Interesting facts about caffeine
Whether you get your caffeine buzz from coffee, tea or a can of Coke Cola caffeine is an amazing product. I also bet you never knew that caffeine got one 19th Century scientist very excited, so excited in fact that he went on to get a Nobel Prize!
According to legend, Ethiopian shepherds first realized the profound caffeinating effects of coffee when they noticed their goats started “dancing” after eating coffee berries.
Okay, let’s get the science bit out of the way first. Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant of the methylzanthine class. It is the world’s most widely used drug – but it is legal and largely unregulated in virtually every corner of the world. Caffeine is a bitter, white crystalline purine and is found in around 60 plants naturally including Cocoa beans, coffee beans, kola beans and tea trees. Today it is hard to find a drink product that does not contain caffeine in one form or another. In 2005 90 percent of North American adults consumed a drink with caffeine in it every single day.
Caffeine has been given a bad rap for keeping people up; but it also keeps people alert. Caffeine can also be used proactively to treat bronchopulmonary dysplasia as well as having noticeable effects with Parkinson’s disease sufferers and in some cases of cancer too. On the downside it can also lead to extreme irritability, insomnia and bone mass loss. As with any drug too much of it and it can be deadly; but to put that into some form of context you would need to be drinking 50-100 ordinary cups of coffee every day to reach the lethal dose.
In the natural world caffeine is a natural pesticide. Researchers have seen plants being eaten by predator insects paralysing them and killing them as they consume the caffeine in the leaves and stem of the plants.
The history of our use of caffeine is quite recent dating back to 1819 when the German chemist Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge isolated pure caffeine and gave it the rather uninspiring name Kaffebase. Kaffebase basically means ‘a base that exists in coffee. Two years later three French chemists Pierre Jean Robiquet, Pierre Joseph Pelletier and Joseph Bienaime Caventou also isolated caffeine. The Frenchmen and German did not know of each others’ work in the same field. Seventy odd years later in 1895, German chemist Hermann Emil Fischer became the first scientist to create synthesized caffeine from its chemical components and was later awarded the Nobel Prize for Science in 1902 for his work with caffeine.
So caffeine is a very interesting, yet slightly addictive substance that we all at some point consume. There are some final things I’d like to mention before we finish. If you thought that caffeine was one of the reasons you seem to be going to the toilet so much…think again. It was once thought to be a significant diuretic but it’s only partially true…if you drink too much coffee then yes you will be spending more time in the water closet. The buzz you feel after drinking coffee is from ingesting tiny crystals of caffeine. So small they are about 0.0016 of an inch in size. What’s more those tiny little crystals work extremely hard; within ten minutes of consuming them they are having an effect on your nervous system and giving you a stimulus.
Finally, if you’re trying to do exercise perhaps have a cup of coffee or tea before you go on that treadmill or rowing machine as caffeine increases your levels of adrenaline and releases fatty acids of fat tissues leading to better physical performance.