Caffeine is a naturally occurring, yet addictive, chemical stimulant that significantly interferes with our normal neurological behaviour (more on that below) and alters our physical state. However, it evades all regulation and is so pervasive in our culture that few of us think twice about doing anything else first thing in the morning than making a cup of coffee. It’s a substance that’s in coffee, in chocolate, in soft drinks, in supplements and, of course, in energy drinks. It’s hard to walk through an airport, a mall, or along the street and not witness the multi-billion-dollar caffeine industry at work, dedicated to the proliferation of this ‘pick-me-up’ substance.
At its base level, caffeine (1,3,7-trimethylxanthine) is a natural alkaloid found in coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans, cola nuts and other plants. It is probably the most frequently ingested pharmacologically active (a drug) and addictive substance in the world. Some of us have a predisposition to be more sensitive to caffeine and, although it is in many common beverages and foods (think coffee, tea, fizzy drinks, supplements, and chocolate), the levels of caffeine in each of these vary in quantity.