Salient Features

Sources. Coffee and TEA are the world's primary dietary sources of caffeine. Other sources include soft drinks, cocoa products, and medications. Caffeine is found in more than sixty species of plants. COFFEE is derived from the beans (seeds) of several species of Coffea plants, and the leaves of Camellia sinensis plants are used in caffeine-containing teas. CHOCOLATE comes from the seeds or beans of the caffeine-containing cocoa pods of Theobroma cacao trees. In developed countries, soft drinks, particularly COLAS, provide another common source of dietary caffeine. Only a portion of the caffeine in soft drinks comes from the kola nut (Cola nitida); most of the caffeine is added during manufacturing. Since the 1960s, a marked decrease in coffee consumption in the United States has been accompanied by a substantial increase in the consumption of soft drinks. Mate leaves (Ilex paraguayensis), guarana seeds, and yoco bark are other sources of caffeine for a variety of cultures. Table 1 shows the amounts of caffeine found in common dietary and medicinal sources. As can be seen in the range of values for each source in this table, the caffeine content can vary widely depending on method of preparation or commercial brand.

Effects on Mood and Performance. It has long been believed that caffeine stimulates mood and behavior, decreasing fatigue and increasing energy, alertness, and activity. Although caffeine's effects in experimental studies have sometimes been subtle and variable, dietary doses of caffeine have a variety of effects on mood and performance. Doses below 200 milligrams have been shown to improve vigilance and reaction time, increase tapping speed, postpone sleep, and produce reports of increased alertness, energy, motivation to work, desire to talk to people, self-confidence, and well-being. Higher doses can both improve or disrupt performance of complex tasks, increase physical endurance, work output, hand tremor, and reports of nervousness, jitteriness, restlessness, and anxiousness.

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