We hear a lot about caffeine content of drinks and how bad it is for us but what is it?
The Science Bit
Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant called trimethylxanthine, chemical formula C8H10N4O2. In its pure form it is a white crystalline powder that tastes bitter. It was first isolated as pure caffeine in 1819 by a German Chemist called Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge, and Emil Fischer derived the structural formula of the compound in 1897 (Fischer was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1902, his work on caffeine was part of the work that won the award).
In Your Body
Scientists measure drugs by their “half-life”; this is the time it takes the body to break down half of the dose. In the case of caffeine the “half-life” varies dramatically from one person to another and can be anything from 3 hours to 12 hours depending on age, general health, metabolic rate and weight. On average caffeine is absorbed by the small intestine within 45 minutes of ingestion and then distributed throughout all the tissues of your body, the central nervous system is stimulated and peak blood concentration is reached within an hour. Everyone will react differently to this and to different degrees but the common affects are to ward off drowsiness, reduce physical fatigue and increase alertness.