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  • Nicolas Huber

Caffeine – The key to keeping you awake

By: Nicolas Huber 

 

Waking up early after a late night is never nice. Stumbling out of bed most people will go straight to their coffee machine to give them that kick to start off their morning. Suddenly, this magical liquid has given you the energy to live your day to the fullest. This is due to the chemical in coffee called caffeine.  

 

We become tired due to the build-up of the chemical adenosine that builds up throughout the day. The way caffeine works is by binding to the receptors of adenosine, thus stopping it from binding to other adenosine receptors. This in turn makes you feel more awake and alert.  

Caffeine today can be found in many different foods and drinks, such as coffee, energy drinks, teas, and dark chocolate, although they vary from concentrations from as low as 30mg/100g in some energy drinks to as high as 3.142mg/100g in instant coffee. Let’s look at a brief history of the use of caffeine. 

 

Chinese legend states, that the Chinese Emperor Chennong accidentally came across tea, when he noticed that leaving leaves in boiling water creates a fragrant and restoring drink. This was all the way back in 3000BCE!  

 

The earliest reputable source of knowledge of the coffee plant comes from the middle of the 15th century in southern Arabia. Coffee spread from Mocha to Egypt and North Africa, and by the 16th century had reached the rest of the Middle East, Turkey, and Persia. Drinking coffee spread from the Middle East to Italy and then to the rest of Europe. The Dutch then brought coffee to the Americas. The use of the Kola nut, a nut from the evergreen tree containing caffeine, is said to restore hunger and vitality. It is still used today in some African cultures.  

 

The earliest use of cocoa beans was found in some residue from an ancient Mayan pot from 600BCE. It was used in a drink called Xocolatl, believed to cure fatigue. This may be because of its caffeine and theobromine content.  

 

As with anything we put into our bodies, there is a limit with what our body can handle, and even though many people drink two, even three cups of coffee a day and still feel fine, one should limit their caffein intake to 1500 milligrams a day. Exceeding this amount of caffeine can put the body in a state called caffeinism. The symptoms of caffeinism vary from nervousness and irritability to insomnia and heart palpations. 

 

Caffeine related deaths are rare, but the believed LD50, the measurement use to state the dose of something that would kill 50/100 people is 150-200 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. So, an average adult weighing 70kg would have to drink 3 cups of coffee, or 3,5kg worth of energy drinks.  

 

All in all, the discovery of caffeine has been revolution from the day-to-day life that tires us out so. Just don’t ingest too much of it. 


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