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There are several known mechanisms of action to explain the effects of caffeine.
The most prominent is that it reversibly blocks the action of adenosine on its receptor and consequently prevents the onset of drowsiness induced by adenosine.
It is found in the seeds, nuts, or leaves of a number of plants native to South America and East Asia and helps to protect them against predator insects and to prevent germination of nearby seeds.
The most well known source of caffeine is the coffee bean, a misnomer for the seed of Coffea plants.
A systematic review, analyzing the results of observational studies, suggests that women who consume large amounts of caffeine (greater than 300 mg/day) prior to becoming pregnant may have a higher risk of experiencing pregnancy loss.
Caffeine is a bitter, white crystalline purine, a methylxanthine alkaloid, and is chemically related to the adenine and guanine bases of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA).
This is a conservative suggestion since older and heavier weight adolescents may be able to consume adult doses of caffeine without suffering adverse effects.
The UK Food Standards Agency has recommended that pregnant women should limit their caffeine intake, out of prudence, to less than 200 mg of caffeine a day – the equivalent of two cups of instant coffee, or one and a half to two cups of fresh coffee.
A 2011 risk analysis review found that caffeine consumption during pregnancy does not appear to increase the risk of congenital malformations, miscarriage or growth retardation even when consumed in moderate to high amounts.
There is some evidence that the hormonal changes during pregnancy slow the metabolic clearance of caffeine from the system, causing a given dose to have longer-lasting effects (as long as 15 hours in the third trimester).