Caffeine: The World’s Favorite Drug

Play episode

Do you drink coffee or tea? Do you get caffeine in other food or drink? Liz Waid and Luke Haley look at the effects of the drug caffeine.

Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Liz Waid.

Voice 2 

And I’m Luke Haley. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Click here to follow along with this program on YouTube
Voice 1 

In 1819, a young German doctor discovered a drug. The doctor’s name was Friedlieb Ferdinand Lunge. A friend had given Lunge some coffee beans to study. They were small and dark brown. As he tested the beans he discovered a chemical inside them: caffeine. Today, caffeine is the most used drug in the world. Many people depend on caffeine to help them start the day. And more and more products contain caffeine. But there are negative results from using too much caffeine. How much is too much? Today’s Spotlight is on caffeine.

Image by laurent Lempens from Pixabay
Voice 2 

Caffeine is a drug that naturally exists in some foods. It is found in coffee beans, cocoa beans, guarana, yerba maté, tea and other plants. Through history, people from all over the world have grown and used plants for the effect of caffeine. But today, people commonly get caffeine through coffee, tea, or soft drinks like Coca-Cola.

Voice 1 

In a plant, caffeine is a natural pesticide – it makes insects unable to move and then kills them. But in a person’s body caffeine acts very differently. It speeds up a person’s central nervous system, inside the body. It stimulates the brain – that is, it makes a brain act and react faster. Some people feel that they can be more creative when they drink caffeine. It makes people feel more awake. And it can also increase physical performance in sports.

Voice 2 

Caffeine affects a person quickly. Imagine a person who is drinking a cup of coffee. The drug begins to affect him about five minutes after he starts drinking it. In 30 minutes, the caffeine affects the person most strongly. After about four and a half hours, his body has used about half the amount of caffeine. And by the next day, the caffeine is gone. Caffeine does not stay in the body.

Voice 1 

Many people begin their day with caffeine in coffee or tea. Spotlight writer Christy VanArragon drinks coffee every morning. But is it a good thing? She says:

Christy VanArragon

“Coffee makes me feel more awake and it helps me concentrate. But when I forget to drink it, I get painful headaches. And when I drink too much, my hands shake, and I talk really fast! Coffee is great most of the time, but it also causes some problems.”

Voice 2 

These effects can be common for people who drink caffeine. In fact, people can come to depend on caffeine. People who try to stop drinking caffeine may be very tired, have muscle pains, or even have stomach pain. But these symptoms usually stop in about a week. Too much caffeine can also cause problems. People who have had too much caffeine may have head pain or stomach pain. They may have a rapid heartbeat. They may feel anxious, worried or nervous. Too much caffeine can make a person unable to sleep. But there are also more serious effects when people take extremely high amounts. These effects include a feeling of not knowing where you are, body movements you cannot control, or even death.

Voice 1

In the United States and the United Kingdom, health experts have set a safe level of caffeine a person can take. They advise that people do not take more than 400 milligrams of caffeine in a day. That is equal to about four to five cups of coffee. Many experts believe this amount is safe for an adult. Murray Carpenter wrote a book about caffeine. He told news organisation NPR:

Voice 4 

“For people who are using caffeine moderately, it is probably perfectly healthy. And we know there are some signs that we may even get some good effects out of long-term coffee drinking.”

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay
Voice 2 

Researchers cannot agree if caffeine is good for people or bad for them. Caffeine does have some bad effects. But, like Carpenter says, caffeine also has some good effects. Research shows that drinking coffee and tea with caffeine may reduce the risks of some kinds of cancer. It can reduce a person’s risk of getting type two diabetes. And even though it increases blood pressure and a person’s heart rate, it does not seem to cause problems with a person’s heart. But these good effects do not come from drinking caffeine in soft drinks – just drinks like coffee and tea.

Voice 1 

All of this information may make a person wonder what to do! But it gets worse. That is because recently, companies have been adding caffeine to more and more drinks and food. People may not know how much caffeine they are taking.

Voice 2 

The FDA is a government agency in the United States. It sets safety rules for food and drugs there. In 2013, the FDA began investigating caffeine. They were looking particularly at caffeine in energy drinks and food. Michael R. Taylor works at the FDA. He told about a new chewing gum containing caffeine. Each stick of gum contains caffeine. He explained how products like these can be harmful for young adults and children.

“Stay Alert” gum that includes caffeine; “A fellow geek sent me some Stay Alert ca” (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by slworking2
Voice 5 

“The gum is just one more sad example of the movement to add caffeine to food. Our concern is about caffeine appearing in many new products. This includes products that may look good to children and young adults… One package of this gum is like having four cups of coffee with you… The large number of these products in the marketplace worries us.”

Voice 1 

Companies are putting caffeine in products that young adults and even children may want to try. Many government organizations and health experts are working to regulate caffeine. They want to make rules about what products can contain caffeine, and how much caffeine those products can use. However, it is not an easy job. Stephen Braun wrote a book about caffeine. He told the BBC:

Voice 6 

“One problem with trying to regulate the substance is that it affects everyone differently. People have different bodies and different ways of processing food. It is impossible to say what a “safe” limit is for everyone. Ultimately, you have to be your own scientist. There is no other good method than carefully experimenting on yourself.”

Voice 2 

It is important for a person to know how much caffeine he is getting through drinks and food. But it is also important for him to know how caffeine affects his body. A person should know what his body can manage.

Voice 1 

What about you? Do you use caffeine? Do you think putting caffeine in other foods and drinks is a good idea? Tell us what you think. You can leave your comments on the script page for this program.

Voice 2 

The writer of this program was Liz Waid. The producer was Luke Haley. The voices you heard were from the United States and the United Kingdom. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can find our programs on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, ‘The World’s Favorite Drug’.

Voice 1 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Do you drink coffee or tea? Why or why not? If you do, do you drink these drinks because of the caffeine in them?

Listen:

More Programs You Might Like:

Join the discussion

49 comments
  • I drink tea more especially in winter because I like it and it has many benefits such us it contains antioxidants
    No I don’t drink because of caffeine.

  • I think it is not good to add caffeine in the food. But, you can drink it equally amount food, not too much. And you should eat a more than drinking caffeine. Someone who feel pain in his heart when he drinks a caffeine should avoid to that.

  • The tea vs coffee competition in Italy is won by coffee for 4 to 0. I only drink 2 coffees a day: one in the morning as soon as I wake up and one after lunch in the middle of the day, but the cups are much smaller than the one Liz Waid holds in her hand, in the recent video with Adam Navis. In Italy, coffee is also a social ritual with friends at home or at the bar. It’s January 1st, happy new year and good coffee to everyone.

  • I use to drink two cups of coffee a day. Two expressos, I mean.
    After 4:00 pm I don’t drink coffee anymore, because it afects my rest at nitght.

  • I drink tea 2 or 3 glass tea every morning wİth breakfast. I drink one cupple Coffee in the afternoon everyday

  • usually I don’t drink coffee but I drink some tea from time to anther and I drink soft drinks a lot that’s a bad habit for me I hope I can to leave its

  • Hi, I don’t drink coffee and tea. I have a health condition that accelerates my heart in normal conditions, food or drinks with a small portion of caffeine can make me feel sick.

  • Hi.. I read about a trainer that was having caffeine to improve his level ,but Unfortunately he didn’t make the correct dose , he had a heart attack and die ,so everyone must be carefully about what he drink or eat . I had read before that tea have caffeine larger than coffee , so don’t drink tea a lot. Hope all of you have a well health.

  • I drink both coffee and tea , but I prefer coffee more than tea . I drink coffee for caffeine and for the taste but the tea just for taste .

  • Many newspapers have reported that caffeine is very useful for people’s health. A lot if benefits do we should drink it every day

  • Yes, some times I drink coffee and tea, because like it. I drink coffee with sweets like kit kat. Also, I drink tea with some food or in breakfast.

  • I drink coffee in the morning because it makes me feel better and more wake up.. But in the evening I like to drink tea.. In my country smoking is a cause to became people consume the caffeine more than other drinking

  • for me, drink much of caffeine is not healthy ,but you can drink it if you are have a study or a work and they not you want to sleep early for focused in your work

  • Yes I drink a coffee every day .especially in the morning, because it gives me energy to I can receive a new day , yeah I drink coffee because caffeine, it is chemical material
    It is improve and activates the brain

  • Yas, I drink two many times everyday. There isn’t a specific cause for that but you can say I used to do that at morning.
    Yas, may be

  • I drink one cup of coffee and two cups of tea a day
    If i raised the amount i do feel the same mentioned effects like hand shakibg , anxiety and becoming so nervous
    However it ‘s so useful to be awake early

  • I like this coffee , I don’ know is everyone love coffee or not ,
    However we don’t should Careful to amounts large of coffee

    Thanks for you .

  • I usally drink coffee milk. Because it keeps me awake, however I can’t drink pure coffee, because it makes me coffee drunk and very tired

  • I like to drink coffee and especially milk coffee. Every morning I drink 1 cup. Because it helps me stay awake and focused for a good day

  • Sometimes, I drink coffee when I feel fall asleep. Coffee makes me more awake and concentrate. I like to smell coffee than drink it. I just drink a half of small cup and two times per week. That is my ways I enjoy coffee.
    There are somes people drink a cup of coffee and tea instead of have breakfast every morning. This is not the good way and easy to get the stomachache.

  • Yes I’m not just like coffee I adore it’s taste and smell
    Coffee and it’s amazing flavour make me happy and feels good when I get upset or sad
    But when I was studying master degree I had coffee over the normal daily dose this made me anxious , headache , hypotension and palpitation And get worse

  • I don’t drink coffee but I like smell. Some people drink coffee every morning instead of have breakfast. My friend feels that more creative concentrated if he drinks a cup of hot coffee. He can’t do everything if he begins his day without coffee. To me drinks coffee everyday is not good idea.

  • Yes, I sometimes drink cofee and/or tea because it has caffeine in order to keep me awake or because they are served from hosts. I think 2 cups of coffee a day are enough.

  • I think we should use the caffeine when our concentration is low or We have a deadline or something we should Finish it Quickly but when we just drink coffee everyday At everytime without need that considered an Addiction.

  • yes I drink coffee or tea I like smell coffee make me feel happy specially in morning and stimulates to study I love it coffee

  • Throughout my life. I drank the both tea and coffee, and I’m drinking them until today, this for a reason that the mentioned drinks contain many healthy benefits such as they make me still able to complete my daily tasks by the end of day.

    Actually. I don’t care about caffeine containing in my favor drinks. Of course, I have some general information about it, as it is a drug and something about it hurts inside and outside our bodies, but I’m not scary about that because I definitely take it moderately.

  • I love tea at the morning make me fully wake and make me more concentrated , me addicted this is drink maybe by contain some of caffeine also I love coffee spiceally ice coffee cause contain milk and lattee this make me feeling better #I’m pre A1 in English

  • hiya spotlight ! tbh i dont drink caffeine a lot like 2 – 1 times per month or somtimes i dont drink any coffe per the month . IT”S not about healthy or un healthy im just not a kind of person who loves the hot drinks like coffe , tea ..

More from this show

Episode 8