Caffeine Facts - Learn The History & Effects
Of This Powerful Drug
I was about 13 years old when I had my first cup of coffee; coffee
and toast with butter. At that time I was in a rebellious stage,
trying new things. An act such as drinking coffee was something
adults did, and I was ready to 'grow up.'
- The drug contained in coffee. A bitter white alkaloid derived
from coffee (or tea) and used in medicine for a mild stimulant
or to treat certain kinds of headaches.
- The stimulant drug contained in coffee and tea. This is the
stuff that makes coffee so addictive. It stimulates the central
nervous system and, in the right amounts, causes adrenaline to
be released and can enhance heart function.
- An alkaloid found in coffee, tea, and kola nuts, that acts as
a stimulant and a diuretic.
- A stimulating drug found in coffee, tea, and cola beverages.
After a headache begins, caffeine may be helpful in aborting headaches,
so it is widely used in combination drugs prescribed for relief
of headache. Paradoxically, using caffeine to excess or too rapid
withdrawal from caffeine, may cause headaches in some individuals.
- A mild stimulant, the most widely used drug in the world.
Slurped in black coffee or sipped in green tea, gulped down in
a soda or knocked back in a headache pill, caffeine is the world's
most popular psychoactive drug.
Caffeine, the white, bitter-tasting, crystalline substance was
first isolated from coffee in 1820. Both words, caffeine and coffee,
are derived from the Arabic word qahweh (pronounced "kahveh"
in Turkish). Coffee trees were cultivated in the 6th century and
coffee itself began to be popular in Europe in the 17th century.
By the 18th century plantations had been established in Indonesia
and the West Indies.
Caffeine is used by fitness enthusiasts to get more out of their
workouts. Once thought of as a 'health no-no' for athletes, caffeine
is taking center stage as a legitimate aid to performance. This
benefit has been recognized by the makers of sports nutrition products
like energy gels (see chart below).
A growing body of laboratory research supports caffeine as an effective
ergogenic aid. (An ergogenic aid is a substance that improves athletic
performance.) The most dramatic performance improvements (20-50
percent) are seen during prolonged (over two-hours) endurance exercise.
Caffeine is also reported to benefit short-term intense exercise
lasting about five minutes at maximal output.
Caffeine Effects During Pregnancy
If consuming caffeine in general is something many people shouldn't
do, what about women who are pregnant? Safety of caffeine consumption
during pregnancy is controversial. Some studies suggest that small
amounts of caffeine (less than two average cups) of coffee per day
presents a slight risk to the embryo or fetus, while others do not.
There is stronger evidence that larger daily amounts of caffeine
during pregnancy may increase the risks of miscarriage, preterm
delivery and low birth weight, but no solid proof.
High caffeine intake during pregnancy should be avoided. A pregnant
woman may be able to tolerate more then her fetus can. Risks of
even small amounts of caffeine consumption are not clear. Women
trying to become pregnant may conceive sooner if they limit caffeine
intake to less then two cups daily. Breastfeeding women can minimize
infants' exposures to caffeine by avoiding a very high caffeine
Caffeine's Effects on Women's Fertility
Some studies have found a link between high levels of caffeine
consumption by women and delayed conception. Women who consumed
more than 300 mg of caffeine per day were twice as likely to have
conception delayed for a year or more.1 Another study also linked
high caffeine intake to delayed conception, but only in women consuming
500 mg or more (about four cups of coffee) per day.2 Best to keep
your caffeine intake below 300 mg a day.
Caffeine's Effects on the Developing Fetus
Caffeine easily passes from mother to fetus through the placenta.
A developing fetus may have higher, sustained blood levels of caffeine
than its mother because of immature metabolism.3 A few studies have
shown that consuming even small amounts of caffeine can affects
fetal heart rate and movement patterns.3 A pregnant woman's ability
to metabolize caffeine slows as pregnancy progresses, so some of
its effects may increase later in pregnancy.
Some studies have found that pregnant women who consumed large
quantities of caffeine (five or more cups of coffee a day) were
twice as likely to miscarry as those who consumed less, while fewer
or no effects were seen at lower levels of caffeine consumption.
Caffeine's Affects on Newborns and Infants
High caffeine consumption during pregnancy may shorten gestation
and lower birth weight.6 Both effects appear modest in terms of
days and ounces, but may be important to an infant already compromised
by prematurity or fetal growth restriction. Such effects have not
been consistently linked to moderate consumption.7
A reported link between heavy maternal caffeine intake during pregnancy
and increased risk of SIDS8 (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) has not
been supported byfurtherstudies.9
Breast milk can transfer caffeine from mother to baby. Very high
caffeine intake by a nursing mother may make her baby irritable,
with disturbed sleep cycles, but this is not known to occur from
ordinary food and beverage caffeine intake, or without use of medications
Tips on Cutting Caffeine Out Before Pregnancy
To cut caffeine out of your diet can be difficult. Many will experience
side effects like headaches and cravings. To reduce the risks of
these side effects it is recommended that you cut back slowly. For
example, a coffee drinker should start with 3/4 of a cup of regular
coffee and add 1/4 of decaffeinated coffee. Slowly they will increase
the decaffeinated coffee until it is the entire cup.
Whether you discontinue caffeine cold turkey or slowly, it will
help you to achieve a healthier pregnancy. It is also helpful to
have your partner discontinue caffeine with you. So as you prepare
for pregnancy by eliminating hazards from your diet and life, remember
a healthy body helps produce a healthy baby!
At the age of 30, I look back at when I took my first sip. Another
experience comes to mind: When my friend Karla and I made a large
pot of coffee (I was 13) and drank it all to see what would happen.
We were having a sleep over at her house, and I swear that I endured
one of my first restless nights and morning bags under my eyes.
Little did I know it that I was feeling what many grown-ups feel
daily; fatigue from lack of sleep. Oh, to be 13 and that kid again.
|Drip (6 oz. cup)
|Percolated (6 oz. cup)
|Instant regular (6 oz. cup)
|Decaffeinated (6 oz. cup)
|Coca-Cola Classic (12 ozs.)
|Coca-Cola, new (12 ozs.)
|Coke Free (12 ozs.)
|Pepsi (12 ozs.)
|Pepsi Free (12 ozs.)
|Dr. Pepper (12 ozs.)
|Mountain Dew (12 ozs.)
|Tab (12 ozs.)
|Jolt (12 ozs.)
|44 oz. cup of Coke/Pepsi
|Tea (5 min. brew, 6 ozs.)
|Cocoa and chocolate
|Cocoa beverage (water mix, 6 ozs.)
|Milk chocolate candy bar (8 ozs.)
|Baking chocolate (1 oz.)
|Carob (chocolate substitute)
|Caffedrine capsules (each)
|NoDoz tablets (each)
|Dexatrim (daily dose)
|Dietac (daily dose)
|Prolamine (daily dose)