March is upon us.
Warm weather is so close you can almost taste the cold brew.
What you may not know, is that March is Caffeine Awareness Month (who decides these things?).
Most of us are aware of caffeine. We are aware it exists. We are aware that it is in coffee.
But what is it?
And why should we be concerned about it? Or should we?
What is caffeine?
Caffeine is a naturally occurring compound that can be found within the leaves, seeds and fruit of over 60 varieties of plants, including coffee and tea. Its purpose in nature is to act as a pesticide, its bitter flavor warning hungry insects of the threat of toxicity.
Caffeine – both natural and synthetic – is added to a variety of beverages, both contributing to flavor profiles, and adding the energetic boost most of us associate with caffeine.
Whether natural of artificial, caffeine is caffeine and the physiological effects are the same.
How long as caffeine be a part of human diets?
- Tea has been consumed in China since as early 2737 BC.
- Coffee was discovered toward the end of the 6th century in Ethiopia and was used for it’s caffeinated properties, typically by brewing or eating the leaves, or emulsifying the seeds in animal fat and consuming.
- Coffee has been consumed as a beverage since the 11th century in the Arabian peninsula.
- Today, over 85% of Americans consume caffeine every day.
Is caffeine good for my health?
You may have heard conflicting reports on the safety of caffeine consumption.
Does it stunt your growth?
Does it cause ADD?
Will it lead to heart attacks?
We aren’t doctors, and we aren’t here to give you medical advice, but from a friend to friend we will say this: caffeine is safe.
At least, when it comes to coffee.
This study from the International Life Sciences Institute concluded that a daily intake of around 400mg of caffeine was “not associated with overt, adverse effects,” for adults (another study noted an inverse association between coffee consumption and mortality including those drinking all the way up to 8 cups per day!). This study is the largest of its kind to date and analyzed the results of over 700 previous independent studies.
To put this number in context, the average amount of caffeine in an 8 oz serving of black coffee is 95mg, although depending on a variety of factors, this number can range from around 15mg – 165mg, while the average decaffeinated coffee contains about 2mg per serving.
A 2014 study published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology, which studied potential adverse effects of caffeine, found that the average American consumes about 165mg of caffeine per day.
This number is well below the aforementioned safe daily intake, however, in the 2017 National Coffee Data Trends report from the National Coffee Association, 66% of coffee drinkers limit their daily caffeine intake due to health concerns.
Another important fact to remember is that when it comes to health and coffee – the conversation extends far beyond simple caffeine content.
For those that do avoid for caffeine, don’t despair!
Many of these benefits apply to decaffeinated coffee as well.
Coffee is delicious, caffeine - in relation to coffee consumption – is safe, and drinking coffee seems to provide a variety of potential health benefits.
Here’s to a caffeinated month of March!