Top 5 Stimulating Facts About Caffeine
Caffeine. The glorious drug that increases your mental alertness, wakefulness, and can almost make you a tolerable human being before 8 AM. Welcome to WatchMojo’s Top 5 Facts. In today’s instalment, we’re counting down the most energizing facts about caffeine, the tea-and-coffee-drinking world’s favourite drug of choice.
Caffeine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant of the methylxanthine class of psychoactive drugs It is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug, but unlike many other psychoactive substances, it is legal and unregulated in nearly all parts of the world. It is a bitter, white crystalline purine, amethylxanthine alkaloid, and thus closely related chemically to the adenine and guanine contained in deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA). It is found in the seeds, nuts, or leaves of a number of plants native to South America and East Asia. The most well known source of caffeine is the seed (commonly incorrectly referred to as the “bean”) of Coffea plants. Beverages containing caffeine are ingested to relieve or prevent drowsiness and to increase one’s energy level. Caffeine is extracted from the plant part containing it for making beverages by steeping it in water, a process called infusion. These beverages are very popular; in North America, 90% of adults consume caffeine daily.
Caffeine is classified by the Food and Drug Administration as “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). Toxic doses, over 10 grams per day for an adult, are much higher than typical dose of under 500 milligrams per day. A cup of coffee contains 80–175 mg of caffeine, depending on what “bean” (seed) is used and how it is prepared (e.g. drip, percolation, or espresso). Thus it requires roughly 50–100 ordinary cups of coffee to reach a lethal dose. However pure powdered caffeine, which is available as a dietary supplement, can be lethal in tablespoon-sized amounts. There are several known mechanisms of action to explain the effects of caffeine. The most prominent is to reversibly block the action of adenosine on its receptor, which blocks the onset of drowsiness induced by adenosine. Caffeine also stimulates certain portions of the autonomic nervous system.
Caffeine can have both positive and negative health effects. It can be used to treat bronchopulmonary dysplasia of prematurity, and to prevent apnea of prematurity: caffeine citrate was placed on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines in 2007. It may confer a modest protective effect against some diseases, including Parkinson’s disease and certain types of cancer. One meta-analysis concluded that cardiovascular disease such as coronary artery disease and stroke is less likely with 3–5 cups of non-decaffeinated coffee per day but more likely with over 5 cups per day. Some people experience insomniaor sleep disruption if they consume caffeine, especially during the evening hours, but others show little disturbance. Evidence of a risk during pregnancy is equivocal; some authorities recommend that pregnant women limit consumption to the equivalent of two cups of coffee per day or less. Whether or not caffeine is an addictive drug depends on how an addiction is defined. It can produce a mild form of drug dependence – associated with withdrawal symptoms such as sleepiness, headache, and irritability – when an individual stops using caffeine after repeated daily intake. Tolerance to the autonomic effects of increased blood pressure and heart rate, and increased urine output, develops with chronic use (i.e., these symptoms become less pronounced or do not occur following consistent use).
Caffeine confers a survival advantage on the plant containing it in three ways. First, if it is ingested by an insect feeding on and potentially damaging or killing the plant, caffeine functions as a natural pesticide which can paralyze and kill the insect. Second, droppings from the plant infuse the surrounding soil with caffeine, which can inhibit the growth of and kill competing seedlings (and potentially its own progeny and itself). Third, caffeine can enhance the reward memory of pollinators such as honey bees, thus increasing the numbers of its progeny.