Synthetic caffeine: Is there any difference from natural caffeine?

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  • Synthetic caffeine: Is there any difference from natural caffeine?

    Caffeine is a common component found in many drinks like coffee, tea, energy drinks, soft drinks, etc. There are many resources of caffeine that can be utilized, and they all don’t show the same effects on people. Some sources are natural or plant-based, and some are synthetically produced.

    Let’s take a look at what synthetic caffeine is and how it differs from natural caffeine to get a better understanding.

    What does synthetic caffeine mean?

    The Nazis first developed synthetic caffeine during World War II

    The Nazis first developed synthetic caffeine during World War II. Embargoes prevented them from gaining various goods (caffeine included), and a synthesize was made to keep a supply chain available. With demands for caffeine consumption rising since then, synthetic caffeine has since become the norm material for many drinks, especially in soda and energy drinks. Today, many consumers cannot identify where the caffeine in their cups has come from – or it’s natural or synthetic.

    Synthetic caffeine is cheaper to manufacture than it is to source natural ingredients, and consequently, it is widely found in beverages and food products. It is mass-produced by companies such as Coca-Cola and made to be highly potent (and therefore cost-effective). Just with two little teaspoons of it could be lethal to a human.

    Synthetic caffeine content is absorbed through the digestive system much faster than naturally occurring caffeine, providing a quicker spike and therefore a quicker crash. While synthetic and natural caffeine is barely distinguishable on a molecular level, it is how the synthesized version is produced that can raise many concerns.

    Distinguish Synthetic caffeine and Natural caffeine

    Synthetic Caffeine

    The majority ingredient of energy drinks and soft drinks in supermarkets contain synthetic caffeine

    Little known to the average coffee addict, synthetic caffeine was first created in 1942 by Nazi Germany. By suffering under the embargos of foreign trade, Germany could not import natural caffeine sources from amenable climates and subsequently sought to make an alternative.

    As the market today, we consume more synthetic caffeine products than its natural alternative. The majority of energy drinks and soft drinks in supermarkets contain synthetic caffeine. Synthetic caffeine is, as it sounds, artificial rather than naturally sourced using a raw material called urea. With many chemically produced compounds, the final product contains harsh chemicals found in the natural source. Typically these include methylene chloride, ethyl acetate or carbon dioxide – and of course, they are as nasty as they sound.

    So why do companies stick with using this rather than the naturally sourced material? For one, it is cost-saving to produce in mass quantities and can be grown in a wider variety of climates than the familiar caffeine plant sources. Nonetheless, the properties of synthetic caffeine are also profoundly different from natural ones.

    Synthetic caffeine is made to give you the “lift” you crave faster than natural caffeine. However, the adverse side is that you often experience a caffeine “crash” that is far more significant. The answer to this question is to continue to intake more and more caffeine to offset the low – dropping into a false sense of security that the caffeine is keeping you going. However, should we not stop thinking that perhaps the caffeine we are consuming contributes to the problem.

    Natural Caffeine

    Natural Caffeine provides a far slower release of energy. In addition, many naturally occurring vitamins are found in natural caffeine plants that minimize the crash that the synthetic form can feel. Around 60 different plants are natural sources – coffee and tea being the those predominantly consumed in the world today. Coupled with caffeine’s energy release, natural sources are also rich in antioxidants such as cafestol, trigonelline, chlorogenic acid, melanoidins and quinine. As such, there is a whole host of scientific research into the health benefits of natural caffeine, and that caffeine itself may reduce cavities, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, colon cancer, liver cancer, gall stones, cirrhosis of the liver, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s and a variety of heart diseases.

    If you want to check whether the products you are buying are natural or synthetic caffeine-based, the ingredients will almost always name the plant source should they be naturally procured. If the packet just says “caffeine,” the chances are it is synthetically produced.

    Here are some key themes and takeaways from both sources of caffeine.

    • Natural caffeine and synthetic caffeine are chemical components. The primary distinction is that synthetic caffeine is produced from chloroacetic acid and urea, whereas natural caffeine is made from various plant-based sources.
    • The most amazing part is that both sources of caffeine have the same effect on the body.
    • Natural caffeine tends to be harder to source and more expensive, which is why labs have started making synthetic caffeine.
    • Because of the cheaper cost associated with synthetic caffeine, many supplement companies prefer to use it over natural caffeine due to its financial advantage.
    • Synthetic caffeine undergoes many steps to be converted from its initial source – ammonia. It is usually exposed to harsh chemical elements during the conversion process like ethyl acetate, carbon dioxide or methylene chloride. In addition, synthetic caffeine has a bit of a “glowing” factor. It is removed by cleaning the caffeine with acetic acid, sodium nitrate, chloroform, and sodium bicarbonate.
    • It’s noted that not all synthetic caffeine is harmful when consumed in a small amount. But the thing is, you have probably had it this week or even today, unknowingly, because several products have them in their ingredients. Because of this matter, it is recommended that you take a look at the ingredient list of the product you are looking to purchase.

    The manufacturing process of synthetic caffeine

    Synthetic caffeine starts with ammonia

    Synthetic caffeine starts with ammonia. Ammonia is converted to nitrogen-rich urea.  First, change urea to a drug like methylamine and formic acid and change it to theophylline with properties like caffeine.

    The final step is to add methyl chloride to produce the final product: methylated theophylline – otherwise known as synthetic caffeine.

    Recently, most caffeine is produced in China, and walking near the synthetic caffeine factory seems to smell like a cat’s piss.

    3 Chinese factories are together exporting 4 million kg of caffeine alone to the USA market each year.  Indeed, most of the world’s synthetic caffeine comes from just one Chinese town: Shijiazhuang – a heavily polluted industrial city in Hebei province.

    The giant caffeine factory in the world is the CSPC Innovation Pharmaceutical Company. It produces 1.8 million kg of caffeine for the US market alone.

    Is synthetic caffeine harmful?

    400 mg of caffeine is the recommended maximum amount of caffeine consumption each day

    The FDA regulates added caffeine in five categories: foods, beverages, energy drinks, dietary supplements and over-the-counter drugs. However, misunderstanding abounds when it comes to the differences between synthetic caffeine or natural caffeine.

    The 2018 Food and Health Survey revealed that more than 70 percent of participants thought caffeine could have a different effect on the body depending on the source (synthetic vs. natural) or unsure.

    The most well-known side effect of caffeine is the jolt of energy it supports you upon consumption. Also, caffeine stimulates your nervous system and makes your mind alert. Moreover, caffeine has the benefit of increasing stamina and boosting your athletic performance. Finally, the ability to temporarily reduce fatigue and drowsiness can help you shake the tiredness and push through the task at hand.

    It’s believed that caffeine is safe in moderation. Still, excessive use can lead to many health problems such as nausea, heartburn, head, muscle aches, increased blood pressure, fertility and pregnancy issues.

    Is it wrong to drink caffeine every day?

    Up to 400 mg of caffeine is the recommended maximum amount of caffeine consumption each day, about 32 oz of coffee, ten cans of soda, or two energy drinks. You may need to start cutting down on your daily caffeine consumption if you are experiencing migraine headaches, insomnia, nervousness, restlessness or frequent urination.

    How long is caffeine out of your body?

    It’s said that 99% of a drink’s caffeine will be absorbed in about 45 minutes. Therefore, the average energy drink or coffee caffeine effect will last about four to six hours in a human. Still, things such as age, medical conditions, and drug interactions can impact the rate at which your body metabolizes caffeine.

    Is caffeine safe for kids?

    Children can safely consume caffeine, but it’s wise to keep caffeine consumption to a minimum. The side effect with kids consuming caffeinated drinks is usually not caffeine. Many caffeinated beverages are filled with sweeteners and empty calories. Regular use of these drinks can easily lead to dental cavities and erosion of tooth enamel. In addition, over-consumption can lead to obesity.

    Wrap up

    Hopefully, now you know the basics of synthetic caffeine, you can make a more informed decision by yourself to use a natural caffeine product or a synthetic caffeine product to help provide you with the results you want and achieve your goals.

    To learn more fascinating topics or surprising beverage business ideas, don’t hesitate to contact us.

    Lilian Nguyen
    Lilian is an expert in oem, odm, private label beverage industry with 8 years of experience. I believe that it is crucial for companies to focus on the benefits which the product provides to their target customer and what does it mean to the community. When i am not working, i run a blog on making healthy snacks & drinks and join in a hiking club.

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