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Does coffee contain any other psychoactive constituents than caffeine?
December 9, 2010 2:47 PM   Subscribe

Does coffee contain any other psychoactive constituents than caffeine?

I take pure caffeine tablets as soon as I wake up, but later in the day I find I want a cup of coffee, because the buzz is different.

Tea contains theobromine and theophylline in addition to caffeine, which accounts for the difference in its buzz from coffee. Does coffee contain anything analogous that explains the difference in its buzz from pure caffeine?

Seems to me I used to hear coffee had active ingredients other than caffeine a lot, but recent web searches don't turn up any reliable information.

Classify this under... DripFilter? Thanks.
posted by rwhe to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
I can't answer the question directly, but I can provide some educated guesses.

Most plants that contain bioactive alkaloids also contain chemicals that are structurally similar to said alkaloids, and which may or may not be bioactive themselves. Based on this fact alone, I would guess that coffee contains many other bioactive alkaloids. Given the popularity and importance of coffee as a plant, most of these alkaloids have probably been cataloged already, though if the situation w/r/t coffee is similar to that of tobacco, surprisingly few of them have actually been characterized to any significant degree in terms of their pharmacological properties.

If you want to do some digging on the subject and are prepared to wade through scientific jargon, I'd suggest Google Scholar. A quick search for me turned up many pertinent papers.
posted by dephlogisticated at 3:30 PM on December 9, 2010


I don't have actual chemical data, but I can tell you that coffee has been known to give me panic attacks, whereas caffeinated water, soda, and tea don't. So I've thought for a long time that there must be something chemically different about the caffeine delivery methods that makes a difference; I'll be interested to see whether anyone has any data!
posted by limeonaire at 3:50 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's a hit from Google Scholar: Coffee contains cholinomimetic compound distinct from caffeine. I: Purfication and chromatographic analysis

Abstract

Both regular and decaffeinated coffees were found to have cholinomimetic actions when tested in urethance-anesthetized rats. These actions were distinct from those of caffeine and reversible by atropine. The bioactive faction was purified from alcoholic extracts of instant decaffeinated coffee by liquid column chromatography and preparative TLC. The purfied compiund showed similar phamacological actions as the starting material. Chromalographic behavior was further characterzed by analytical TLC and HPLC. Chromatographic analyses of extracts of green coffee beans and roasted ground coffees showed that the cardioactive compound was only present in roasted coffees. Similar analyses of other commonly conscumed beverages, inculuding teas and cocoa, showed that this compound was not present in beverages besides coffee.


So yes, apparently there is another stimulant present in roasted coffee that's not present in tea and cocoa! Unfortunately, the abstract doesn't say exactly what it is.
posted by limeonaire at 3:57 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yep, Google Scholar is the place to look. Here's a few links:

This paper concludes that caffeic acid reaches the blood stream after coffee ingestion and this one notes that caffeic acid has anti-depressant effects (reduces immobility time in the forced swim test) in mice.

Other research (paper here) found that coffee decreased levels of inflammatory cytokines, particularly interleukin-1 beta. Which could explain the above, since IL-1 has been shown to increase immobility time in the forced swim test, as noted here.

That's all the time I've got for connect the dots right now, but I'll be checking back as this is a topic close to my heart!
posted by benign at 4:04 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here's another possibly useful Google Scholar result: Profile and levels of bioactive amines in instant coffee

Abstract

The levels of ten free bioactive amines, as well as pH and color characteristics, were determined in different types and brands of instant coffee. The amines were extracted with trichloroacetic acid and quantified by ion-pair HPLC, post-column derivatization with o-phthalaldehyde and fluorimetric detection. Overall, nine amines were detected: serotonin, cadaverine, tyramine, spermidine, putrescine, histamine, agmatine, phenyletylamine and spermine. Tryptamine was not detected in any sample. Tyramine was present in every sample, followed by cadaverine and serotonin. Total amine levels in the dry instant coffee varied from 0.28 to 2.76 mg/100 g. Overall, serotonin was present at higher levels followed by cadaverine, tyramine and spermidine. Significantly higher tyramine levels were found in decaffeinated coffee and higher cadaverine levels were detected in decaffeinated and organic coffee. The levels of amines varied among lots of the same brand and among brands. The color characteristics varied among types of instant coffee. The pH of the beverage varied from 4.86 to 5.15, with higher levels in decaffeinated coffee. There was significant positive correlation between pH and the levels of tyramine and agmatine. Investigations are needed to ascertain the impact of these amines on coffee flavor and on human health, and to determine the factors which affect amine formation and accumulation in instant coffee.


I don't know how much serotonin (or any of these other amines) it takes to actually experience something physiologically, but you are getting some of them in most instant coffee, it sounds like. (And their presence—especially the presence of cadaverine, spermidine, and putrescine—would probably account for the funky smell of post-coffee urine...)

This study talks about differing amounts of putrescine, spermine, and tryptamine present in low-quality vs. not-low-quality roasted coffee beans.
posted by limeonaire at 4:13 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know how much serotonin (or any of these other amines) it takes to actually experience something physiologically, but you are getting some of them in most instant coffee

Serotonin doesn't cross the blood-brain barrier. There are, however, many serotonin receptors in the enteric system (the GI tract's nervous system). In theory, these could cause digestive symptoms.
posted by dephlogisticated at 4:54 PM on December 9, 2010


Do you think this could be about the ritual of making, buying, and/or enjoying coffee?

Sort of like how people can take nicotine supplements but still crave cigarettes for other reasons.
posted by hermitosis at 6:09 PM on December 9, 2010


Putresine? Cadaverine? Icky.

Tyramine causes blood pressure to go up, as does histamine I think. Headaches in some people with migraine-spectrum issues.

But I agree with your observation: I can cram diet cokes all day, but a big tall cup of coffee whacks me out.

I thought that there was also theophilline and theobromine in coffee too, but not as much as tea. Theophilline is not a fun drug. It is like caffeine, but ALL side effects and none of the buzz. The only "good" thing it does is relax smooth muscles like in the bronchial tubes, which is why they gave it to asthmatics. And why I didn't sleep for years of my life. "Take it before bed!" You first, doc.

Serotonin doesn't cross the blood-brain barrier. There are, however, many serotonin receptors in the enteric system (the GI tract's nervous system). In theory, these could cause digestive symptoms.

True. Something like 90% of the body's serotonin is in the gut system. I believe the gross action is more serotonin = motility, but I could be wrong. It is possible that excess serotonin in the gut can "poke" other signals that do cross the blood brain barrier.
posted by gjc at 7:02 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


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