Caffeine is one of the most commonly used drugs in the world. It is used throughout the world in various forms, most commonly in tea and coffee. These are used in many societies and cultures. Asia consumes their caffeine in the form of tea and the United States, Europe, and the Middle East use both tea and coffee. Caffeine is also consumed in the form of soft drinks which contain caffeine – the cola drinks and many others. Coffee is used as espressos, lattes, cappuccinos and many other forms in malls, shops and bookstores throughout the United States. This is an $18-billion a year industry in the United States.
The average coffee drinker consumes 3 1/2 cups a day, an increase of 1/2 cup over a year ago. There are 113 million coffee drinkers in America. There are two main varieties of coffee plant, the Robusta and Arabica. The Robusta plant is hardier and is a less flavorful bean but contains twice as much caffeine as the Arabica and is often made into instant coffee or mixed into low-cost blends. The caffeine serves the plant as a natural insect repellant.
The amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee varies appreciably. Usually brewed coffee contains from 50-90 milligrams of caffeine per 6- ounce cup. Decaffeinated coffees generally contain no more than 5 milligrams per cup.
Eliminating the caffeine from coffee also removes much of the aroma and flavor. To remove the caffeine, the unroasted beans are then rinsed in a solvent, usually a chemical like methylene chloride or ethyl acetate, or in liquefied carbon dioxide or in water. The chemical residues are lost almost entirely in roasting however this does not mean it is safe to drink decaffeinated coffee.
Caffeine has its primary effect on the brain and acts primarily as a stimulant but it affects other organ systems in the body as well. In the Tromso heart study in Scandinavia, researchers surveyed 143,000 individuals and found a significant increase in depression and coping problems in women who drank more than eight cups of coffee daily. Why these effects did not show up in men is not known. Repeated use of caffeine leads to the development of caffeine dependency. This is one of the reasons that those who are used to their morning cup of coffee or tea find it more difficult to get started in the morning and accomplish their work if they don’t have the morning “fix” of caffeine. When they stop using their caffeine-containing beverage of choice they often develop withdrawal symptoms like headache in addition to fatigue.
Caffeine may increase the risk of cancers of the kidney, breast, pancreas, ovary, bladder and colon. Theobromine is contained in tea and chocolate and may double the risk of cancer of the prostate. One cup of coffee per day or equivalent in cola drinks may raise the diastolic and systolic blood pressure five to six points. If caffeine is consumed before or during exercise it raises the blood pressure and heart rate higher than the rates achieved by exercise alone.
The best advice and best course of action to follow is to avoid caffeine containing foods and beverages for the best health.