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Caffeine has long been mostly a mystery to those who enjoy its bite, but scientists have got the caffeine fix down to a pretty fine art. Through testing and research, we know basically all there is to know about why coffee makes our bodies react as it does.
Caffeine is a naturally occurring substance found in the leaves, seeds and/or fruit of over 63 plant species around the world. What it comes right down to is caffeine is an alkaloid.
Cola nuts, coffee, tea and cacao beans contain three major compounds: caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine, and each of there has different biochemical effects on the human body. The taste, effect and look of each variety of coffee bean comes down to how much of each of these compounds the coffee cherries have.
As you probably know, coffee contains caffeine, which acts as a stimulant in the human body. Consciously or not, the human body craves more caffeine when it is exposed to it for a long period, and because people usually start drinking coffee either as a means of staying awake (studying for an exam, for example), a diversion from work, or in a social situation, those cravings don’t take long to form in most people.
Coffee dependence sometimes follows, and kicking the habit can be a real drag. Government authorities in the US say that two cups a day of coffee should be about the limit for people, with anything more than that being more harmful to the body than helpful. Many people drink decaf instead of their usual coffee as a means of reducing this negative impact. Decaf is coffee that has most of the caffeine removed through the use of either water or trichloroethylene on the beans.
Not everything about the coffee bean has been exposed by science, however. Scientists hypothesize that an unknown chemical agent which stimulates the production of cortisone and adrenaline, two stimulating hormones in the human body, is present in coffee, however these two hormones aren’t particularly harmful in themselves v at least in coffee sized doses.
Coffee has a variety of helpful uses for humans — gardeners use the grounds as fertilizer to great success, while others say that coffee increases the effectiveness of pain killers, and can even help fight asthma, possibly due to the enhanced adrenal effect from the caffeine. In women, scientists have shown that coffee reduces suicidal tendencies, while it may also prevent gallstones and gallbladder disease in men, and reduce the incidence of diabetes by some 40%. Lastly, coffee’s stimulant effects and fat burning potential sees some quarters of the medical industry pushing it as a means of lowering the incidence of heart disease.
How much of this is real and how much is hokum stemming from wishful thinking in coffee drinkers remains to be seen. But one thing we can be sure of it tastes great!