It’s become a morning tradition-each and every day we wake up and get the day started with a cup of piping hot coffee. It seems that many of us simply can’t live without the stuff. Those quad shot, venti lattes from Starbucks have become an essential part of our morning routines. So just what is it that makes that infamous black sludge sludge so irresistible? The answer is caffeine. Caffeine is a psychoactive stimulant used throughout the world to help us get through the day.
Caffeine is actually the most widely used psychoactive ‘drug’ in the world. About 80% of the total world population consumes caffeine, in tea, in coffee, in sodas and even in chocolate, on a daily basis. Fully 90% of Americans consume caffeine in one form or other each day. Half of those 90% ingest more than 300 milligrams of caffeine on a daily, day to day basis. Caffeine makes things work.
The question becomes then, why is caffeine so necessary and what is it that makes it so appealing? In scientific terms caffeine is known as trimethylxanthine and its molecular formula is C8H10N4O2. As a pure substance, caffeine is odorless and white in appearance and acidic in taste.
It was discovered in 1819 by a German chemist by the name of Friedrich Ferdinand Runger. He named it kafein after the German word for coffee-kaffee.
Caffeine is found in beans, leaves and fruits of various plant species which use it to ward off and even kill certain types of insects.
Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it reacts with the central nervous system, and stimulates awareness, increasing alertness and warding off drowsiness. It also has diuretic properties, meaning that in those unused to its effects it can increase urine production. Caffeine is absorbed within 45 minutes of ingestion. Its half life, varies but within adults it lasts about five hours.
There are various benefits as well as disadvantages to consuming caffeine. Consuming too much caffeine-more than 6,000 mg/day which is a lot considering that the average intake is around 280 mg/day-isn’t recommended. Consuming anything in excess can lead to problems, and caffeine in excess can lead to sleeping disorders and even addiction.
It’s easy to build up a tolerance for caffeine. This basically means that your body easily adapts to higher levels, which means you end up having to intake more caffeine to feel its effects. Those who do consume high amounts of caffeine each day often end up feeling withdrawal symptoms such headaches and stomach pains when they don’t get their caffeine ‘fix’.
Caffeine, when taken in moderate amounts, has been proven to stimulate mental and physical prowess. Scientific trials have proven that it can enhance athletic endurance.
Your typical drip-brewed coffee contains about 100 mg of caffeine. A cup of black tea (8 oz) contains 50 mg of caffeine. Sodas such as Coke and Pepsi contain 40-50 mg per 12 ounce can, while chocolate contains 6 mg per ounce.
Some studies have correlated miscarriages with increased caffeine intake amongst pregnant women, but there is no conclusive, hard evidence to support a direct link.
Some religious followers don’t consume caffeine-Christian Scientists, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, among others.
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