Caffeine Complexities

There are times when it can be our best friend and times when it is our worst enemy. It can give us the boost that we need on a tired morning or we can lay awake at night cursing it. Our complex relationship with caffeine reflects the mysterious ways in which the compound can work. But what are the effects that this compound can have on our bodies?

To make matters more complex, caffeine can come in many different forms, not just coffee! To help us to understand it better, let’s take a look at the different sources it can be found in and the potential positive and negative effects it can have on our health.

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Where is caffeine found?

Many of us know that caffeine is found in coffee. But did you know that it is also found in many other foods and drinks? You may be surprised by some of its hosts! See below for the average amounts of caffeine found in certain sources:

  • Brewed coffee = 95 mg
  • Instant coffee = 82 mg
  • Red Bull = 80 mg
  • Tea = 45 mg
  • Can of Coca Cola = 40 mg
  • Bar of dark chocolate =31 mg
  • Shot of espresso = 27 mg
  • Green tea = 20 mg
  • Hot chocolate = 19 mg
  • Scoop of coffee ice-cream = 16 mg
  • Bar of milk chocolate = 11 mg
  • Decaf coffee = 3 mg

Adults are recommended to consume less than 400 mg of caffeine per day and less than 200 mg per day is recommended during pregnancy.

What positive effects can caffeine have?

Caffeine is most well-known for its ability to increase alertness and make us feel more awake. Many people find that it can give them a boost in the morning to get tasks done through helping us to focus. It can also enhance performance, including sport and exercise performance.

A moderate intake of coffee (around 300 mg per day, or 3 cups of coffee) is associated with reduced risk of a number of diseases, including type two diabetes, cardiovascular disease and depression.

Coffee also contains many other compounds in addition to caffeine. These include polyphenols, which are antioxidants and may be responsible for some of the benefits described.

What negative effects can caffeine have?

The effects that caffeine has varies greatly from one person to the next. Certain people are responders to caffeine, while others are non-responders. As a result, it can have a wide range of effects, both positive and negative.

Negative effects that caffeine can have include heart palpitations, increased blood pressure, disrupted sleep, increased anxiety and headaches. Coffee may also cause acid reflux or gut irritations for some people.

It can also have harmful effects on babies during pregnancy, which is why consumption should be limited during this time.

In addition, coffee and tea contain tannins which can hinder absorption of iron and other minerals. For this reason, you should avoid consuming these drinks at mealtimes and have them either 30 minutes before or 30 minutes after a meal, in order to aid mineral absorption.

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What is the take-home message?

Like many aspects of nutrition, caffeine can have positive and negative effects on our health. When consumed in moderation, there are many possible advantages of its consumption. It is important to remember that caffeine is found in a number of sources beyond coffee and that excess consumption should be avoided in those who are sensitive to its negative effects.

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