Folklore is trying to understand the roots of coffee. Different nations have their versions of their discovery myths that attribute different legends to the discovery. Early humans found that when barks, leaves, or seeds of such plants were chewed, their moods improved in addition to increased alertness and reduced levels of fatigue. Far later, it was discovered that, when the plant parts were submerged in stimulating effects, they were amplified. One lore says that a Chinese legend mistakenly discovered tea when it came to the discovery that when some leaves fall into steaming water, an aromatic and restorative drink was made (Fredholm 1). The origin of coffee is uncertain although one eccentric myth traces its origin to Ethiopia where it is reported that one farmer noted that his goats were elated and restless at night after browsing on the berries of a shrub. He noticed the same vitality when he tried the beans on himself and with local monks who had a similar experience. Its usage then became more widespread. The kola nut traces its ancient origins to the West Africa where it is chewed in individual and social scenes to replenish energy. The cocoa bean traces its origin to a residue found in an old pot belonging to the Maya people (Fredholm 1). Chocolate was imbibed in a drink dubbed “xocoatl” in the New World frequently seasoned with other flavors. The drink was believed to ease exhaustion, a thought which can be credited to caffeine content. Currently, about 121, 000 tons of caffeine are consumed annually around the globe. It is the most consumed psychoactive agents in the planet. 91% of Americans consume caffeine daily (Frary et al. 110). Caffeine is a common substance that has both positive and negative effects on the body, and the masses need to be well informed about this substance.
Caffeine is a naturally occurring alkaloid that is found in several plant species. Typically, it is found in the tea, coffee, cocoa and kola nuts (Christopher et al. 47). Caffeine is extracted from the beans of coffee plants. The method of extraction determines the caffeine content. Roasting reduces the content of caffeine in the beans. Robusta coffee variety contains more caffeine than Arabica variety. A single serving of brewed coffee in a 125millilitres cup yields about 90-120 milligrams of caffeine (Frary et al. 110). Caffeine is also found in processed tea leaves and buds. However, tea contains less caffeine per serving as compared to coffee depending on the concentration of the brew. Different variables such as growth conditions, preparation techniques determine caffeine content in tea. Color should not be used as a gauge of the caffeine content as some green tea contains more caffeine that black tea types. Chocolate which is obtained from cocoa beans contains minute quantities of caffeine which are insignificant as to cause effects that are equivalent to coffee. However, black chocolate has significantly higher levels of caffeine (Frary et al. 110). Cola, a soft drink which was initially was prepared from kola nuts also contains caffeine. In one serving, these non-alcoholic beverages liberate 5-55milligrams of caffeine. Energy drinks, as opposed to soft drinks, have higher amounts of caffeine per serving, amounting to 85 milligrams for Red Bull for instance (Schweitzer 39). Caffeine in these drinks is either from additives obtained from decaffeination of coffee or from the ingredients used to prepare them. An example of such components is Guarana which contains high amounts of caffeine. Other sources include leaves of yerba maté, yaupon holly, guayusa, and guarana berries (Frary et al. 110). Other pharmacological preparations containing caffeine are also available.
Effects of Caffeine are varied. Its use ranges from medicinal to recreational purposes. Caffeine has mood altering effects. It has known positive effects on mood such as increased alertness, concentration, decreased fatigue and increased vigor (James and Rogers 1). Human control trials showed that it improves cognitive function and helps to consolidate memory. It helps battle physical exertion resulting in more performance physically. In a study on athletes, it was shown to increase their stamina besides reducing muscle pain after working out (Christopher et al. 47). It helps to burn fat in the body by increasing the rate of metabolism hence reducing diseases associated with excess fat deposits in the body. People who drink 1-3 cups of caffeinated coffee are also able to maintain their weights without gain (Christopher et al. 47). It is also protective against Alzheimer’s disease besides a decreased risk of Parkinson’s disease. Dementia and stroke are also warded off. It has been shown to calm off headaches besides improving the potency of analgesics. Consumption of caffeine is associated with lower risks of depression and suicide rates possibly due to its mood elating effect (James and Rogers 1). Research showed decreased risk of throat and skin cancer with caffeine consumption (Christopher et al. 47). Due to its liver detoxification properties, there is a reduced risk of a fatty liver in addition to decreased chances of liver fibrosis following hepatitis C infection.
However, caffeine is laden with adverse effects too. The results vary for different people. Being a drug, one is bound to develop an addiction. They experience withdrawal symptoms if they do not consume caffeine (James and Rogers 1). There is an associated decrease in bone mineral density in postmenopausal women who drink more than three cups daily. For every 17000 milligrams of coffee consumed, 5 milligrams of bone calcium are lost (Christopher et al. 47). Osteoporosis, a decrease in bone mineral density, is a cause of fractures in the old. Caffeine interferes with the sleeping pattern. Lack of sleep, herein, may result in daytime exhaustion, restlessness, agitation and decreased productivity. Decreased sleep is detrimental to kids and teens as sleep is essential in cognitive development (Schweitzer 39). Its diuretic effect may cause one to wake up severally during the night which results in decreased quality of sleep. Kids have an increased risk of bedwetting (Schweitzer 39). Caffeine deters efforts to manage Type II Diabetes as it increases as it raises levels of sugar in the blood. It was found to exaggerate the increase in blood glucose levels after taking a meal (Christopher et al. 47). Caffeine has been shown to increase gut motility which causes acid reflux and intensifies the severity of ulcers. Research showed that women who consume more than two cups of coffee daily have reduced fertility (Frary et al. 110). More than four cups of coffee daily were associated with an increased risk of miscarriage among pregnant mothers. Furthermore, parents who carried the baby to full-term were bound to deliver low birth weight babies (Frary et al. 110). Moderate consumption, however, was considered safe in the research subjects. Ingestion of high doses of caffeine is lethal.
Different places across the globe have legendary figures that they credit with the discovery of caffeine. Since the ancient days, caffeine consumption has grown by leaps and bounds, becoming an all-time favorite beverage. As with many other products, caffeine has its equal share of pros and cons that underlie its usage. However, moderation is key to consumption so as to realize the maximum healthy benefits associated with caffeine.
Christopher, Gary, David Sutherland, and Andrew Smith. “Effects of caffeine in non‐withdrawn volunteers.” Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental 20.1 (2005): 47-53.
Frary, Carol D., Rachel K. Johnson, and Min Qi Wang. “Food sources and intakes of caffeine in the diets of persons in the United States.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association 105.1 (2005): 110-113.
Fredholm, Bertil B. “Notes on the history of caffeine use.” Methylxanthines. Springer Berlin Heidelberg, 2011. 1-9.
James, Jack E., and Peter J. Rogers. “Effects of caffeine on performance and mood: withdrawal reversal is the most plausible explanation.” Psychopharmacology 182.1 (2005): 1-8.
Schweitzer, Paula K., et al. “Laboratory and field studies of naps and caffeine as practical countermeasures for sleep-wake problems associated with night work.” Sleep 29.1 (2006): 39-50.