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article imageEssential Science: Algorithm provides caffeine in-take strategy

By Tim Sandle     Jun 10, 2019 in Science
For many people caffeine is an effective stimulant, providing much needed alertness. But when is the best time drink coffee? And how can you avoid drinking too much? An algorithm has the answers.
Researchers from the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine have devised a web-based caffeine optimization tool. The algorithm, as Neuroscience News reports, successfully provides an effective strategy to maximize alertness and to avoid excessive caffeine consumption. Based on preliminary results from a new study,. the algorithm is turning out to be effective.
The welcome sign of the coffee pot  perfect for the after dinner digestive.
The welcome sign of the coffee pot, perfect for the after dinner digestive.
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant and the world's most widely consumed psychoactive drug (about 80 percent of U.S. adults take some form of caffeine every day, normally in the form of coffee). In terms of the effect of being 'alert', caffeine reversibly blocks the action of adenosine on its receptor and consequently prevents the onset of drowsiness induced by adenosine. Adenosine plays an important role in biochemical processes, such as energy transfer.
Caffeine also increases energy metabolism throughout the brain but decreases at the same time cerebral blood flow, inducing a relative brain hypoperfusion.
Cappuccino at Browns in London  with the classic  B  marked in chocolate upon frothed milk.
Cappuccino at Browns in London, with the classic 'B' marked in chocolate upon frothed milk.
Developing the new algorithm
The researchers ran a series of multiple sleep-deprivation and shift-work scenarios through a machine learning platform. Through this, a caffeine-consumption guidance system was generated, drawing on the open-access tool 2B-Alert Web 2.0. The aim was to offer a model to predict the alertness of a typical individual as a function of the person's sleep/wake schedule and caffeine schedule.
The processed results were compared the results with the U.S. Army guidelines. The analysis revealed that the solutions suggested by the caffeine optimization algorithm needed an average 40 percent less caffeine or enhanced alertness by an additional 40 percent. As an example, imagine you've been out all night partying and it is work the next day. There's an early presentation and you need to be at peak alertness for 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., and you desire to consume as little caffeine as possible. The algorithm will tell you when and how much caffeine should you consume.
A cup of coffee at a cafe.
A cup of coffee at a cafe.
According to lead researcher Dr. Jaques Reifman: "Our 2B-Alert Web tool allows an individual, in our case our service members, to optimize the beneficial effects of caffeine while minimizing its consumption."
He adds: "We found that by using our algorithm, which determines when and how much caffeine a subject should consume, we can improve alertness by up to 64 percent, while consuming the same total amount of caffeine."
There is a downside of consuming too much caffeine, and the algorithm also addresses this. Caffeine exerts effects on anxiety and sleep which vary according to individual sensitivity.
Using the caffeine assessment tool
The algorithm is accessible for all on-line and it enables users to manually enter a sleep/wake/peak alertness schedule, plus caffeine dosing and timing. The output provides predictions for three different statistics of alertness. Essentially, where the user desires a desired period of peak alertness, the algorithm will provide the estimated optimal caffeine schedules.
Research paper
The research has been published in the journal Sleep. The research paper is titled "0324 2B-Alert Web 2.0: An Open-access Tool to Determine Caffeine Doses That Optimize Alertness."
The research was also presented to the San Antonio at SLEEP 2019, the 33rd annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC (APSS).
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This article is part of Digital Journal's regular Essential Science columns. Each week Tim Sandle explores a topical and important scientific issue. Last week we looked at how a genetically modified fungus rapidly kills 99 percent of malaria mosquitoes, a new study reveals. The introduction of the transgenic fungus could significantly reduce malaria mosquito populations.
The week before we considered how microbiome research has revealed a connection between our microorganisms and anxiety symptoms.
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