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Infobox disclaimer and references

Caffeine is a bitter, white crystalline xanthine alkaloid that acts as a psychoactive stimulant drug. Caffeine was discovered by a German chemist, Friedrich Ferdinand Runge, in 1819. He coined the term "kaffein", a chemical compound in coffee, which in English became caffeine.[1] Caffeine is also part of the chemical mixtures and insoluble complexes guaranine found in guarana, mateine found in mate, and theine found in tea; all of which contain additional alkaloids such as the cardiac stimulants theophylline and theobromine, and often other chemicals such as polyphenols which can form insoluble complexes with caffeine.[2]

Caffeine is found in varying quantities in the beans, leaves, and fruit of some plants, where it acts as a natural pesticide that paralyzes and kills certain insects feeding on the plants. It is most commonly consumed by humans in infusions extracted from coffee beans and the leaves of the tea bush, as well as from various foods and drinks containing products derived from the kola nut. Other sources include yerba mate, guarana berries, and the Yaupon Holly.

In humans, caffeine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, having the effect of temporarily warding off drowsiness and restoring alertness. Beverages containing caffeine, such as coffee, tea, soft drinks and energy drinks enjoy great popularity. Caffeine is the world's most widely consumed psychoactive substance, but unlike many other psychoactive substances it is legal and unregulated in nearly all jurisdictions. In North America, 90% of adults consume caffeine daily.[3] The U.S. Food and Drug Administration lists caffeine as a "Multiple Purpose Generally Recognized as Safe Food Substance".[4]

Caffeine has diuretic properties, at least when administered in sufficient doses to subjects who do not have a tolerance for it.[5] Regular users, however, develop a strong tolerance to this effect,[5] and studies have generally failed to support the common notion that ordinary consumption of caffeinated beverages contributes significantly to dehydration.[6][7][8]


File:Roasted coffee beans.jpg

Roasted coffee beans, the world's primary source of caffeine

Caffeine is found in many plant species, where it acts as a natural pesticide, with high caffeine levels being reported in seedlings that are still developing foliages, but are lacking mechanical protection;[9] caffeine paralyzes and kills certain insects feeding upon the plant.[10] High caffeine levels have also been found in the surrounding soil of coffee bean seedlings. It is therefore understood that caffeine has a natural function as both a natural pesticide and as an inhibitor of seed germination of other nearby coffee seedlings thus giving it a better chance of survival.[11]

The most commonly used caffeine-containing plants are coffee, tea, and to a lesser extent cocoa.[12] Less commonly used sources of caffeine include the yerba maté and guarana plants,[13] which are sometimes used in the preparation of teas and energy drinks. Two of caffeine's alternative names, mateine and guaranine, are derived from the names of these plants.[14][15] Some yerba mate enthusiasts assert that mateine is a stereoisomer of caffeine, which would make it a different substance altogether.[13] This is not true because caffeine is an achiral molecule, and therefore has no enantiomers; nor does it have other stereoisomers. The disparity in experience and effects between the various natural caffeine sources could be due to the fact that plant sources of caffeine also contain widely varying mixtures of other xanthine alkaloids, including the cardiac stimulants theophylline and theobromine and other substances such as polyphenols which can form insoluble complexes with caffeine.[16]

The world's primary source of caffeine is the coffee "bean" (which is actually the seed of the coffee plant), from which coffee is brewed. Caffeine content in coffee varies widely depending on the type of coffee bean and the method of preparation used;[17] even beans within a given bush can show variations in concentration. In general, one serving of coffee ranges from 40 milligrams, for a single shot (30 milliliters) of arabica-variety espresso, to about 100 milligrams for a cup (120 milliliters) of drip coffee. Generally, dark-roast coffee has less caffeine than lighter roasts because the roasting process reduces the bean's caffeine content.[18][19] Arabica coffee normally contains less caffeine than the robusta variety.[17] Coffee also contains trace amounts of theophylline, but no theobromine.

Tea is another common source of caffeine. Although tea contains more caffeine than coffee, a typical serving contains much less, as tea is normally brewed much weaker. Besides strength of the brew, growing conditions, processing techniques and other variables also affect caffeine content. Certain types of tea may contain somewhat more caffeine than other teas. Tea contains small amounts of theobromine and slightly higher levels of theophylline than coffee. Preparation and many other factors have a significant impact on tea, and color is a very poor indicator of caffeine content.[20] Teas like the pale Japanese green tea gyokuro, for example, contain far more caffeine than much darker teas like lapsang souchong, which has very little.

Caffeine is also a common ingredient of soft drinks such as cola, originally prepared from kola nuts. Soft drinks typically contain about 10 to 50 milligrams of caffeine per serving. By contrast, energy drinks such as Red Bull can start at 80 milligrams of caffeine per serving. The caffeine in these drinks either originates from the ingredients used or is an additive derived from the product of decaffeination or from chemical synthesis. Guarana, a prime ingredient of energy drinks, contains large amounts of caffeine with small amounts of theobromine and theophylline in a naturally occurring slow-release excipient.[21]

Chocolate derived from cocoa contains a small amount of caffeine. The weak stimulant effect of chocolate may be due to a combination of theobromine and theophylline as well as caffeine.[22] Chocolate contains too little of these compounds for a reasonable serving to create effects in humans that are on par with coffee. A typical 28-gram serving of a milk chocolate bar has about as much caffeine as a cup of decaffeinated coffee.

Various manufacturers market caffeine tablets, claiming that using caffeine of pharmaceutical quality improves mental alertness. These effects have been borne out by research that shows that caffeine use (whether in tablet form or not) results in decreased fatigue and increased attentiveness.[23] These tablets are commonly used by students studying for their exams and by people who work or drive for long hours.[24]

Synthesis and properties

Anhydrous (dry) United States Pharmacopoeia-grade caffeine

In 1819, the German chemist Friedrich Ferdinand Runge isolated relatively pure caffeine for the first time. According to Runge, he did this at the behest of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.[25] In 1827, Oudry isolated "theine" from tea, but it was later proved by Gerardus Johannes Mulder and Jobat that theine was the same as caffeine.[25] The structure of caffeine was elucidated near the end of the 19th century by Hermann Emil Fischer, who was also the first to achieve its total synthesis.[26] This was part of the work for which Fischer was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1902. The nitrogen atoms are all essentially planar (in sp2 orbital hybridisation), resulting in the caffeine molecule having aromatic character. Being readily available as a byproduct of decaffeination, caffeine is not usually synthesized.[27] If desired, it may be synthesized from dimethylurea and malonic acid.[28]

Physical and psychological effects of caffeine

Caffeine has widespread physical and physiological effects these are covered in a seperate article. See Physical and psychological effects of caffeine

See also


  • Weinberg BA, Bealer BK. The world of caffeine. New York & London: Routledge, 2001. ISBN 0-415-92722-6.
  • Note (1): Noever, R., J. Cronise, and R. A. Relwani. 1995. Using spider-web patterns to determine toxicity. NASA Tech Briefs 19(4):82. Published in New Scientist magazine, 27 April 1995.
  • JE James and KP Stirling, "Caffeine: A Summary of Some of the Known and Suspected Deleterious Habits of Habitual Use," British Journal of Addiction, 1983;78:251-58.
  • Hughes JR, McHugh P, Holtzman S. "Caffeine and schizophrenia." Psychiatr Serv 1998;49:1415-7. Fulltext. PMID 9826240.
  • Shannon MW, Haddad LM, Winchester JF. Clinical Management of Poisoning and Drug Overdose, 3rd ed.. 1998. ISBN 0721664091.
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders ISBN 0890420610
  • Trice, I., and Haymes, E. (1995). "Effects of caffeine ingestion on exercise-induced changes during high intensity, intermittent exercise". International Journal of Sports Nutrition. 37-44.
  • Tarnopolsky, M. A. (1994). "Caffeine and endurance performances". Sports Medicine (Vol. 18 Ed. 2): 109 – 125.
  • Ivy, J., Costill, D., Fink, W. et al. (1979). "Influence of caffeine and carbohydrate feedings on endurance performance". Medical Science Sports Journal (Vol. 11). 6-11.
  • Dews, P.B. (1984). "Caffeine: Perspectives from Recent Research". Berlin: Springer-Valerag.
  • Cornelis MC, El-Sohemy A, Kabagambe EK, Campos H. Coffee, CYP1A2 genotype, and risk of myocardial infarction JAMA. 2006 Mar 8;295(10):1135-41 PMID 16522833

External links

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Wiktionary: Caffeine

Caffeine toxicity

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  4. 21 CFR 182.1180. U.S. Code of Federal Regulations. U.S. Office of the Federal Register. URL accessed on 2007-02-16.
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  6. Really? The Claim: Caffeine Causes Dehydration The New York Times
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  14. PubChem: mateina. National Library of Medicine. URL accessed on 2006-08-16.. Generally translated as mateine in articles written in English
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  24. Pullicino, I.. Altasterol Caffeine Pro+ and mental alertness. Articles base & Alta Care Laboratoires.
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