Published on Oct 12, 2015

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The Department of Defence has confirmed what the overworked and sleep deprived have known for more than a millennium: caffeine is the sweet elixir of the fatigued.

A joint study between researchers from Australia and the United States found caffeine had a positive effect on reducing cognitive fatigue – essentially, how hard the brain has to work to concentrate on completing tasks.

Participants in the driving simulation study were asked to chew caffeinated gum that released a measured dose absorbed by the brain within 10 minutes with effects lasting 90 minutes.

Although the caffeine only marginally reduced drowsiness, it was found to significantly reduce driving errors.

Chief Defence Scientist Dr Alex Zelinsky said the study was part of broader research aimed at reducing fatigue in individuals and teams in Army vehicles.

“Whilst the findings are relevant to Defence, they have significant implications for civilian application such as emergency services and long-haul transport,” Dr Zelinsky said.

Caffeine might help professional drivers and armed service personnel avoid collisions, but in an office environment the stakes are a little lower.  The only collision a caffeine boost might help a fatigued office worker avoid is one between his forehead and his keyboard.

Caffeine of coffee?

Not all caffeine is created equally.  Energy drinks often contain a high amount of sugar and other additives like taurine which can lead to increased blood pressure.  Caffeine on its own can weaken a person’s glucose tolerance.

However, there’s an increasing body of evidence to suggest up to 400 milligrams of caffeine consumed  by healthy adults via coffee can deliver several health benefits including improved liver function and decreased risks of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes.

Taking a coffee break in the workplace also has its perks.  It’s been found even just a 15 minute break can combat cognitive fatigue, improve concentration, reduce stress and boost productivity.

Did you know?

A four month old Luwak is tempted by some red coffee beans at the BAS Coffee plantation January 20, 2011 in Tapaksiring, Bali, Indonesia. The Luwak coffee is known as the most expensive coffee in the world because of the way the beans are processed and the limited supply. The Luwak is an Asian palm civet, which looks like a cross between a cat and a ferret. The civet climbs the coffee trees to find the best berries, eats them, and eventually the coffee beans come out in its stools as a complete bean. Coffee farmers then harvest the civet droppings and take the beans to a processing plant. Luwak coffee is produced mainly on the islands of Sumatra, Java, Bali and Sulawesi in the Indonesian Archipelago, and also in the Philippines.

Image courtesy of Cat Poop Coffee Inc.

The most expensive brew in the world is courtesy of this little guy.  Called Kopi Luwak – that’s Indonesian for cat poop coffee – it’s exactly what it says it is.

Coffee beans are eaten by a small cat-like animal called a civet and then collected after they exit the end of the digestion process.

At upwards of $80 a cup, experts suggest one should avoid adding milk or sugar in order to experience the pure flavour which is said to be mild and smooth with only a touch of acidity.