Caffeine has been called the most popular drug in the world. It is found naturally in over 60 plants including the coffee bean, tea leaf, kola nut and cacao pod. All over the world people consume caffeine on a daily basis in coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate, some soft drinks, and some drugs.
Because caffeine is a stimulant, most people use it after waking up in the morning or to remain alert during the day. While it is important to note that caffeine cannot replace sleep, it can temporarily make us feel more alert by blocking sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increasing adrenaline production.
There is no nutritional need for caffeine in the diet. Moderate caffeine intake, however, is not associated with any recognized health risk. Three 8 oz. cups of coffee (250 milligrams of caffeine) per day is considered a moderate amount of caffeine. Six or more 8 oz. cups of coffee per day is considered excessive intake of caffeine.
Caffeine enters the bloodstream through the stomach and small intestine and can have a stimulating effect as soon as 15 minutes after it is consumed. Once in the body, caffeine will persist for several hours: it takes about 6 hours for one half of the caffeine to be eliminated. There are numerous studies to support the idea that caffeine causes physical dependence. If you suspect that you or someone you know is dependent on to caffeine, the best test is to eliminate it and look for signs of withdrawal, such as headache, fatigue and muscle pain.
Although caffeine is safe to consume in moderation, it is not recommended for children. It may negatively affect a child's nutrition by replacing nutrient-dense foods such as milk. A child may also eat less because caffeine acts as an appetite suppressant. Caffeine can be safely eliminated from a child's diet since there is no nutritional requirement for it.
Although the FDA does not advise against women who are pregnant or nursing to eliminate caffeine from the diet, many experts recommend limiting the amount consumed during that time to one or two 8 oz.