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Research in Caffeine

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Caffeine is a naturally arising alkaloid which is found in the leaves, seeds, and fruits of over 63 plants species worldwide. It is an alkaloid of the methylxanthine family. The methylxanthines caffeine (1,3,7-trimethyl xanthine), theobromine (3,7- dimethylxanthine), and theophylline (1,3-dimethylxanthine) can be usually found in tea leaves, cola nuts, coffee beans, cocoa beans, mate leaves and other kinds of plants. While coffee and tea beverages naturally contain caffeine and other methylxanthines, Caffeine aids as an ingredient in many carbonated soft drinks including colas, pepper-type beverages, and citrus beverages. Pure caffeine occurs as odorless, white, fleecy masses, glistening needles of powder. Its molecular weight is 194.19g, melting point is 236°C, point at which caffeine sublimes is 178°C at atmospheric pressure, pH is 6.9 (1% solution), specific gravity is 1.2, volatility is 0.5%, vapor pressure is 760mmHg at 178°C, solubility in water is 2.17%, vapor density 6.7. Caffeine has drawn more attention in the past decades due to its physiological effects beyond that of its stimulatory effect. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines caffeine as a generally recognized as safe (GRAS) substance. However, FDA specifies that the maximum amount in carbonated beverages is limited to 0.02% (FDA 2006). Therefore, the highest legal amount of caffeine allowed in a 355 mL (12oz) can of soft drink is about 71mg. Caffeine has attracted the interest of consumers and health professionals alike due to its wide consumption in the diet by a large percentage of the population and its pharmacological effects in humans (Mandel 2002). The human’s saliva caffeine level, which demonstrates the extent of absorption, peaks around 40 minutes after caffeine consumption (Liguori et al 1997). Its physiological effects on many body systems have been informed by researchers, containing the central nervous, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, respiratory, and renal systems (Nehliget al 1992). The International Olympic Committee (IOC) defined caffeine as a drug and abuse are indicated when athletes have urine caffeine concentrations higher than 12µg/mL.

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant. It is one of the most popular drugs in the world, consumed by up to 90% of people in the world in one form or another, but mostly in beverages. It is a naturally occurring substance found in plants like cocoa beans, tea leaves, and kola nuts. Caffeine’s strongest effects are felt for about an hour after taking it, but some effects last 4 to 6 hours. Caffeine causes increased neuron firing in the brain, which the pituitary gland perceives as an emergency and therefore causes the adrenal glands to release adrenaline. Caffeine also increases dopamine levels, the neurotransmitter that is affected by drugs like amphetamines and heroin. Obviously, it does this on a much lower level than those drugs, but this may be the source of caffeine’s addictive quality.

The Chemical and its Sources

Caffeine is now thought to be “the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world.” Some studies estimate that 90% or more of this country’s population uses caffeine, whether through foods, beverages, or prescription and over-the-counter medicines. The most common sources of caffeine for Americans include brewed coffee, brewed tea, typical cola drinks, milk and dark chocolate, and over-the-counter medications like “Anacin” and “Vivarin.” Caffeine is an alkaloid, or nitrogen-containing substance, bearing the chemical formula C8H10N4O2. It belongs to the family of chemicals known as methylxanthines, which also includes the closely related chemicals theophylline and theobromine. In its pure form, caffeine “occurs as odorless, white, fleecy masses, glistening needles or powder.” As with all methylxanthines, caffeine has low solubility and is therefore often combined with a wide variety of compound to form complexes, such as the double salt sodium benzoate, for purposes.

Medically known as trimethylxanthine

Caffeine and the other methylxanthines are found in nature “in plants widely distributed geographically.”12 Tea, which is prepared from the leaves of the plant Theasunensis, naturally contains all three of the aforementioned methylxanthines and is consumed by at least half of the entire world population.13 Cocoa and chocolate are produced “from the seeds of Theobroma cacao”; both contain caffeine and theobromine, and both are used the world over.14 The most obvious and important source of American caffeine intake, coffee, is produced from the Coffea arabica plant.15 Prior to the deliberate insertion of additional caffeine during production, many sodas contain a natural form of caffeine “because of their content of extracts of the nuts of Cola acuminata.”16 While it occurs abundantly in nature from a wide variety of sources, caffeine is also “created synthetically and by extraction

Effects of caffeine to human

Coffee is the most frequently consumed caffeine-containing beverage. The caffeine in coffee is a bioactive compound with stimulatory effects on the central nervous system and a positive effect on long-term memory. Although coffee consumption has been historically linked to adverse health effects, new research indicates that coffee consumption may be beneficial. Here we discuss the impact of coffee and caffeine on health and bring attention to the changing caffeine landscape that includes new caffeine-containing energy drinks and supplements, often targeting children and adolescents.

Caffeine has numerous physiological effects on major organ systems, including the nervous system, cardiovascular system, digestive system, and respiratory system. Renal function and skeletal muscles are also affected by caffeine. Numerous studies have proven caffeine to be a stimulant to human’s central nervous system (Spiller, 1998). It also increases heartbeat rate, dilates blood vessels and elevates levels of free fatty acids and glucose in plasma. 1 g of caffeine leads to insomnia, nervousness, nausea, ear ringing, flashing of light drilled and tremulousness. In cases of overdosing and in combination with alcohol, narcotics and some other drugs, these compounds produce a toxic effect, sometimes with the lethal outcome (Mamina and Pershin, 2002; Ben Yuhas, 2002; Manyika et al., 2010; James et al., 1990; Tavallali and Sheikhaei, 2009). Caffeine facilitates the conduction velocity in the heart and directly affects the contractility of the heart and blood vessels. Nevertheless, caffeine may significantly reduce cerebral blood flow by constricting of cerebral blood vessels. Caffeine provides a diuretic effect due to elevating the blood flow and glomerular filtration rate of the kidneys. Heartburn is an issue for some subjects’ gastrointestinal system after consuming caffeine. The effects of caffeine on skeletal muscles are mainly the increasing occurrence of tremors

Health Benefits

In Japan, researchers have shown that caffeine increases memory. Also, a newer study out of Johns Hopkins University showed that a 200mg caffeine pill helped boost memory consolidation.

Caffeine may protect against Parkinson’s disease. Research shows that those who consume coffee are at less risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and it even reduces the risk of those genetically more likely to develop the condition.

Caffeine may prevent skin cancer. A new study out of Rutgers University found that caffeine prevented skin cancer in hairless mice. Another study showed that caffeinated coffee drinkers have less risk of developing melanoma

People who consume caffeine have a lower risk of suicide.

Caffeine may reduce fatty liver in those with non-alcohol related fatty liver disease. This study comes out of Duke University.

Caffeine is shown to reduce liver fibrosis risk in patients with hepatitis C. As little as 100 mg per day is believed to have protective benefits.

Caffeine consuming men showed increased semen volume and significantly less sperm DNA fragmentation than non-caffeine consuming men. Men who consume 250-375mg of caffeine per day have a much lower risk of developing ED (erectile dysfunction). Reduced risk was even observed among men consuming as little as 85mg of caffeine daily. This research was conducted by The University of Texas Medical School.

Caffeine may prevent ringing in the ears (tinnitus) in women. A study recently published in The American Journal of Medicine followed a group of 65,085 nurses since 1991. The women who consumed the most caffeine had the lowest incidences of tinnitus reported.

Caffeine improves reaction time and logical reasoning during times when sleep isn’t possible or restricted.

Caffeine Reduces Kidney Stone Risk. In a large 217,883 person study, those that consumed caffeine from any source had less kidney stone formation than those that did not consume caffeine. The researchers believe that this is because caffeine makes urine more dilute.

Caffeine helps those with asthma. A study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine concluded that caffeine seems to open airways and help asthmatics breathe easier similarly to theophylline a drug currently used and one that’s a close cousin to caffeine.

Reduces driver error. A recent study conducted by the Australian Department of Defence found that caffeine consumption improves driving performance and reduces driver error. Caffeinated gum was used in the study on soldiers that had been sleep-deprived for 50 hours.

Caffeine may prevent weight gain. Research out of Germany showed that weight loss study participants who drank 2-4 cups of caffeinated coffee a day were more likely to be successful at keeping the weight off than those who did not consume caffeine.

Caffeine reduces chronic inflammation. Researchers from Stanford University found that caffeine blocks the expression of a gene responsible for low-grade chronic inflammation as we age.

Eventually leads to high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, and heart disease. Caffeine seems to help reduce this age-related inflammation in those that are regular consumers of the drug.

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