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  • caffeine is a natural trimethylxanthine alkaloid which acts as a pesticide and perhaps herbicide and thus protects the growth of coffee bean plant and similar plants (tea, kola, cacao plants) which produce it.
  • coffee drinking became popular in Europe in mid-17th century
  • chocolate was introduced to Europe by the Spaniards and became a popular beverage by 1700.
  • caffeine was 1st isolated in 1819 and its structure elucidated by the end of the 19th century.
  • theophylline was first extracted from tea leaves around 1888.
  • 1st Coca-cola recipe invented in 1885 based on coca leaves & the kola nut.
    • initially Coca Cola also contained ~9mg cocaine per glass but this was removed in 1903 but retained coca flavoring using a cocaine-free coca leaf extract.
  • Coca-Cola drink created controversy in the U.S. in 1911 over concerns of its caffeine content causing unwanted behaviour, and caffeine was soon added to the U.S. list of “habit-forming” and “deleterious” substances and foods and drinks containing it must label it accordingly.


  • actions of caffeine include:
    • acting as a methylxanthine
    • crossing the blood brain barrier to have CNS effects
      • upregulates brain-derived neurotrophic factor (brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF))
      • interacts with mTOR complex (relevant to all facets in learning and memory)
        • caffeine downregulates a signaling partner of the mTOR complex pathway in a dose-related manner: p70s6k
        • in 'normal' individuals, excessive levels of caffeine might be pathological in terms of learning and memory function, but these would be at extremely high doses, and in almost a steady-state system due to chronic administration
    • effects of its 3 main dimethylxanthine metabolites each with methylxanthine effects:
      • paraxanthine (84%)
      • theobromine (12%)
      • theophylline (4%)


  • almost completely absorbed from GIT within 45min of oral intake.
  • metabolized by the polymorphic cytochrome P450 1A2 (CYP1A2) enzyme.
    • individuals who are homozygous for the CYP1A2*1A allele are “rapid” caffeine metabolizers, whereas carriers of the variant CYP1A2*1F are “slow” caffeine metabolizers.
  • half life in adults is generally 3-4hrs but increased to 5-10hrs in women on the combined oral contraceptive pill (OCP), and 9-11hrs in pregnant women.
  • severe liver disease may result in half life of 96hrs.

clinical effects

  • Intake of coffee was associated with an increased risk of nonfatal AMI only among individuals with slow caffeine metabolism (odds ratio 2.3 (CI 1.4-3.9) for those aged < 59yrs drinking 4 or more cups of coffee per day). ref
  • frequent intake results in pharmacologic tolerance to caffeine:
    • heavy intakes of 750-1200mg/day may result in complete tolerance
    • lower regular intakes result in incomplete tolerance

caffeine dependency and chronic use effects

  • nervousness, irritability, anxiety, tremulousness, muscle twitching (hyperreflexia), insomnia, headaches, respiratory alkalosis, palpitations.
  • increased gastric acid secretion leading to peptic ulcers and gastro-oesophageal reflux
  • increased migraine headaches
  • impaired learning and long term memory

caffeine withdrawal syndrome:

  • may appear within 12 to 24 hours after discontinuation of caffeine intake, peak at ~48 hours, and usually last from 1-5 days
  • symptoms include headache, irritability, poor concentration, abdominal pains
  • Rx includes analgesics, small doses of caffeine
caffeine.txt · Last modified: 2014/02/22 13:41 (external edit)