For most people the everyday diet contains a considerable amount of stimulants. These substances increase the state of activity of the nervous system. A particular class of stimulants is the methylxanthines. They include caffeine, theophylline, and theobromine.
Caffeine is found in coffee beans, tea leaves, cocoa beans, and colanuts. In our diet the primary source of caffeine, however, is coffee: one cup of coffee is estimated to contain 100 to 150 mg of caffeine. The caffeine content of cola drinks ranges from 0.1 to 0.15 mg/ml.
In general, methylxanthines cause effects on the peripheral nervous system, but they also induce significant stimulation of the central nervous system. Caffeine is a little more potent than theophylline, and theobromine is relatively inactive.
Further, caffeine has been reported to cause premature aging, a lower growth rate and a lower body weight in experimental animals. In rodents, the oral LD50 (see Part 2, Chapter 8, Section 8.9.1) ranges from 127 to 355 mg/kg. Adverse effects of caffeine on cardiac function are questioned, since no relationship has been found between drinking tea and heart disease; the caffeine content of tea is similar to that of coffee. Theophylline is present in small amounts in tea. Theobromine is the principal alkaloid of the cocoa bean. It is also found in tea leaves and cola nuts.
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