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What Is Caffeine?

Caffeine (also caffein) is a bitter, white crystalline xanthine alkaloid that is a psychoactive stimulant drug. Caffeine was discovered by a German chemist, Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge, in 1820. He coined the term kaffein, a chemical compound in coffee (the German word for which is Kaffee), which in English became caffeine (and changed to Koffein in German).

Caffeine is found in varying quantities in the beans, leaves, and fruit of some plants, where it acts as a natural pesticide that paralyzes and kills certain insects feeding on the plants. It is most commonly consumed by humans in infusions extracted from the bean of the coffee plant and the leaves of the tea bush, as well as from various foods and drinks containing products derived from the kola nut. Other sources include yerba mate, guarana berries, and the Yaupon Holly.

Caffeine is the world’s most popular ‘drug’. Many of us can’t get going in the morning without a cup of coffee! Caffeine undoubtedly gives us a buzz — it’s a stimulant that perks us up and makes us more alert. It can also boost our exercise performance, and could reduce the risk of some neurological diseases.

But there’s a darker side to caffeine. It can cause headaches, migraines, heart palpitations, sleep problems, problems in pregnancy, anxiety and shakiness. It also reduces the amount of iron we absorb from food, and increases the amount of calcium lost from the body.

You should cut down on your caffeine intake if you’re consuming more than four cups of coffee’s worth of caffeine a day.

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