U.S. National Public Radio published a February 2016 story titled "Caffeine for Sale: The Hidden Trade of the World's Favorite Stimulant" about how caffeine is removed from coffee beans and then where it goes after the decaf coffee is made.
Now there is a huge, worldwide trade in caffeine extracted from coffee beans. It is used in soda, energy drinks, medications and candies that have no natural caffeine content. And people wonder if synthetic caffeine is more dangerous than caffeine from natural sources. Scientists say there is no difference between the two.
Anhydrous caffeine is derived from coffee beans, guarana berries and tea leaves and other natural plant sources. It is prepared in a lab and is reduced to white crystals. Anhydrous caffeine dissolves in water and mixes easily with other substances. But this powder is powerful in minute doses. It is best to allow experts who make approved products, guided by people who know the chemistry and how much to administer in, say, a caffeine pill or mint.
There are many articles and blogs on the World Wide Web touting caffeine as a supplement for enhancing athletic performance and increasing gain from weightlifting and other types of workouts
It seems caffeine may enhance memory and learning, but not if it is taken before the lesson is to be learned. Research from a few years ago says caffeine should be taken after that important business meeting, crucial college lecture or other knowledge-imparting event you need to recall.
Some studies show a benefit from caffeine on memory, some show none. Same with alcohol. But it seems scientists find with few exceptions that good diets promote healthy minds and bodies.
Whatever you do, don't begin using caffeine to treat ADHD without a doctor's advice. Parents with children with ADHD especially should take this advice to heart. Caution should be used by other people who have other health problems, such as anxiety, high blood pressure, glaucoma or heart, liver or kidney disease.
One doctor says: "Caffeine is not the answer for real, bonafide ADHD. I don't want parents to be deluded into a false sense of security that if I just go to the local Starbucks, I'm going to cure my son or daughter's ADHD."
Is there a big difference between synthetic and natural caffeine? Apparently, synthetic caffeine is much more powerful than the caffeine found naturally in plants. The question is, is synthetic caffeine harmful?
Some fairly ominous-sounding chemicals are used to process synthetic caffeine. Websites are unclear as to whether the ethyl acetate and methylene chloride (and carbon dioxide) used to process urea to manufacture synthetic caffeine remain in the product. Ethyl acetate is used as a flavoring in some foods, though, so perhaps it is not harmful and may remain in synthetic caffeine.
Caffeine and fasting are controversial in some circles. Is it truly fasting if you have coffee or other liquids during your time of abstaining from eating? Some people say to be a pure fast, one must drink only water and eat nothing. Others maintain that having coffee and/or other liquids is healthier and ensures you don’t become dehydrated.
Another reason people get sleepy after caffeine is that people can build up a tolerance for caffeine, a stimulant and the most-consumed mood-altering substance in the world. It’s like alcohol. After months of years of heavy drinking, you need more to get the drug’s full effect.
Yet another reason people feel sleepy soon after taking caffeine is that it may wear off, and, as Men’s Health puts it, “The high comes with a crash.”
A 2015 study of more than 1.2 million people found that folks who drink 3 to 5 cups of black coffee a day have fewer heart problems than those who drink none. People who drink 5 or more cups don’t have any more problems than anyone else.
Two other studies, meta-analyses that collated data from 11 other research articles, found that drinking 2 to 6 cups a day results in a lower risk of stroke disease. One of those meta-studies included data from more than 500,000 participants.
Ten minutes after that first sip of coffee, the subtle but invigorating effects of caffeine kick in, making getting out there and facing the day seem less daunting.
And in a surprising finding, one study found that decaffeinated coffee, which contains only 2 to 3 percent of the caffeine of regular coffee, also contributes (slightly) to a person’s alertness.
The writer, Dan Charles, bought a 4-ounce bag of caffeine and said it had as much caffeine as 1,000 tall Starbucks lattes. He said this caffeine was created in coffee beans on a hillside in the tropics. “Slowly and quietly, driven by the energy of sunlight, it formed inside coffee beans hanging on thousands of trees, most likely in Brazil or Vietnam,” Charles wrote.
“Those beans were harvested, loaded on ships bound for the port of Houston, Texas, and ended up at a factory within sight of downtown Houston: Atlantic Coffee Solutions. It’s owned by one of the world’s largest coffee traders, ECOM Agroindustrial Corp., which is based in Switzerland.”
We have good news and bad news for the 30 to 40 percent of you who promote the efficacious movement of the bowels every morning with a big cup or two of coffee. The good news is, coffee and tea help some people move their bowels. The bad news also is that joe can help you go.
How can that be bad? Because you rely on a chemical to make you regular. Some people report constipation if they don’t get their usual dose of coffee. There don’t seem to be any scientific studies on this effect that are indexed on Google, but there are several anecdotal Web pages where people state stopping coffee cold turkey causes constipation at least temporarily.
About 90 percent of American adults take caffeine daily. Half or more of them are subject to caffeine withdrawal symptoms when they don’t get a fix, including headaches, fatigue, drowsiness, depression and irritability.
This may not seem like much of a problem because caffeine and coffee users are like Charlton Heston and his guns: They’ll give up caffeine when someone takes their coffee from their cold, dead hands.