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Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine 1st Edition

16 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195092899
ISBN-10: 0195092899
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Hardcover, October 31, 1996
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Whether they prefer scotch on the rocks or a double mocha latte, readers will enjoy Braun's dissection of caffeine, alcohol and the processes by which they work. For one thing, the presentation of complicated scientific concepts is understandable without being condescending. Braun makes analogies ("Drinking caffeine is thus like putting a block of wood under one of the brain's primary brake pedals") that help the reader to visualize what's going on. The book is also helped by the author's inclusion of stories and humorous moments. From David Letterman quotes ("If it weren't for the caffeine, I'd have no identifiable personality whatsoever") to personal anecdotes about the effects these two mood-altering substances had upon the formulation of his book, Braun manages to take abstract concepts and mold them into something highly readable. Science novices should find this book as enjoyable and well-written as those who have spent their lives working with biology or chemistry.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Now a producer at the New England Research Institutes, science writer Braun engagingly describes the chemistry, metabolism, physiological and behavioral effects, and reputed health benefits of the world's two most popular drugs: alcohol and caffeine. He seasons the book with references to history, folklore, and literature. (Did you know that Bach wrote a Coffee Cantata?) The treatment of controversial issues?such as the correlation between risk of heart disease and moderate wine consumption?is balanced, and the science is sound. Whether the subject is the cause of hangovers or the effects of caffeine consumption on PMS, Braun has a knack for interpreting the findings of medical researchers and applying them to daily life. He also includes a postscript on the two years he spent researching the book and how it moderated his own alcohol and caffeine consumption. Recommended for academic and public libraries.?Eris Weaver, Marin Inst. for the Prevention of Alcohol & Other Drug Problems, San Rafael, Cal.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 214 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (October 31, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195092899
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195092899
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #615,444 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By drongo on March 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Science journalist Stephen Braun explores the science and lore of alcohol and caffeine in this slim but informative little volume. Recent progress in understanding brain chemistry has given scientists a different perspective on the workings of these two of mankind's oldest chemical friends.
Alcohol is a small molecule which is soluble in both fat and water and consequently its physiological effects are manifold. Rather than the simple depressant it was once presumed to be, it is in fact a "pharmacy in a bottle" which can mimic cocaine, amphetamines, opium and valium. Given that the brain contains 40 or so neurotransmitters, it is fair to say that the full effects of alcohol are still far from being understood; broadly, however, it can reduce anxiety and stimulate the reward centres of the brain. Its effects on sexual desire and sleep are contradictory. It raises desire, yet in large quantities impedes performance. The stimulating effect is in part psychological: research volunteers who believed they had consumed alcohol but hadn't, became more aroused than those who had but thought they hadn't. It promotes sleepiness, yet worsens the quality of sleep and interferes with the sleep cycle. The effects vary with gender. In one survey 68% of women, but only 45% of men, replied that alcohol enhances sex. The oft-observed fact of women becoming intoxicated faster then men on a given dose is apparently due not to differences in blood volume (otherwise why would small men not also become drunk faster?) but rather to a difference in the effectiveness of alcohol dehydrogenase (an enzyme which can exist in 17 different varieties in the same person), a difference which fades with age.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 6, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Caffeine and alcohol are two of the most popular drugs on earth, and yet until recently not a whole lot has been found out about how they affect us. Stephen Braun's "Buzz" compiles the latest research on them, and examines the truth of various myths that have grown up around them. Braun looks at each drug separately and records his findings with a clarity of prose that will delight the general reader. His book goes down like a smooth cup of Joe, or a sip of Kentucky bourbon. -- Bill Pesche
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By David Blanton on September 18, 2008
Format: Hardcover
"Buzz" blasts a lot of long-held myths about two of our favorite drugs. The history - and the resulting culture around them - of booze and the most common pick-me-upper is engrossing and madly entertaining. I wish, really, there had been a little more of that. But the book tilts ultimately (somewhat gently, thankfully) into the relatively deep biochemistry behind our reactions to and devotions to caffeine and alcohol, too. A lot, but not quite all, of that is cast in beautiful lay context that really connects the science to the personal.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Chuck G on May 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book breaks down the biological and chemical reactions that allow caffeine and alcohol to affect us. It explains everything in a very detailed manner (describing molecule shape affects it's role in the body, how alcohol's depressant affects work a similar mechanism to valiums, etc), and then goes a step further to give a simple break down of the explanation. It is really fascinating how complex the human body and it's interaction with these substances are.

Overall, this book is for the type of person with an interest in the science behind these substances, but doesn't have the time/patience to read oodles of medical texts.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By -- on May 30, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If you drink coffee, tea, wine, or anything else with Coffee or Alcohol in it, this book is a must read.

The author doesn't take a stance for or against either drug. He simply explains the mechanism of action and role in society of each substance.

For the most part the science portion was fun; most non-nerds like myself can understand it.

Some things are "debunked", like caffeine not helping sober someone up. In fact, the science is more complicated than simple rules like "caffeine doesn't sober you up". Exact dosage of each drug and specific activity being performed matters.

I wish I would have read this years ago.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on February 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a good introduction to how these two chemicals work in your body and I learned a few new tricks as well. Written simply enough for most non-biochemists to get the idea. The tips on how to get a better buzz with less alcohol and why smoking reduces caffeine uptake were especially interesting. If you drink either, even casually, it would be worth the read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David case on March 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is enlightening on what's actually happening when you drink coffee or alcohol. I didn't lose interest despite the chemistry. I wish that more information would have been given more scientific methods of controlling one's intake of these substances.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By D. T. Kleven on December 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I am a coffee drinker, and I like to be as informed as possible about the things I put into my body and how they affect me. I read this book primarily out of interest in the caffeine part of the book. In fact, I started in the middle, intending only to read the chapters on caffeine (as I really don't drink much by way of alcohol), but Braun's writing was so interesting that I went back and read the rest of the book anyway. In all, this is a fascinating book, and I don't think it's because I love chemistry. Braun has a way of putting complex biochemical processes in simple terms and using entertaining analogies. He explains how our bodies respond to these two substances, from the stomach to the blood to the brain and all of the complex interactions with other neurotransmitters.

Did you know that caffeine doesn't actually "speed you up" it just blocks the brain process that is supposed to "slow you down"? kind of like putting a brick under the brake pedal, not so much as stomping the accelerator. I didn't know that until I read this book.

But it's not just a chemistry book, it delves into the myths, the legends, the folk wisdom around these substances, and goes back hundreds of years finding quotes that deal with these two substances throughout history. In all this was a fascinating book, very entertaining, and very enlightening. If you consume either of these substances and want to understand better how they affect you, give this book a try. You'll be entertained in the process.
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