Caffeine: Natural vs. Synthetic
Do you know what kind of caffeine you are putting in your body? It seems simple, caffeine is caffeine, right? You assume if caffeine is on a label, the product has real caffeine. Our FDA views synthetic chemicals to be the same as natural compounds. Labels do not disclose when ingredients are chemically produced. Do you know how often you are taking in a chemical company’s version of a seemingly natural ingredient? Beyond that, so many of these synthetic formats are being produced more cheaply in foreign countries without proper inspections or verifiable record keeping of their handling.
HOW TO READ A LABEL RELATING TO CAFFEINE
NATURAL CAFFEINE: Natural, real caffeine comes from various plant species. Caffeine content within these plants will vary throughout the year depending on weather, soil conditions, time of year harvested, etc. So caffeine content is impossible and impractical to determine for labeling on products like coffee or tea. They have constantly changing amounts. Naturally caffeinated products will not have caffeine as an ingredient or measurement on the label.
SYNTHETIC CAFFEINE: Manufactured by the chemical industry. The first sign the caffeine in your drink is synthetic is it is listed on the label & has an exact measurement. This is the cheapest & most common added caffeine source. The processes & compounds may vary between chemical companies, but they are all disturbing. (At the bottom of the page are 2 common methods for producing synthetic caffeine.)
FORTIFIED CAFFEINE: Still usually synthetic, caffeine can be obtained from the coffee decaffeination industry, although it is substantially pricier & rarely used. This will also note caffeine on the label with a measurement. Caffeine supplies from this industry use methylene chloride, formaldehyde or ethyl acetone for it’s removal. There is no such thing as removing the caffeine with just water.
( ‘Swiss Water Processing’ was invented by the Kraft Corp. Not a Swiss company, not a small, natural company. The name is ingenious because the consumer makes the assumption on their own that the process only involves water. Strong compounds &/or chemicals have to be used to extract caffeine from coffee beans. Formaldehyde, which is highly toxic & a known carcinogen, is the loophole. Because formaldehyde is a naturally occurring, organic compound, it falls under the ‘natural ingredient’ category with the FDA.)
Chemistry formulas for producing synthetic caffeine:Chloroacetic acid (1) is neutralized in water. This neutralized product is treated with an equimolar amount of sodium cyanide (2). An equivalent amount of acid is added: sulfuric or hydrochloric (3) and the mass concentrated to a thick syrup. Benzene (4) is added and the salts removed by filtration. The benzene is removed by distillation to yield cyanoacetic acid.
(1)Chloroacetic acid is a chemical reaction of splitting trichloroethylene (1A) using sulfuric acid as a catalyst.
(1A)Trichloroethylene, aka TCE is a chlorinated hydrocarbon commonly used as an industrial solvent. Banned in Europe & most countries as a known carcinogen, poisonous & infectious material, it remains legal in the USA.
(2)Sodium cyanide is an inorganic compound with the formula NaCN. This highly toxic colourless salt is used in gold mining.
(3)Sulfuric acid is a strong mineral acid used in car batteries, ore processing, fertilizer manufacturing & oil refining.
(4)Benzene is an organic chemical compound with the molecular formula C6H6. It is a colorless and highly flammable liquid. Because it is a known carcinogen, its use as an additive in gasoline is now limited, but it is an important industrial solvent and precursor in the production of drugs, plastics, synthetic rubber and dyes.
The 8-methylcaffeine obtained from uric acid (uric acid is the final oxidation product of metabolism and is excreted in urine.) is chlorinated using sulfurylchloride (sulfurychloride is not found in nature & is composed of sulfur (1), oxygen & chlorine) to yield trichloromethyl (2) -caffeine, then hydrolyzed to yield caffeine.
(1) Sulfur is most widely used in black gunpowder, matches & insecticides.
(2) Chlorination of methyl chloroformate produces Diphosgene. Diphosgene was originally developed for chemical warfare by the Germans in WWI. It’s vapors were found to destroy filters in gas masks & it then became a pulmonary agent in the victim’s body.
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