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Coffee, Caffeine and Your Health

Written by Mita Majumdar, M.Sc. | Medically Reviewed by dr. reeja tharu, M.Phil.,Ph.D on Dec 15, 2020
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Caffeine sensitivity decides if coffee is good or bad for you. However drinking coffee preferably without caffeine may be good for your health.

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Coffee is perhaps one of the most widely- consumed drinks in the world and also one of the most intensely scrutinized beverage as far as lifestyle and health is concerned. At times, a cup of coffee is a healthy food and at other times it is the ‘Devil’s brew’.

Today, coffee is cultivated in about 80 countries ranging from America to Africa and Asia, with Brazil and Colombia being the two biggest producers. According to the International Coffee Organization, the worldwide production of coffee in 2009 was 120,613,000 bags (around 8 million metric tons). It is second to petroleum, in terms of international trading, giving earning opportunities to more than 125 million people globally. Coffee is popular indeed!

Coffee, Caffeine and Your Health

“The morning cup of coffee has an exhilaration about it which the cheering influence of the afternoon or evening cup of tea cannot be expected to reproduce,” wrote Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. – physician and one of the greatest 19th century writer – in his table-talk book ‘Over the Teacups’.

What is it that gives coffee its exhilaration factor? Well, it’s caffeine, or 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine, which is a pharmacologically important psychotropic alkaloid. Caffeine is not just confined to coffee, it occurs naturally in tea, cocoa, and is added to soft and energy drinks.

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The amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee would vary depending upon the origin or composition of the coffee, the method of brewing and the strength of the brew.

So, how much coffee is too much? The American Dietetic Association’s ‘Complete food and nutrition guide’ recommends a maximum of 200-300 mg of caffeine per day. This translates to about two to three cups of coffee per day or five cups of tea or 10 tablets of some painkillers.

The amount of coffee you can tolerate depends on how sensitive you are to the caffeine in the coffee. Some people are more caffeine- sensitive than others. Caffeine sensitivity depends on the amount of caffeine you can tolerate, your physical condition, and also your overall stress and anxiety level. If you drink coffee regularly you may not notice the effects as quickly as the person who drinks an occasional cup. Whether you are a coffee addict or you drink coffee occasionally, and irrespective of your caffeine sensitivity, switching to decaffeinated coffee (decaf) may well serve the purpose without compromising your health.

A word about decaf coffee – University of Florida research study and other studies have shown that almost all decaffeinated coffee contain some measure of caffeine. Decaffeinated coffee is not the same as caffeine-free coffee.

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If you are calorie-conscious, look into the ingredients that go into your coffee. That frappe and cappuccino or even that white chocolate mocha may be loaded with calories! Know your coffee to enjoy it completely.

Here’s a quick reference guide on caffeine content in some of the popular beverages
Percolated coffee (7 oz)140 mg
Drip (7 oz)115-175 mg
Espresso (1.5 to 2 oz)100 mg
Brewed (7 oz)80-135 mg
Instant (7 oz)65-100 mg
Decaf coffee, brewed (6 oz)5 mg
Decaf coffee, instant (6 oz)3 mg
Iced tea (12 oz)70 mg
Black tea (6 oz)70 mg
Green tea (6 oz)35 mg
Milk chocolate (1 oz)1-15 mg
Dark chocolate (1 oz)5-35 mg
[Source: EROWID - http://www.erowid.org/chemicals/caffeine/caffeine_info1.shtml]

Coffee, instant, regular, powder

The nutritional values of "Coffee, instant, regular, powder" per 100 grams are:
Nutrition Summary
Total Calories 353
Protein 12.2 g
Fat 0.4 g
Carbohydrate 75.4 g
NutrientsAmount%Daily Value
Calcium, Ca 141 mg 14.1 %
Copper, Cu 0.14 mg 6.95 %
Iron, Fe 4.41  mg 24.5 %
Magnesium, Mg 327 mg 81.75 %
Manganese, Mn 1.71 mg 85.6 %
Phosphorus, P 303 mg 30.3 %
Potassium, K 3535  mg 101 %
Selenium, Se 12.6 mcg 18 %
Sodium, Na 37 mg 1.54 %
Zinc, Zn 0.35 mg 2.33 %
Vitamin A 0  IU 0 %
Vitamin C 0 mg 0 %
Vitamin B6 0.03 mg 1.45 %
Vitamin E 0 mg 0 %
Vitamin K 1.9  mcg 2.38 %
Riboflavin 0.07  mg 4.35 %
Thiamin 0.01 mg 0.53 %
Folate, DFE 0  mcg 0 %
Niacin 28.17  mg 140.86 %
Sugars 0 g
Fiber 0  g 0 %
Cholesterol 0 mg 0 %
Water 3.1 g
Carotene, alpha 0 mcg
Carotene, beta 0  mcg
Choline 101.9 mg
Lycopene 0  mcg
View all +
Data source: USDA Nutrient Database, R25
*Percent Daily Values (%DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie reference diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower based on your individual needs.
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  8. Nobuo Momoi, Joseph P. Tinney, Li J. Liu, Huda Elshershari, Paul J. Hoffmann, John C. Ralphe, Bradley B. Keller, and Kimimasa Tobita. Modest maternal caffeine exposure affects developing embryonic cardiovascular function and growth. Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol 294: H2248-H2256, 2008. doi:10.1152/ajpheart.91469.2007
  9. Armstrong BG, McDonald AD, Sloan M. Cigarette, alcohol, and coffee consumption and spontaneous abortion. Am J Public Health. 1992 Jan;82(1):85-7.
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  16. Pizziol A, Tikhonoff V, Paleari CD, et al. Effects of caffeine on glucose tolerance: a placebo-controlled study. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1998;52:846-849.
  17. van Dam, RM et al. Coffee consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes - A systematic review. JAMA Volume: 294 Issue: 1 Pages: 97-104 Published: JUL 6 2005.
  18. Tan EK et al. Dose-dependent protective effect of coffee, tea, and smoking in Parkinson''s disease: a study in ethnic Chinese. J Neurol Sci. 2003 Dec 15;216(1):163-7.

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