Molecule of the Day: Caffeine

Caffeine (C8H10N4O2) is a white solid that is sparingly soluble in water. It is a naturally occurring alkaloid and is the most commonly consumed drug worldwide. It is consumed for its ability to promote wakefulness and reduce lethargy.

It does so by acting as an antagonist to adenosine receptors in the central nervous system. Since the binding of adenosine to the receptors leads to drowsiness, this inhibition temporarily promotes alertness. Furthermore, it promotes the release of neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine, resulting in its stimulant effects.

Caffeine can be found in many different beverages:

Caffeine is usually extracted from coffee beans using supercritical carbon dioxide. While carbon dioxide normally sublimes and deposits under normal pressures, bypassing the liquid phase, under high pressures, it can exist as a supercritical liquid. Liquid carbon dioxide is a good solvent for caffeine extraction, as it is non-polar and leaves the aroma chemicals intact.

While caffeine is readily available from decaffeination processes, it can still be synthesised from dimethylurea and malonic acid:

In nature, it is biosynthesised from xanthosine instead:

Caffeine consumption results in a mild form of drug dependence; furthermore, upon regular consumption, tolerance can be built up, resulting in the need for an increasing amount of caffeine to produce the same effects. In small doses, caffeine reduces cardiovascular problems, but it increases its probability in larger doses (over 5 cups of coffee).

Originally posted by such-vodka


In light of recent posts *coughveganpetfoodsforcarnivorescough* I felt this was appropriate and relevant (and Important!) enough to scan and post.

(Excuse the ads, I’m not endorsing anything, I just didn’t want to crop the images, so that people can see these are the original pages from the magazine.)

From Paws Chicago Magazine Winter 2013

I’m retyping below for people who are unable to view images or just want an easier way to read this info:

Pet Health: Do you Know What’s In Your Pet’s Food?
by Dr. Barbara Royal, DVM

Being an advocate for your own health and well-being is difficult; add to that staying on top of what’s best for your pet and suddenly nutrition becomes overwhelming. And with thousands of pet food products on the market today, it’s tough to know where to start.

But the most important overall health decision you can make for your dog or cat is what you put in their bowl so it makes sense to start with labels and understanding pet food ingredients. here are a few basic rules to jumpstart good decision-making when it comes to feeding your pet.

Royal Rule #1: High Protein

Our dogs and cats are carnivores so they should eat like carnivores. That means a diet predominantly comprised of meat protein, no grain and minimal carbohydrates. Most pet foods today have that ratio backwards. Too much carbohydrate is being fed to our pets in the form of grains (especially corn and wheat) and other foods (potatoes, rice, oats, and many more). This is not healthy.

There are specific side effects associated with this ratio imbalance, especially in cats, who are obligate carnivores (with bodies designed to eat and get its energy and nutritional values from animal meat). These deficiencies manifest in the form of dental disease, allergies, skin disorders, obesity, diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, cancers, kidney disease and more.

Dogs, because they are carnivores AND scavengers, have a little more leeway, but not much. As scavengers, they can made do with a diet of shoe-leather and blueberries, but their bodies need well-balanced meals for optimum health.

Royal Rule #2: Read, Read, Read

INGREDIENTS: They should make sense to you and not sound like a chemical factory. Remember, you are feeding a carnivore. This goes for treats, too.

GUARANTEED ANALYSIS: Determine the proportion of the three major food groups - fat, protein, and carbohydrate.


Commercial raw foods, cooked commercial raw foods, cooked fresh foods, and canned or unprocessed freeze-dried foods are preferable to kibble foods. 

If you must feed kibble, choose a low-heat processed, high-quality meat-protein based food with greater than 30% protein.


*At least 30% Meat Protein (more like 40-60% if possible)

*Low Carbohydrate percentage

*No corn or wheat or other grains

*No soy or soy protein, or peanut butter

*No unpeeled white potato

*No chemicals, toxins, or fillers (See Royal Rules #2 and #3)

*Appropriate Moisture content (see page 37)

-end insert-

Royal Rule #3: Look Beyond The Label

If you do, here’s what you might find:

CARCINOGENS: The high heat process of extruded kibble foods produces a byproduct of Acrylamides and Heterocyclic Amines, which are both potent cancer-causing agents.

CHEMICALS: There can be pre-manufacture ingredients that aren’t required to be on the label because they were put in before the manufacturer got them. One bug concern is ethoxyquin, a quinoline-based antioxidant used as a food preservative and pesticide that is often sprayed on fish. Another is pentobarbital (typically used in the euthanazation process), a chemical used to treat the food animals that has shown up in traces in meats.

Royal Rule #4: Look for products made and Regulated in the U.S.

In the United States, all pet food is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It is also further regulated at the state level. So stick close to home when purchasing pet food. Products that are imported may have lax standards when it comes to labeling, food safety laws and overall regulations. Unless I really know a company well, I tend to avoid foods and treats made in China after the Melamine disaster of 2007 where more than 13,000 pets died because of poor regulation in pet food ingredients.

Royal Rule #5: Keep Pets Trim

We may not know anymore what a normal weight looks like in our pets. Recent studies show that over 50 percent of our pets in this country are overweight to obese. Sadly, this is, as Temple Grandin says, “when bad becomes normal.”

The secret to weight management and weight loss in general is carbohydrates. Carbs cause weight gain. The carnivorous bodies of dogs and cats know what to do with protein and fat, but carbs get transformed into quick, cheap energy, which gets stored - as fat. So if your pet is overweight, look hardest at the carbohydrate percentage, not the fat content of the food.

One aspect of weight management that does differ between cats and dogs is the speed with which the pounds can be safely shed. Dogs are uniquely suited to lose weight fast. As scavengers, when they can’t find food, they just eat their fat. Simply decrease (often by half) the volume of food (good quality food) for a dog and they lose weight. Sometimes in just a few weeks they are down to a manageable size. Weight gain and loss in dogs is all about the food. If they are not burning the calories with exercise, they need to eat even less than they would if they were active. Simple.

Cats, however, must lose weight slowly and carefully or they can become very sick. I count weight-loss time in cats in terms of months. The diet should be changed to provide more protein and fat and fewer carbs per meal to really make a difference. And a slow, steady weight loss over the course of a year should be a benchmark for success.

Remember, treats and everything that go in a pet’s mouth are included in my rules for health. Often when owners decrease meals to help with weight loss, they quietly increase treats because they feel guilty. But treats can be very calorie dense, so beware!

If your dog doesn’t seem to be able to lose weight with careful diet regulation, ask your vet to check the thyroid function. Many dogs have undiagnosed hypothyroid conditions that hamper weight loss and affect many other aspects of health over time.

Royal Rule #6: The What, The Where, And The How

Buy from food companies that source their food from sustainable farms, using more natural and organic products. Meats that come from feed lots/factory/industrial farms, etc, tend to have been produced by feeding cheap food to animals in close quarters. They are often given very little room to move, and don’t get normal exercise, stimulation or family connections. These animals are more likely to have been treated with drugs and chemicals and quite frankly, in my opinion, the stressors, medications and unhealthy diets that these food animals endure cannot make a healthy body, or healthy meat. I suspect that we may find this industrial meat quality also to blame for many of our pets’ illnesses.

It’s hard not to feel frustrated with the pet food industry and the hidden dangers of ignoring your pet’s dietary needs. We can certainly do better. With all the wheat, corn and other inappropriate ingredients we feed our pets, it’s no wonder our pets aren’t wildly healthy. 

As humans we can choose to be a part of nature or collide against it. Medicine, nature and wellness have parted ways for too long. There is a natural health in every  creature and I know that excellent food provides the tools to maintain it. We must simply get back to the basics, pay attention to diet, and watch our animals regain their wild healthy.

Dr. Royal’s new book, The Royal Treatment: A natural Approach to Wildly Healthy Pets, is now available in paperback on Amazon.com. For more information about Dr. Royal’s integrative approach to keeping your pets wildly healthy through sensible nutrition and preventative medicine, visit RoyalTreatmentVetCenter.com

Dr. Royal has been wildly interested in the health benefits of appropriate nutrition for over 20 years. Her education and nutrition started before vet school when she worked with wildlife and zoo animals and was a copy editor for the Dr. Scholl’s Conference on the Nutrition of Captive Wild Animals for several years. After becoming a doctor of veterinary medicine, she completed advanced courses in herbal medicine and nutrition at Tufts University in Massachusetts.

Molecule of the Day: Methylphenidate

Methylphenidate (C14H19NO2), also known as Ritalin, is a white powder that is slightly soluble in water. It is commonly used to treat ADD, ADHD, and narcolepsy.

Methylphenidate inhibits dopamine and norepinephrine transporter proteins, thus preventing dopamine and norepinephrine in the synaptic cleft from being reuptaken into the presynaptic knob. The resultant higher concentration of these substances in the synapse causes the receptors on the postsynaptic knob to be stimulated at a greater frequency, thus achieving greater synaptic transmission. This produces a psychostimulant effect, allowing it to be used in the treatment of ADHD.

In small amounts, methylphenidate has also been shown to enhance memory and control, caused by the activation of dopamine and adrenergic receptors. However, in large doses, it can have the opposite effect.

It has few side effects, which include loss of appetite, nausea, and insomnia. However, like many strong dopamine reuptake inhibitors, it can result in dependence, and is often seen as a gateway drug. 

Methylphenidate is industrially synthesised through a multi-step pathway from 2-bromopyridine and benzyl cyanide.

Requested by @zenbra

Molecule of the Day: Luminol

Luminol, of CSI fame, is a white-to-yellow solid that is insoluble in water that has the formula C8H7N3O2. It exhibits chemiluminescence when it reacts with an oxidising agent in the presence of a catalyst, a useful property that is utilised in forensics for detecting traces of blood.

It is synthesised by reacting 3-nitrophthalic acid with hydrazine to form 3-nitrophthalhydrazide, which is then reduced by sodium dithionite to form luminol.

In the presence of a base, luminol is deprotonated and isomerises to form the O-dianion, which then reacts with the oxidising agent in the presence of a catalyst (atmospheric oxygen and iron in the blood in the case of forensics) to produce an excited dianion. When the anion falls back to its ground state, light energy is released, which is observed in the form of a blue glow.

However, blood isn’t the only substance that can catalyse the reaction; other contaminants present, such as copper, bleach, and horseradish sauce, can produce false positives.

Regardless, it remains a useful tool in forensics, and who doesn’t love a lovely eerie blue glow?

Originally posted by rudescience


Molecule of the Day: Nicotine

Nicotine (C10H14N2) is a naturally occurring alkaloid found in tobacco and nightshade plants. It is a highly addictive substance, and has many psychotropic (mental function-altering) effects, causing it to be the focus of concern of many regarding the health effects of cigarette smoking.

Nicotine is rapidly transported throughout the body, reaching the brain within about 10 seconds of consumption. It acts as an agonist at acetylcholine receptors, resulting in an increase in nerve transmissions, which eventually leads to an increase in blood adrenaline levels. Other alkaloids present in cigarette smoke can also inhibit monoamine oxidase, which destroys dopamine, resulting in higher dopamine levels in the body.

Nicotine acts as a stimulant in small doses, promoting alertness and raising blood pressure, heart rate, and glucose secretion in small doses. Paradoxically, it elicits a sense of relaxation, calmness, and euphoria upon regular consumption or consumption of large doses. This phenomenon is known as “Nesbitt’s Paradox”.

However, nicotine has many side effects, the most prominent one being addiction. Due to the higher-than-normal stimulus induced by nicotine, the body reduces the number of receptors to maintain a constant level of cell signalling. As a result, greater dosages of nicotine is needed for the same effect. Furthermore, upon withdrawal of nicotine, the stimulus level is lower than normal, resulting in withdrawal symptoms and thus dependence.

Other potential side effects of nicotine: