What exactly is caffeine? It is a colorless, somewhat bitter substance that is found in coffee, tea, chocolate, and cola. It is also in many over-the-counter medicines and in many diet/weight loss supplements. It is a stimulant and is considered a psychoactive drug. It is the most widely consumed drug in this country. Drugmakers are required by law to list the amount of caffeine in their product, however, food and beverage companies do not have to. The caffeine that is taken out of coffee beans to produce decaffeinated coffee is then sold to drug companies and soft drink manufacturers.
It can be a welcome waker-upper in the morning taken in that morning cup of coffee. It also helps give some a boost to stay awake late in the day. However, the boost isn't necessarily instant as it takes about an hour for the effects of caffeine to make their way through the bloodstream and into the system. It has benefits and it has side effects. It helps keep us alert. It stimulates the central nervous system. Some say it improves physical and mental performance. It has diuretic activity. Some studies list it as a mood elevator and a pain reliever. Because of the increased alertness levels of those who consume caffeine, there has been improved performance in activities such as test-taking, driving, flying and problem-solving.
There are side effects of caffeine though. Those are insomnia, nervousness, increased tension, and anxiety-panic attacks, just from drinking the amount of 300 mg. The amount that causes these side effects to vary from individual to individual, however, children seem to have a lower tolerance of it because of their lower body weight. The Food and Drug Administration advises pregnant women to avoid it altogether. The FDA does list it as a "safe food additive", even though pregnant women should avoid it. For those that take it regularly every day, going without it a day can cause withdrawal symptoms such as, headaches, irritability, a lack of energy, and of course, sleepiness. These withdrawal symptoms are short-lived though.
Besides weight loss products and stay awake products and energy drinks, caffeine is being tested for pesticide use and it has been laced in women's pantyhose for its constrictive effects that are supposed to shrink thighs. Love it or hate it, caffeine is and always has been a big part of American culture and probably is here to stay.