How to make $2.09 last a lifetime

Have I mentioned how glad I am that WGBH's offices are directly across the street from a national coffee-and-donuts chain? Or how sipping icy, sugary coffee through a neon-orange straw at 3pm on a Tuesday makes my climate-controlled, gray-walled cubicle feel all bright and summery?

Okay, I'll stop the unpaid advertising. The point is: I like coffee. Good coffee, bad coffee, it's all the same to me, as long as it's caffeinated coffee. And because I'm a researcher, I like to collect evidence that this indulgence is good for me. (It is good for me, right?)

Well, Robert Motl thinks so. Motl, a former competitive cyclist, wanted to figure out why a cup of coffee gave him the extra get-up-and-go he needed to up the intensity on his rides. Now a professor of kinesiology at the University of Illinois, Motl found that caffeine actually dulls pain during exercise. Presumably, if you're not in pain, you will push through and exercise harder. The really surprising thing was that even the "caffeine tolerant" subjects in his study (Venti-a-day drinkers, that's you!) got an exercise boost from caffeine. To sum up: Caffeine is good for exercise + exercise is good for you = caffeine is good for you!

Okay, so that takes care of the body. For the brain, we'll turn to a study from the Florida Alzheimer's Disease Research Center which showed that "Alzheimer's mice" (mice bred to develop Alzheimer's-like deficiencies) regained normal memory function when they took in the caffeine equivalent of two Starbucks coffees. Somehow, the caffeine seems to clear beta amyloid--the nasty protein that makes up Alzheimer's plaques--out of the brain. 

Of course, people are not mice, and people-brains aren't mouse-brains, so take this with a grain of salt.

Or a spoonful each of sugar and cream, thank you very much.  

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