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Top: People with no conflicting conditions can enjoy coffee 4 cups of brewed coffee daily. Want more? Switch to decaf (photo La Panineria). Bottom: Cold brew coffee, growing in popularity, has the most caffeine by a long shot (photo Seaworth Coffee).
March is Caffeine Awareness Month. The National Consumers League (NCL) shared these facts on the world’s most consumed pick-me-up:
Caffeine has been consumed by humans for thousands of years. Tea was first consumed in China as early as 3000 B.C.E., and coffee consumption in Ethiopia appears to have commenced in the 9th century C.E.
Caffeine is found naturally in more than 60 plants. It is also produced synthetically and added to products including soft drinks and energy drinks. The actual source of caffeine—natural or synthetic—does not matter to performance or health.
Six beverages contain natural caffeine. Can you name them? The answers are below.
We are a nation of caffeine consumers. Some 85% of Americans drink at least one caffeinated beverage per day.
The caffeine intake of American adults ranges from 110 mg/day (for women ages 19-30) up to 260 mg/day (for men ages 51-70). National caffeine intake has remained steady over the past decade. It is much higher in the world’s top caffeine-consuming nations: Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands.
Most caffeine intake in the U.S. comes from coffee, tea and soda. Caffeine is sometimes found in surprising places like orange soda, lemonade and enhanced water beverages. Read the labels!
Moderate coffee consumption—up to 400 mg/day of caffeine—can be part of a healthy eating pattern, according to the recently released 2015-2020 U.S. Dietary Guidelines. This amount has also been found to be safe by Health Canada and the European Food Safety Authority.
Here’s what 400 mg of caffeine comprises:
– 16.6 servings of green tea (24 mg caffeine/8 fl. oz.)
– 11.5 servings of a cola soft drink (average 35 mg caffeine/12 fl. oz.)
– 8.5 servings of black tea (47 mg caffeine/8 fl. oz.)
– 5 servings of Red Bull energy drink (80 mg caffeine/8.4 fl. oz.)
– 4.2 servings of regular brewed coffee (95 mg caffeine/8 fl. oz.)
– 2.2 servings of coffee house coffee (180 mg caffeine/8 fl. oz.)
– 2 servings of 5-Hour Energy (200 mg caffeine/2 fl. oz.)
– 1 serving of 10-Hour Energy shot (422 mg caffeine/2 fl. oz.)
Amounts of caffeine in cold-brew coffee can be astonishing: as much as 2,160 mg of caffeine in a 32 fl. oz. bottle, or 540mg per eight-ounce cup. It equates to about 23 cups of home brewed coffee, 62 cans of cola or 45 cups of black tea.
Scientific consensus is that everyone is different when it comes to the effects of caffeine. Children and teens should generally consume less caffeine due to their lower body weights.
Moderate caffeine consumption in healthy adults is not associated with an increased risk of major chronic diseases (e.g., cancer, heart disease) or premature death, according to the Dietary Guidelines.
The Dietary Guidelines are silent on most population groups, but advises that pregnant women, those who may become pregnant, and those who are breastfeeding should consult their health care providers for advice concerning caffeine consumption.
Dogs, cats, and birds cannot metabolize caffeine, so don’t feed them chocolate or anything else with caffeine.
LABELS DON’T TELL ALL
The FDA currently requires food labels to disclose added caffeine as an ingredient, but the label is not required to provide the amount of added caffeine or to list natural caffeine.
As a result, very few products voluntarily list the total amount of caffeine they contain; although some companies, like Red Bull and Monster, and some soft drinks, provide this information voluntarily.
The NCL is an advocate for transparency. To be able to moderate their intake, says the organization, consumers need to know how much caffeine is in the foods and beverages they consume.
The NCL believes that all products containing caffeine should declare the amount of caffeine per serving-and per container-on the label—and we agree.
And The Answers Are…
Not so innocent: Cacao beans, and the cocoa powder made from them, contains caffeine. Photo courtesy La Panineria.
The six foods/beverages that contain natural caffeine are: cacao/cocoa, coffee, guarana, the kola nut, tea (black, green or white Camellia sinensis but not herbal tea, which has no caffeine) and yerba maté.
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