Caffeine and how it works Vol 1.

Posted: 26/02/2013 in English, Science and stuff
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It’s as much a part of the morning ritual as brushing your teeth and making the bed. It gives energy drinks their zip. According to its adherents, it can alternately keep you calm, sharpen your mind or provide the vital boost to make it through an all-nighter.

Crave or avoid it, caffeine is a powerful influence in our lives.

Around 90 percent of Americans consume caffeine every single day in one form or another. More than half of all American adults consume more than 300 milligrams of caffeine every day, making it America’s most popular drug by far


But the U.S. is far from the lead when it comes to national caffeine consumption. According to a 2010 report by commodities analysts for Businessweek, Scandinavian nations such as Finland consume more caffeine per capita — mostly in coffee — than any other country. The report noted other surprising trends, like a move in Brazil to offer coffee drinks as part of grade-school lunches

Although Americans aren’t the world’s biggest per-capita caffeine fiends, we’re not exactly teetotalers. Research by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Medical Association (AMA) has led these groups to consider 300 milligrams (about two cups of coffee) the upper limit of a moderate daily dose. But roughly 20 percent to 30 percent of Americans consume more than 600 milligrams — considered a high dose of the drug — on a typical day

If you consume more than four cups of coffee a day, you’re probably among that number.

Caffeine is a natural component of chocolate, coffee and tea, and is added to colas and energy drinks. The international medical community recognizes caffeine withdrawal as a medical syndrome, yet it’s a common ingredient in diet pills and some over-the-counter pain relievers and medicines, and it’s being studied for its potential benefits in battling Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and even cancer

Read on to learn more about this powerful drug and our complex relationship with it.

What is Caffeine?

Caffeine is a naturally occurring chemical stimulant called trimethylxanthine. Its chemical formula is C8H10N4O2 (seeErowid: Caffeine Chemistry for an image of the molecular structure). It is a drug, and actually shares a number of traits with more notorious drugs such as amphetamines, cocaine and heroin. As we’ll explain in more detail in the next few pages, caffeine uses the same biochemical mechanisms as these other drugs to stimulate brain function: If you feel like your mind is racing after drinking one too many espressos, you’re not imagining things.

In its pure form, caffeine is a white crystalline powder that tastes very bitter. It is medically useful to stimulate the heart and also serves as a mild diuretic, increasing urine production to flush fluid out of the body.

Caffeine has been an integral part of global culture for hundreds of years. African folklore sets the discovery of coffee’s energizing properties around 800 A.D., European and Asian accounts indicate that coffee and tea were local staples as early as the 1400s. Although coffee was often seen as a rare luxury for societies far removed from coffee-growing regions, foods and drinks made from other caffeine-containing plants were likely part of humankind’s medical and nutritional arsenal since before recorded history

Today, caffeine is used much as it has been for generations: It provides a “boost of energy” or a feeling of heightened alertness. Many former students can recall using strong coffee or caffeine pills to stay awake while cramming for finals. Likewise, drivers on long road trips often fill their cup holders with energy drinks or convenience-store coffees to help them push through to their destinations.

Remember, though, that caffeine shares some traits of those much harder drugs — including the ability to cause addiction. Many people feel as though they cannot function in the morning without a cup of coffee (and its caffeine-powered boost) to kick-start the day. Caffeine’s effects may be much milder than those of illicit drugs, but kicking a caffeine habit can be difficult for someone who has made the drug a large part of his or her diet and lifestyle.

Caffeine is unlike many other drugs in that it is abundant in what we eat and drink. Read on to learn more about what foods provide most of the world’s caffeine, and discover the many ways in which consuming caffeine has become part of global culture.

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