New Castle News

Community News Network

May 23, 2014

Five myths about caffeine

Chances are, you have some caffeine in your system right now; you might even be reading this article with a cup of coffee, a can of soda or a mug of tea in hand. But how much do you know about the drug - and yes, it is a drug - you're consuming? Before downing one more gulp of your favorite stimulant, let go of some persistent, caffeinated myths.

               

1. Americans now consume more caffeine than ever.

With a Starbucks or Dunkin' Donuts on every corner; grocery coolers full of soft drinks, energy drinks and teas; and convenience-store counters displaying 5-hour Energy shots, it seems that we are more caffeinated than ever.

Except we aren't. U.S. coffee consumption peaked 65 years ago, then fell dramatically. From 1946 to 2005, it declined roughly by half, from 46 gallons per person each year to 24 gallons. And despite the abundance of new ways to consume caffeine, we still get most of our caffeine from coffee. Two recent surveys, one by the Food and Drug Administration and one for an industry-backed research group, show that coffee accounts for two-thirds of the caffeine in the American diet.

As coffee drinking fell, soft drink consumption surged, rising from 11 gallons per person annually in 1947 to 51 gallons in 2005. But, with their lower caffeine content, soft drinks have not replaced the caffeine we've dropped from our diets by drinking less coffee.

That's something to bear in mind the next time you hear phrases like "In our hyper-caffeinated society . . . "

               

2. Energy drinks have more caffeine than coffee.

Not really. Let's start with the classic Red Bull. The original 8.4-ounce can has 80 milligrams of caffeine. That's equivalent to a mere four ounces of drip-brewed coffee from Starbucks.

Cans of the super-size energy drinks such as Monster and Rockstar are twice the size of the little Red Bulls, with roughly twice the caffeine. At this serving size, the drinks begin to approach the caffeine levels of coffee. One analysis found an average of 188 milligrams of caffeine per 16-ounce cup of coffee. A can of Monster contains 184 milligrams.

But even these larger energy drinks don't approach the caffeine levels of Starbucks coffee, which tends to have higher caffeine concentrations than Dunkin' Donuts coffee, for example. Starbucks claims approximately 260 milligrams of caffeine per 12-ounce cup of drip-brewed coffee ("tall") and 330 milligrams per 16-ounce cup ("grande"). Few energy drinks approach the latter level, which equals four Red Bulls. A 22-ounce bottle of NOS, an energy drink bottled by Coca-Cola, does contain 220 milligrams of caffeine. That is a lot, but an equal-size serving of Starbucks coffee would have twice as much.

Bottom line: If you want a strong caffeine jolt, stick to the joe.

               

3. Most pure caffeine is derived from plants like coffee and tea.

For more than 100 years, bottlers have been blending the pure, powdered form of the drug into soft drinks. (When the practice began, Coke and Pepsi were marketed as tonics for fatigue, and caffeine gave them their pep.) The United States now imports more than 15 million pounds of powdered caffeine annually; most for use in soft drinks. In the early days, it was produced by domestic chemical companies such as Monsanto, which began extracting caffeine from waste tea leaves in 1905 to supply Coca-Cola. Some caffeine is still produced this way, and some as a byproduct of coffee decaffeination.

But most of the powdered caffeine we now use is synthesized in pharmaceutical plants, primarily in China but also in Germany and India. The caffeine is not extracted from natural plant products such as coffee or tea, but assembled from chemical precursors including urea and chloroacetic acid.

Whatever the origin, the chemical is the same, and it has the same physiological effects. But the forms are distinguishable by laboratory analysis.

               

4. Caffeine is a diuretic.

 Anyone who has slammed a large cup of coffee and then been stuck in a traffic jam may conclude that caffeine is a diuretic. But University of Connecticut researchers studied the effects of caffeine on healthy, active men in 2005 and found no indication of such an effect. Their study, which followed subjects for 11 days of controlled caffeine consumption, came to this conclusion: "These findings question the widely accepted notion that caffeine consumption acts chronically as a diuretic."

Because caffeine has been considered a diuretic, people have worried that drinking coffee can contribute to dehydration. In a study published this year, however, researchers in England looked specifically at caffeinated coffee. Their subjects were 50 men who consumed similar amounts of coffee or water while researchers measured their urine output. The result? No dehydration.

The authors say it's time to bust the dehydration myth: "These data suggest that coffee, when consumed in moderation by caffeine habituated males contributes to daily fluid requirement and does not pose a detrimental effect to fluid balance. The advice provided in the public health domain regarding coffee intake and hydration status should therefore be updated to reflect these findings."

It may be little comfort to that bursting bladder, but caffeine isn't to blame.

               

5. Gourmet coffee is typically dark-roasted.

When the specialty-coffee movement took off 20 years ago, it was led by Peet's and Starbucks. By serving coffee that was roasted dark and brewed strong, both distinguished themselves from the lightly roasted and often weakly brewed commercial coffee Americans were used to. As Starbucks took the nation by siege, many people came to associate coffeehouses with dark-roast coffee. (Along the way, the chain acquired the moniker Charbucks, from those who thought its coffee was roasted to ashes.)

But then the pendulum started to swing back. In 2008, Starbucks introduced Pike Place Roast, a medium-roast coffee that's served alongside the dark "bold pick of the day." Meanwhile, a slew of upstart coffee companies emerged. Roasters such as Blue Bottle, Intelligentsia and Stumptown, serving self-proclaimed coffee snobs, carved out their niche by roasting coffee very lightly. Following their lead, Starbucks introduced its Blonde Roast coffee in 2011.

Connoisseurs argue that lightly roasted coffee preserves more of the bean's distinct flavors. Maybe, but to unsophisticated palates like mine, it often tends to taste sour. I go for medium-roast coffee, the most pedestrian of roasting strategies. (The darkest-roasted beans have slightly less caffeine, bean for bean, than the lightest; some caffeine is lost in the roasting process.)

Of course, if you prefer dark-roast coffee, fret not. In a decade or so, the pendulum is bound to swing the other way again.

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Community News Network
  • Dangerous Darkies Logo.png Redskins not the only nickname to cause a stir

    Daniel Snyder has come under fire for refusing to change the mascot of his NFL team, the Washington Redskins. The Redskins, however, are far from being the only controversial mascot in sports history.  Here is a sampling of athletic teams from all areas of the sports world that were outside the norm.

    July 28, 2014 3 Photos

  • 'Rebel' mascot rising from the dead

    Students and alumni from a Richmond, Va.-area high school are seeking to revive the school's historic mascot, a Confederate soldier known as the "Rebel Man," spurring debate about the appropriateness of public school connections to the Civil War and its icons.

    July 28, 2014

  • Fast food comes to standstill in China

    The shortage of meat is the result of China's latest food scandal, in which a Shanghai supplier allegedly tackled the problem of expired meat by putting it in new packaging and shipping it to fast-food restaurants around the country

    July 28, 2014

  • wd saturday tobias .jpg Stranger’s generosity stuns Ohio veteran

    Vietnam War veteran David A. Tobias was overwhelmed recently when a fellow customer at an OfficeMax store near Ashtabula, Ohio paid for a computer he was purchasing.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.33.11 PM.png VIDEO: High-dive accident caught on tape

    A woman at a water park in Idaho leaped off a 22-foot high dive platform, then tried to pull herself back up with frightening results. Fortunately, she escaped with only a cut to her finger.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • CATS-DOGS281.jpg Where cats are more popular than dogs in the U.S.-and all over the world

    We all know there are only two types of people in the world: cat people and dog people. But data from market research firm Euromonitor suggest that these differences extend beyond individual preferences and to the realm of geopolitics: it turns out there are cat countries and dog countries, too.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • How spy agencies keep their 'toys' from law enforcement

    A little over a decade ago, federal prosecutors used keystroke logging software to steal the encryption password of an alleged New Jersey mobster, Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., so they could get evidence from his computer to be used at his trial.

    July 25, 2014

  • Russia's war on McDonald's takes aim at the Filet-o-Fish

    Russia said earlier this week that it had no intention of answering Western sanctions by making it harder for Western companies to conduct business in Russia.
    But all bets are off, apparently, when you threaten the Russian waistline.

    July 25, 2014

  • cleaning supplies Don't judge mothers with messy homes

    I was building shelves in my garage when a neighbor girl, one of my 4-year-old daughter's friends, approached me and said, "I just saw in your house. It's pretty dirty. Norah's mommy needs to clean more."

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Arizona's prolonged lethal injection is fourth in U.S. this year

    Arizona's execution of double-murderer Joseph Wood marked the fourth time this year that a state failed to dispatch a convict efficiently, according to the Constitution Project, a bipartisan legal group.3

    July 24, 2014

House Ads
Poll

Summer is a perfect time for a good read. Where's your favorite place to spend off time with your nose in a book?

Relaxing on the couch
On a bench in the park
By the pool
At the closest beach
I don't have time to read
     View Results