Myth or Fact? #23 – Tea has Theine and Coffee has Caffeine
We are all familiar with the situation – the alarm clock goes off and you don’t want to wake up. You are tired and feel like sleep on. You have two choices now: wake up or go back to sleep. What do you choose? Of course to wake up! There are many ways to become wide awake: take a cold shower, do your morning sports routine or take a cup of coffee or tea. Many people swear by the positive and stimulating effect of coffee since it contains caffeine. Tea however has no caffeine but theine. A friend of mine told me theine is the same as caffeine, another friend told me they are totally different. What do you say? We will find out!
Theine vs Caffeine or Theine = Caffeine
Let's have a look at the chemical structure of caffeine and theine first. Then we will discuss the positive and negative effects. In addition to that we will see some facts and figures.
Fig.1 Chemical structure of caffeine - Source
Fig.2 Chemical structure of theine- Source
Did anyone of you spot a difference? I hope you didn't spend too much time since there is no difference because caffeine and theine are the same chemical molecule. Does that mean both are absorbed and processed the same way?
We need to take on an overall view before answering this question. Though both are the same molecule I will continue to use the terms caffeine and theine. Caffeine is the world most widely used drug and is found in over 60 different plants as cola nut, tea bush etc.. Caffeine quickly gets absorbed by the human body. The moment you drink your cup of coffee caffeine enters your body and within five minutes it enters your blood. The maximum blood concentration is reached after 20 to 30 minutes, it doesn’t accumulate but gets degraded with a half-life of 4 to 6 hours.
Once it’s in your blood caffeine will affect your physical processes. It is able to permeate the brain blood barrier and thus reach your brain directly. Caffeine has a similar structure as adenosine, a messenger substance of your body. One of its tasks in the body is to let you know when you get tired. Since caffeine has a similar structure it can attach to adenosines receptors and block them.
In short: your body doesn’t feel tired. You might be exhausted and need to rest but make your body think you are top-fit which can be dangerous. Furthermore, blocking the adenosine receptors will increase the level of dopamine in your brain, one of the main reasons why you feel even more awake. Smokers are able to degraded caffeine faster than pregnant women, newborns need more than 100 hours! Theine however is processed in a different way by our body. Caffeine and theine are bound to other chemical compounds and then released in our body. Theine is bound to so called tanning agents which cause us to degrade theine slower than caffeine. While caffeine gets fully absorbed in our stomach after 20 to 40 minutes, theine needs 6 to 8 hours and gets absorbed mostly through our intestinal tract. Green tea contains additionally an amino acid analogue, theanine which bounds theine. Theanine has a stimulating effect while caffeine has an exciting impact on your body.
Not only lasts theine longer in your body it also comes with other positive compounds that are missing in your daily coffee. Tea doesn’t kick in like your coffee and you won’t feel low after few hours, while once your coffee effect diminishes, you will feel even more exhausted. Last but not least it must be said that a single cup of coffee contains more caffeine than a cup of tea. You need more coffee beans than tea leafs to brew a cup of each.
Following figure shows some positive and negative health effects of caffeine on your body:
Fig.3 Positive and negative effects of caffeine on the human body Source
Facts and figures!
Ever wondered if people drink more coffee or tea? The following illustrations shows the percentage of Americans who prefer coffee or tea by age group in 2015:
Some other interesting facts:
Every second 30.000 cups coffee are consumed, that is 946200000000 cups of coffee a year!
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