More than 26,000 cups of coffee are consumed every second worldwide. Some of the drinkers might be interested in the flavor, but the majority use it to get caffeine into their systems. But did you know that caffeine evolved?
While caffeine is produced by both tea and coffee plants, this trait evolved independently, implying that caffeine production evolved at least twice.
What is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a naturally occurring chemical that has stimulant properties. It’s in coffee, tea, cola, cocoa, guarana, yerba mate, and more than 60 other things.
Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, heart, muscles, and blood pressure control centers. Caffeine can raise blood pressure, but it may not have this effect in people who consume it frequently. Caffeine can also function as a “water pill,” increasing urine flow.
Caffeine is commonly used to improve mental alertness, headaches, migraines, athletic performance, memory, and obesity. It is also used to treat asthma, gallbladder disease, ADHD, low blood pressure, depression, and various other conditions, but most of these other uses lack scientific support.
Caffeine products that are highly concentrated or in pure form are a health risk. People can easily take far too high doses by accident. It is illegal in the United States to sell these products in bulk to consumers. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) permitted caffeine consumption within limits. Urine concentrations greater than 15 mcg/mL are not permitted. (Source: Web MD)
Different Set of Genes in Caffeine
Several examples of similar things evolved in two completely different ways on Earth. Bird intelligence evolved independently of mammalian intelligence, even though both can achieve similar results. Similarly, caffeine appears to have evolved twice on the planet, once in tea and once in coffee. The release of the coffee genome led to this discovery. Scientists discovered that coffee uses a completely different set of genes than tea to produce the same amazing buzz.
Coffee plants occupy an area of 110 billion square meters or 1 trillion square feet. Every day, approximately 2 billion cups of coffee are consumed. Caffeine is thought to have evolved in coffee to help protect the plant from predators and to aid in pollination. When coffee leaves, which contain the most caffeine, fall to the ground, they actually help to poison the ground from other invasive plant species. Furthermore, once pollinators taste caffeine, they tend to return for more, which, according to Victor Albert, a genome scientist at the University of Buffalo, “is exactly what it does to us.
When the team looked for gene families that distinguish coffee from other plants, those that make caffeine topped the list. The genes encode methyltransferase enzymes, which transform a xanthosine molecule into caffeine by adding methyl chemical groups in three steps. Tea and cacao, meanwhile, make caffeine using different methyltransferases from those the team identified in robusta. This suggests that the ability to make caffeine evolved at least twice, in the ancestor of coffee plants and in a common ancestor of tea and cacao.Ewen Callaway
Learning more about the coffee genome may enable researchers to better understand how the beverage can fight various diseases and adapt to climate change. Additionally, suppose scientists can figure out how caffeine is made in coffee. In that case, it will be possible to grow caffeine-free plants instead of the chemical decaffeination method we presently employ, resulting in a far more flavorful cup of decaf. (Source: Futurism)
Image from CBS News