Super Shake Plus – Vanilla by Nutritional Frontiers: This hypoallergenic meal replacement powder provides a delicious protein alternative suitable for vegans and vegetarians, as well as those with food allergies or sensitivities. Provides 20 g of pea, rice and pumpkin protein with a full complement of amino acids per serving. Gluten and soy free, Non-GMO vegan formulation. Chocolate formula also available. Contains phenylalanine.

Products containing phenylalanine should not be combined with Parkinson’s medications, MAO inhibitors and tricyclic antidepressants. Those who are pregnant, lactating, have a health condition or are taking medications, please consult a healthcare practitioner before using any supplements.


Amino Acids:
Amino Acids & Their Actions:
Amino acids: metabolism, functions, and nutrition:
What are proteins and what do they do?
Phyllis A. Balch, CNC. Prescription for Nutritional Healing. The Penguin Group; fifth edition, 2010.