Interesting facts about caffeine

College students who pull all-nighters may be familiar with caffeine pills, also called “alertness aids,” such as NoDoz and Vivarin, each of which contain 200 milligrams per pill.

In addition, caffeine is in some weight-loss products and dietary supplements. It may be listed on the label as guarana, kola nut, yerba mate, green tea extract or green coffee bean extract, according to the National Institutes of Health.


Coffee beans come from a red fruit

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The fragrant brown beans that people might toss into a grinder every morning actually come from a bright-red fruit.

Coffee comes from shrubs, known as coffee cherries, that produce a red berry when ripe, Lane told Live Science. The actual coffee beans, which are green, are found inside the coffee cherries.

Coffee often has to be picked by hand because the red fruit doesn’t all mature at the same time, Lane noted.

Before the beans were used to make coffee, the pulp from the red fruit was first fermented and used to make a wine, he said. Some time around 1000 A.D., people in Arabia began to roast coffee beans to make a beverage from them.

But according to the National Coffee Association, an industry trade group, an Ethiopian goat herder named Kaldi first discovered the stimulant powers of coffee around 800 A.D., when he found his goats dancing and frolicking in the fields after grazing on the red berries from a coffee shrub. After seeing its effects on his goats, Kaldi also tried the coffee cherries. He had a similar reaction to them.

Then, a monk who supposedly observed Kaldi and his goat’s odd behavior plucked some berries and took them back to his monastery for his brothers to try that night. After consuming the fruit, they became more alert and attentive during long hours of evening prayer. According to legend, the monks came up with the idea of drying the fruits and boiling them into a beverage.

It’s as if coffee cherries were the answer to the monks’ prayers — or at least their ability to stay awake during them.

Caffeine can exaggerate the effects of stress

Employees who check email after hours report higher levels of stress. (Image credit: Stress image via )

Lane’s research has found that caffeine can amplify stress in people who consume it every day. In a small study of habitual coffee drinkers, he found that caffeine amplifies the stress response in the body, resulting in increases in blood pressure and heart rate, as well as increases in the production of stress hormones.

Caffeine directly affects not only the way a person’s body responds to stress but also the mind by magnifying an individual’s perception of stress.

An exaggerated stress response can make a difference to people with conditions such as high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, Lane said.

In fact, he encourages people with these conditions, as well as people with prediabetes or borderline hypertension who are not yet on medication, to try eliminating coffee and other caffeinated beverages to see if it lowers their blood pressure or blood sugar levels.

Lane said lower blood pressure readings may occur within a few days of quitting caffeine, but it may take several months for people to see reductions in blood glucose.

Caffeine in plants acts as a natural pesticide and herbicide

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Caffeine is found in the leaves, fruits and seeds of some caffeine-producing plants, including coffee and tea shrubs, kola and cacao trees, guarana and yerba mate from South America.

Caffeine in plants function as a natural pesticide to help ward off insects that may attack the plants, and it may be useful in pest control, suggested a study from researchers at Harvard Medical School that was published in 1984 in the journal Science. At high doses, caffeine can even be toxic to insects.

Caffeine is also a natural herbicide that gets released into the soil so that weeds can’t grow near coffee and tea shrubs, Lane said. Weeds might compete with the shrubs for nutrients, he noted.

Lane also said that on coffee farms, caffeine can build up so much in the soil that the coffee plants themselves might suffer.

Follow Live Science @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Originally published on Live Science.

10 Surprising Facts About Caffeine

Most of us consume it every day, but how much do we really know about caffeine? The naturally-occurring substance with a bitter taste stimulates the central nervous system, making you feel more alert. In moderate doses, it can actually offer health benefits, including boosts to memory, concentration, and mental health. And coffee in particular, a major source of caffeine for Americans, has been associated with a host of body perks, including a possible decreased risk of alzheimer’s disease and certain cancers.

But in excess amounts, caffeine overuse can trigger a fast heart rate, insomnia, anxiety, and restlessness, among other side effects. Abruptly stopping use can lead to symptoms of withdrawal, including headaches and irritability.

Here are 10 lesser-known facts about one of the most common drugs in the world.

Decaf Isn’t the Same as Caffeine Free

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Think switching to decaf in the afternoon means you aren’t getting any of the stimulant? Think again. One Journal of Analytical Toxicology report looked at nine different types of decaffeinated coffee and determined that all but one contained caffeine. The dose ranged from 8.6mg to 13.9mg. (A generic brewed cup of regular coffee typically contains between 95 and 200mg, as a point of comparison. A 12-ounce can of Coke contains between 30 and 35mg, according to the Mayo Clinic.)

“If someone drinks five to 10 cups of decaffeinated coffee, the dose of caffeine could easily reach the level present in a cup or two of caffeinated coffee,” says study co-author Bruce Goldberger, Ph.D., a professor and director of UF’s William R. Maples Center for Forensic Medicine. “This could be a concern for people who are advised to cut their caffeine intake, such as those with kidney disease or anxiety disorders.”

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It Starts Working in Just Minutes

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According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, it takes about 30 to 60 minutes for caffeine to reach its peak level in the blood (one study found increased alertness can begin in as few as 10 minutes). The body typically eliminates half of the drug in three to five hours, and the remainder can linger for eight to 14 hours. Some people, particularly those who don’t regularly consume caffeine, are more sensitive to the effects than others.

Sleep experts often recommend abstaining from caffeine at least eight hours before bedtime to avoid wakefulness at night.

It Doesn’t Affect Everyone the Same

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The body might process caffeine differently based on gender, race, and even birth control use. New York magazine previously reported: “Women generally metabolize caffeine faster than men. Smokers process it twice as quickly as nonsmokers do. Women taking birth control pills metabolize it at perhaps one-third the rate that women not on the Pill do. Asians may do so more slowly than people of other races.”

In The World of Caffeine: The Science and Culture of the World’s Most Popular Drug, authors Bennett Alan Weinberg and Bonnie K. Bealer hypothesize that a nonsmoking Japanese man drinking his coffee with an alcoholic beverage-another slowing agent-would likely feel caffeinated “about five times longer than an Englishwoman who smoked cigarettes but did not drink or use oral contraceptives.”

Energy Drinks Have Less Caffeine Than Coffee

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By definition, one might reasonably think that energy drinks would pack loads of caffeine. But many popular brands actually contain considerably less than an old-fashioned cup of black coffee. An 8.4-ounce serving of Red Bull, for instance, has a relatively modest 76 to 80mg of caffeine, compared to the 95 to 200mg in a typical cup of coffee, the Mayo Clinic reports. What many energy drink brands frequently do have, though, is tons of sugar and hard-to-pronounce ingredients, so it’s best to stay clear of them anyway.

Dark Roasts Have Less Caffeine Than Lighter Ones

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A strong, rich flavor might seem to indicate an extra dose of caffeine, but the truth is that light roasts actually pack more of a jolt than dark roasts. The process of roasting burns off caffeine, NPR reports, meaning those looking for a less intense buzz might want to opt for the dark roast java at the coffee shop.

Caffeine is Found in More Than 60 Plants

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It’s not just coffee beans: Tea leaves, kola nuts (which flavor colas), and cocoa beans all contain caffeine. The stimulant is found naturally in the leaves, seeds, and fruits of a wide variety of plants. It can also be man-made and added to products.

Not All Coffees Are Created Equal

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When it comes to caffeine, all coffees are not created equal. According to a recent report from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, popular brands varied widely when it comes to the jolt they provided. McDonald’s, for instance, had 9.1mg per fluid ounce, while Starbucks packed more than double that at a full 20.6mg. For more on those findings, .

The Average American Consumes 200mg of Caffeine Daily

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According to the FDA, 80 percent of U.S. adults consume caffeine each day, with an individual intake of 200mg. To put that in real world terms, the average caffeine-consuming American drinks two five-ounce cups of coffee or about four sodas.

While another estimate puts the total closer to 300mg, both numbers fall within the definition of moderate caffeine consumption, which is between 200 and 300mg, according to the Mayo Clinic. Daily doses higher than 500 to 600mg are considered heavy and may cause problems such as insomnia, irritability, and a fast heartbeat, among others.

But Americans Don’t Consume the Most

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According to a recent BBC article, Finland takes the crown for the country with the highest caffeine consumption, with the average adult downing 400mg each day. Worldwide, 90 percent of people use caffeine in some form, the FDA reports.

You Can Find Caffeine in More Than Just Drinks

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According to one FDA report, more than 98 percent of our caffeine intake comes from beverages. But those aren’t the only sources of caffeine: Certain foods, such as chocolate (though not much: a one-ounce milk chocolate bar contains only about 5mg of caffeine), and medications can also contain caffeine. Combining a pain reliever with caffeine can make it 40 percent more effective, the Cleveland Clinic reports, and can also help the body to absorb the medication more quickly.

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Here are 28 Interesting Caffeine facts.

1-5 Caffeine Facts

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1. Dark roast coffee actually has less caffeine than light roasts. – Source

2. A Starbucks grande coffee has 320 milligrams of caffeine, over four times the amount of caffeine in a Red Bull. – Source

3. In 2010, Dave Grohl was admitted to hospital due to a drug overdose. He had consumed too much caffeine from coffee whilst recording a new album. – Source

4. Keurig coffeemaker co-inventor John Sylvan went to the ER reporting tunnel vision and heart palpitations. After a few tests, the doctors had no clue so they asked questions like “how much coffee do you drink?” To which John replied, “30 or 40 cups a day.” The diagnosis was caffeine poisoning. – Source

5. Ingesting caffeine will caffeinate your semen. – Source

6-10 Caffeine Facts

6. The caffeine in the coffee plant, like capsaicin in chili peppers, is meant to be a toxic substance to deter herbivores. – Source

7. In 2010, a man swallowed two spoonfuls of pure caffeine and quickly collapsed and died. – Source

8. A monastery in the UK makes as fortified wine called Buckfast that has 15% alcohol and as much caffeine as 8 cokes per bottle. Despite being made by monks, it is synonymous with crazed blackouts and underage use. – Source

9. Diet soft drinks have significantly more caffeine than their regular versions. Diet Coke, for example, has 30% more caffeine than regular Coke. – Source

10. Caffeine is a painkiller, and when used with other painkillers, such as Acetaminophen or NSAIDs, potentiates their effects significantly. – Source

11-15 Caffeine Facts

11. British researchers in 1996 found that the best nap was a short one taken just after intaking caffeine. – Source

12. Scientists in Portugal found a way to ferment coffee beans into 80 proof booze, destroying the caffeine in the process. – Source

13. In Lithuania, you have to be 18 years old to purchase beverages with more than 150 milligrams of caffeine per liter. – Source

14. A UK university was fined £400,000 after 2 students were accidentally given a lethal dose of caffeine during a scientific experiment. Because of a misplaced decimal point on the phone used to calculate the caffeine dosage, they received 30g instead of the planned 0.3g. The lethal dose is 18g. – Source

15. Caffeine, a stimulant, has actually been shown to calm down people with ADHD and help them concentrate. – Source

16-20 Caffeine Facts

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16. The Cola gets its name from the kola nut, a caffeine-containing fruit of the kola tree, which is used as a flavoring ingredient in beverages. – Source

17. Some orthodox Jews in the New York area use caffeine suppositories for fasting because it’s not “eating”. – Source

18. Caffeine was actually evolved as a natural insecticide, and that it paralyzes/kills insects who try to eat the plants. – Source

19. The fish in the Pacific Ocean is full of caffeine. – Source

20. It only takes 18 days to build a complete tolerance to a given daily dosage of caffeine. – Source

21-25 Caffeine Facts

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21. In 1912, Congress nearly banned caffeine as a harmful substance. – Source

22. Spiders can get high and build different webs on weed, caffeine, mescaline, and LSD. – Source

23. According to the American Psychiatric Association, caffeine withdrawal is officially a mental disorder. – Source

24. Monster (and other energy drink companies) have more caffeine than legally allowed in a soft drink due to the company classifying the beverage as a “supplement.” – Source

25. Antarctic explores Shackleton and Scott relied on “Forced March” a pill containing cocaine and caffeine. – Source

26-28 Caffeine Facts

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26. Native Americans brewed a drink from common shrub Ilex vomitoria, which contains nearly as much caffeine as coffee. You could be growing your morning fix in your backyard. – Source

27. Mountain Dew in Canada didn’t have caffeine until early 2012. – Source

28. There is a type of coffee called Death Wish Coffee that holds the world record for highest caffeine content and has 200% more caffeine than your ‘average joe’. – Source

Let’s face it we love the taste of a good cup of coffee, but where would we be without the caffeine content? This zippy, zingy element keeps us going through the day and, for some, into the night. It keeps us alert, focussed and awake! But there are some things you may not know about caffeine. Let me enlighten you…

10 Fun facts about caffeine

1. Time it right

Believe it or not, there are two parts of the day that are the best for consuming caffeine. Apparently, when it comes to your circadian clock, you should be drinking coffee at approximately 9:30am-11:30am and 1:30pm-5pm. Cortisol is a chemical that makes you awake/alert. Cortisol levels in your body will be high between these times, so you really don’t need a caffeine hit until they drop.

2. Women vs men

No, it’s not the battle of the sexes. Breathe a sigh of relief but the cold, hard facts are that women metabolise caffeine slower than men. This means us ladies retain the buzz of caffeine longer, which is why I can’t handle a coffee in the afternoon. It keeps me up at all hours.

3. Bees do it!

Bees like to drink caffeine too! It keeps them buzzing (pun intended!) Some of the nectar they drink has a little bit of caffeine hidden within its sweet, gooey-ness which keeps bees coming back for more. Studies have shown that it’s good for their long term memory too – just don’t ask me how they test this!

4. Overdose dangers

Guess how many cups of coffee it would take to mortally wound a human? 50? 70? 99? No, 100 cups of coffee in four hours. Again, I’m really not sure who they tested this on, but take the old scientists at their word and don’t try it out for yourself.

5. Burns fat

This one I like (although I’m not sure I could stomach a coffee just before a work out!) Caffeine inspires your blood cells to let those free fatty acids flow into your bloodstream. In turn, they then give you more energy so you can push your body further than normal.

6. Biggest caffeine addicts

You may think it’s doctors/nurses who drink the most to keep awake during the night shift. Or perhaps it’s students studying for their finals or mothers trying to keep alert after being up all night with a sick child. But you’d be wrong. The top 5 occupations/people who consume the largest amount of caffeine are: Scientists, Marketing professionals, Educators, Writers and Healthcare administrators.

7. 3,2,1 Caffeine hit!

I have convinced myself that as soon as I take a sip of my morning coffee, I immediately feel raring and ready to go… Superman-style! But I’m sorry to say that the good old caffeine hit takes a little longer to take effect – 10 minutes. So if you’re grumpy, sleepy or foggy in the brain straight after your latte, be patient, it will happen, just not when you expect it.

8. Diuretic tendancies

I don’t mean to get personal here but most of us coffee addicts know what this is all about. For most people, having a coffee will often lead to needing to visit the smallest room in the house ie the toilet/bathroom area. Caffeine is a milk diuretic which means it will make you have to a least have a wee. So don’t plan a long sit at a cafe if you’re planning on a couple of flat whites, if you know what I mean.

9. Dopamine booster

What makes you happy? Dopamine? Yes, it’s true. This naturally occurring chemical in your body is increased after you consume caffeine. That’s why coffee changes you from a sleepy, grumpy person into a perky people person in no time at all. It’s magic… kinda!

10. Can cause withdrawals

Like any drug, if you go off caffeine ‘cold-turkey’ you will experience withdrawals – which is pretty scary when you think about it. Side effects may include, headaches, sleepiness, depression, irritability or lethargy. So the best thing to do is have a little caffeine every day or ease off slowly.

How much do you love caffeine?

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You pour it without thinking (or more likely to help you start thinking) but there’s a fascinating backstory behind your morning cup of coffee. Here’s what goes into each cup of brewed beans — err, seeds.

1. The drink dates back to 800 A.D.

Legend has it that 9th-century goat herders noticed the effect caffeine had on their goats, who appeared to “dance” after eating the fruit of the Coffea plant. A local monk then made a drink with the produce and found that it kept him awake at night, thus the original cup of coffee was born.

2. Coffee beans are technically seeds.

They’re the pits of the cherry-like berries found on the flowering shrubs, but we call them “beans” because of the resemblance to legumes.

3. And you can eat coffee cherries as a food.

Early on, people mixed coffee berries with fat to create an energy-rich snack ball, according to PBS. They would also ferment the pulp to make a wine-like drink (yum!?).

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4. There are two main types: Arabica and Robusta.

Growers predominantly plant the Arabica species. Although less popular, Robusta tastes slightly more bitter and contains more caffeine.

5. Brazil grows the most coffee in the world.

Today, Brazil produces about third of the world’s supply, according to the International Coffee Organization, about twice as much as the second place holder, Vietnam.

6. Only two U.S. states produce coffee.

Kona coffee is the United States’ gift to the coffee world. Because coffee traditionally grows best in climates along the equator, Hawaii’s weather is optimal for harvesting beans. California also recently got into the coffee game with dozens of farms now churning out pricey premium bags.

7. Espresso means “pressed out” in Italian.

This refers to the way espresso is made — forcing boiling water through pressed coffee grounds. And although espresso has more caffeine per volume than coffee, it would take three shots to equal the amount in a regular cup of joe.

8. The world’s most expensive coffee can cost more than $600 a pound.

One of the most coveted varieties comes from the feces of an Asian palm civet. The cat-like creature eats fruit including coffee cherries, but is unable to digest the beans. The excreted seeds produce a smooth, less acidic brew called kopi luwak, but the means of production has drawn criticism from animal welfare activists.

9. Multiple people have tried to ban coffee.

Back in 1511, leaders in Mecca believed it stimulated radical thinking and outlawed the drink. Some 16th-century Italian clergymen also tried to ban coffee because they believed it to be “satanic.” However, Pope Clement VII loved coffee so much that he lifted the ban and had coffee baptized in 1600.

Even as recently as the 18th century, the Swedish government made both coffee and coffee paraphernalia (including cups and dishes) illegal for its supposed ties to rebellious sentiment.

10. You can overdose on coffee.

Don’t worry, you would need to drink about 30 cups in a very short period time to get close to a lethal dose of caffeine, Vox reports.

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11. Finland is home to the biggest coffee lovers.

The average adult Finn goes through 27.5 pounds of coffee each year, according to the International Coffee Organization. Compare that to a measly 11 pounds per American.

12. Coffee drinkers tend to live longer.

Research has linking moderate consumption (about three to four cups per day) with a longer life span, plus a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s, according to Harvard Health Publishing.

13. The largest cup of coffee ever filled a 9-foot tall cup.

The 3,487-gallon serving earned a Guiness World Record in 2012.

14. The Boston Tea Party helped popularize coffee in America.

In the lead up to the Revolutionary War, it became patriotic to sip java in lieu tea, of PBS reveals. The Civil War also made the drink more pervasive because it helped energize tired troops.

An engraving of an 18th-century coffee house. Culture ClubGetty Images

15. Decaf does not mean caffeine-free.

An eight-ounce brewed cup of decaf coffee actually contains two to 12 milligrams of caffeine, the Mayo Clinic states. In comparison, a regular cup of coffee supplies between 95 to 200 milligrams, while one can of cola has aout 23 to 35 milligrams of caffeine.

16. The word “coffee” comes from the Arabic word for “wine.”

Qahwah later became kahveh in Turkish, and then koffie in Dutch, which is where we get the English word coffee.

17. Starbucks opens an average of two stores per day.

You can now order grande lattés at more than 29,000 locations around the globe, 47 years after the first store launched in Seattle.

Justin SullivanGetty Images

18. One cup of black coffee only has one calorie.

Adding sweeteners, cream, and other mix-ins can quickly jack up the total. A venti Java Chip Frappuccino from Starbucks contains 88 grams of sugar and 600 calories — more than a McDonald’s Big Mac!

19. Teddy Roosevelt reportedly coined Maxwell House’s slogan.

Our nation’s 26th president loved coffee so much that one of his son’s described his custom cup as “more in the nature of a bathtub,” according to On a 1907 visit to Andrew Jackson’s former estate, the commander in chief supposedly dubbed a cup of Maxwell House joe “good to the last drop,” a catchphrase still used today.

20. You can order coffee 25,000 different ways at Dunkin’.

The recently renamed doughnut chain did the math on its customizable java drinks. It sells 2 billion cups globally per year, enough for customers to pick each option 80,000 times.

21. The grounds can beautify your skin.

Save your leftover beans for a DIY scrub. “Coffee grounds are physical exfoliators that can lift off dead skin cells, making skin feel smooth and look brighter,” says Good Housekeeping Beauty Lab chemist Danusia Wnek. “And caffeine is thought to improve blood circulation in skin, but there isn’t yet sufficient clinical data on its use in topical products.”

Caroline Picard Health Editor Caroline is the Health Editor at covering nutrition, fitness, wellness, and other lifestyle news.

7 Surprising Facts About Caffeine

Most of us have an intimate relationship with caffeine. We crave it, love it, and take it every day in coffee, tea and sodas. It feels quite familiar. But as I researched my book Caffeinated, I quickly learned that America’s favorite drug held surprises at every turn. Here are seven of them:

1) Coke used to have as much caffeine as Red Bull: For starters, consider energy drinks. Red Bull, Rockstar, Monster and other syrupy sweet, caffeinated drinks are suddenly everywhere. But there is really nothing new about them. As I read through the court papers from a 1911 trial pitting the federal government against Coca-Cola over the caffeine it blended into its products, I was surprised to learn that the early formulation for Coke was far more caffeinated than it is today. An eight-ounce serving had 80 milligrams of caffeine. This is the exact size and caffeine content of a modern Red Bull. Put another way, Coca-Cola pioneered the energy drink concept more than a century ago. The first Red Bull was a Coke.

2) Energy drinks still don’t have as much caffeine as Starbucks coffee: And then I ran into another popular misconception — the idea that these new energy drinks are super-caffeinated. Yes, they pack more of a caffeine punch than colas or teas, but rarely as much as coffee. It is hard to buy a coffee at Starbucks with less caffeine than a Red Bull (perhaps a single shot of espresso, or a mere four ounces of coffee). Even the popular 16-ounce Monsters and Rockstars — they supersize the Red Bull concept, doubling the size and the caffeine content — typically have about 160 milligrams of caffeine. That’s half the amount Starbucks estimates for a drip-brewed grandé.

3) We drink less coffee today, per person, than we did in the 1950s: So yes, we are drinking more energy drinks these days, but coffee culture still rules, right? We’ve got a Starbucks on every corner, it seems, and sometimes two, so we must be sipping more joe than ever. But here’s the weird thing — we drink less coffee than we did in 1950, a lot less. American coffee consumption peaked shortly after World War II, and then plummeted. Meanwhile, soft drinks became Americans’ favorite caffeinated beverages.

4) Nonetheless, coffee still accounts for most of our caffeine intake: But even as we chug more gallons of caffeinated sodas than coffee, we get more of our caffeine from coffee. Because the caffeine is more concentrated in coffee, it still provides two-thirds of the caffeine in our diet. Soft drinks come in second, and tea is in third place.

5) Most tea today is iced: And what about that tea, anyway? Again, it’s the source of a lot of misunderstanding. We typically think of tea as something prepared in a cup, with hot water poured over a tea bag, and sipped hot. But that is an archaic notion. So here’s another little-known fact — iced tea now accounts for 85 percent of the tea consumed in the US. This includes not just the sweet tea that lubricates southern living, but also the fast-growing bottled teas, ranging from Brisk and Nestea to the upscale Honest Tea and Tazo brands.

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6) It doesn’t take much to get hooked: Even as our preferences have shifted toward bottled sodas and teas, with their lower caffeine concentrations, research has shown that it does not take much caffeine to develop dependence. And here is another caffeinated surprise — as little as 100 milligrams of caffeine daily is enough to get an adult hooked. That’s about five to eight ounces of coffee, two bags of Lipton tea, or three cans of Coke. At this level of caffeine consumption, most people will experience some symptoms of caffeine withdrawal if they quit abruptly. Symptoms can include lethargy, no surprise, but also irritability and, especially, the classic caffeine withdrawal headache.

7) Caffeine is now being marketed as a hangover cure: Though caffeine can actually trigger headaches in some people, for most of us it is an effective headache therapy. It is bundled into a number of prescription migraine medications, and is a key ingredient in over-the-counter analgesics like Excedrin and Anacin. That’s not too surprising. What is surprising that it is now being marketed specifically to treat a dreaded malady — the hangover headache. For younger hangover sufferers, there are energy drinks like Monster Rehab and Rockstar Recovery, delivering a bit of morning-after caffeine. And Hangover Joe’s takes the basic energy shot formula and packages it for the over-served. Anacin is capitalizing on this with its trademarked slogan: “Great night. Rough morning. Better day.” A century ago, Coca-Cola’s ads read “Tired? Coca-Cola relieves fatigue.” The newer pitches for hangover remedies, like Anacin’s “Got Sharpied?” campaign, suggest caffeine is once again being viewed as a useful tonic.

However it is marketed, we, the coffee-chugging, soda-swilling, caffeine-addicted American public, are delighted to buy all of it, to feed our habit and treat our ills.

Murray Carpenter is the author of Caffeinated, How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts and Hooks Us, recently published by Hudson Street Press.

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11 surprising facts you may not know about caffeine

March is both Caffeine Awareness Month and National Nutrition Month, an appropriate time to take an updated look at the world’s most consumed “pick-me-up.” Caffeine consumption is widespread in the United States, with 85 percent of the population drinking at least one caffeinated beverage per day. This year, for the first time in its 35-year history, the official U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans includes findings and recommendations on caffeine.

Here are relevant facts that many Americans might not know about caffeine, including the latest recommendations from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

  1. Caffeine has been consumed by humans for thousands of years. It is reported that tea was first consumed in China as early as 3000 BC, and there is evidence of coffee consumption as early as the 9th century in Ethiopia. So, humanity has had a caffeine predilection for a long time. Caffeine is found naturally in over 60 plants including coffee beans, cocoa beans, tea leaves, kola nuts, yerba mate, and guarana. It is also produced synthetically and added to other products including soft drinks and energy drinks. However, there is no difference between the naturally occurring caffeine in plants and synthetic caffeine.
  2. Americans are not alone in their enjoyment of a cup of joe! Large parts of the world’s population consume caffeine in one form or another, every day. Countries that consume the most caffeine include places like Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and the Netherlands.
  3. There appears to be widespread agreement regarding the safety of a moderate daily intake level of caffeine for healthy adults of 400 milligrams (mg). The recently released Dietary Guidelines conclude that moderate coffee consumption (up to 400 mg/day of caffeine) can be part of a healthy diet. Health Canada and the European Food Safety Authority have also declared moderate caffeine intake of up to 400 mg/day safe.
  4. The vast majority of Americans consume far less than 400 mg/day of caffeine. According to the Dietary Guidelines, average intakes of caffeine among adults range from 110 mg/day (for women ages 19-30) up to 260 mg/day (for men ages 51-70). Average intakes for children (5-32 mg/day) and teens (63-80 mg/day) are lower.
  5. Consumption has remained consistent. Despite concerns expressed by some about proliferation of caffeine in the food supply, U.S. dietary patterns indicate that caffeine intake has remained steady over the past decade.
  6. Most of our intake of caffeine in the United States continues to come from coffee, tea, and soda. This is consistent with a recent FDA-sponsored study that found between 70 and 90 percent of caffeine intake is from coffee and tea.
  7. Consuming 400 mg is probably harder than you think. The Dietary Guidelines confirm that caffeinated beverages can vary in caffeine content. So consumers should be aware of how much caffeine is in commonly consumed beverages. To assist, the following examples illustrate how much you would have to drink to reach 400 mg of caffeine.
    • 16.6 servings of green tea (24 mg caffeine/8 fl. oz.)
    • 11.5 servings of brand cola (average 35 mg caffeine/8 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 (95.2 mg caffeine/8 fl. oz.)
    • 2.2 servings of coffee house coffee (180mg 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.)
  8. Surprise! The darker the coffee roast, the less caffeine it has. For tea, it’s the opposite: the darker the tea, the higher the caffeine content.
  9. Caffeine is one of the most thoroughly studied substances in the human diet. Over time, scientists have scrutinized, studied, and dissected caffeine; it has been surveyed, assessed and analyzed by chemists, toxicologists, and statisticians; and importantly, the effects of caffeine have been examined, discussed, and experienced first-hand by the billions of people that consume coffee, tea, chocolate, cola, or energy drinks on a daily basis. While it has been suspected of various harmful effects, for the most part, it has been exonerated. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines finds strong and consistent evidence that 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.
  10. Caffeine isn’t for everyone. There are some people who should limit their caffeine intake. The Dietary Guidelines recommend that pregnant women, those who may become pregnant, and those who are breastfeeding should consult their health care providers for advice concerning caffeine consumption. Although the Guidelines are silent on other populations, everyone is different when it comes to caffeine. Children and teens should generally consume less caffeine due to weight concerns (and parents should monitor). Health Canada, for example, recommends specific ranges for different age groups. In addition, those who are especially sensitive to caffeine may want to limit their intake, and while caffeine is great to help get your morning started, it shouldn’t be used as a replacement for sleep.
  11. Some animals should not consume caffeine. Dogs, cats, and birds cannot metabolize caffeine, so don’t feed your pets chocolate or anything with caffeine!
  12. Cold brewed coffee products are gaining popularity. Given the extended steeping time during manufacture and processing, these products tend to have higher caffeine concentrations. An example of this is Chameleon Cold Brew, which contains a huge 2,160 mg of caffeine per 32 fl. oz. bottle. While the product label recommends consuming this as eight servings, it is still an excessive amount of caffeine to have in one container, and amounts to 270 mg per serving.
  13. Caffeine is sometimes found in surprising places like orange soda, lemonade, and enhanced water beverages.
  14. Caffeine is caffeine. The Dietary Guidelines treat caffeine holistically, focusing on the ingredient itself, whether naturally occurring, synthetic, or a combination of both–versus individual caffeinated products. We agree with this approach. Caffeine is the same, regardless of the food or beverage.

We believe that all products containing caffeine should declare the amount of caffeine per serving–and per container–on the label. To be able to track caffeine intake, using the 400 mg/day moderate level of intake as a maximum for recommended intake, consumers need to know how much caffeine is in the foods and beverages they consume. But, that can be an issue, particularly for products like energy shots and the new wave of highly caffeinated cold brew coffee products.

FDA currently requires food labels to disclose added caffeine as an ingredient, but the label is not required to provide the amount of caffeine. Very few products voluntarily list the amount of caffeine they contain, although some companies, like Red Bull and Monster, and some soft drinks, provide this information voluntarily. Because caffeine is not a nutrient, it is not listed in the Nutrition Facts label. But, would it be so hard to provide caffeine content elsewhere on the information panel?

As in all things, a little common sense goes a long way and sensitivity levels can vary from person to person. We likely all know someone who can drink an espresso after dinner and still fall asleep, while other friends may not be able to drink a Diet Coke in the afternoon without it affecting their sleep quality. Let your individual sensitivity to caffeine be your guide.

National Nutrition Month is an annual initiative led by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
DISCLOSURE: while researching facts for this blog, approximately 220 mg of caffeine (3 cappuccinos) was consumed.

  1. Seventy-three percent of U.S. kids consume caffeine on any given day, according to a 2014 Pediatrics paper; a Yale study found that middle-schoolers who imbibe energy drinks are at a 66 percent higher risk for hyperactivity than their peers who abstain. Kids’ caffeine usage is also linked to depression and substance abuse.

  2. Adults suffer too. Caffeine withdrawal was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2013. “It’s seen frequently, often alongside anxiety disorders,” says David Salvage, a New York psychiatrist who specializes in addiction.

  3. Even more alarming is the growing popularity of powdered pure caffeine, readily available in bulk on eBay. In 2014, the Food and Drug Administration, spurred by two lethal overdoses, warned that people should avoid the stuff, but an outright ban is unlikely.

  4. One teaspoon of powdered pure caffeine is equivalent to roughly 25 cups of coffee.

  5. One of the barriers to safe con­sumption is that regulation is all over the place, says Murray Carpenter, author of Caffeinated. “If you put 200 milligrams of caffeine powder into a 5-hour Energy Shot, it’s regulated as a supplement,” he says. But press it into a tablet, like NoDoz, and it’s an over-the-counter medication. Blend it into six soft drinks and it’s a food.”

  6. Even the military, which has long used caffeine-enriched foods to increase soldier alertness, is researching new methods for mental boosts, says Betty Davis, leader of the Performance Nutrition Team at the U.S. Army Natick Soldier Systems Center in Massachusetts. “We’re looking to see if improving soldiers’ gut health with dietary compounds is a good alternative,” she says. Their findings could ultimately yield better, safer energy for the masses.

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