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Let’s face it. In today’s busy world, juggling work, kids and who-knows-what-else, sometimes a caffeine mainline sounds like an appealing support system. But while about 90 percent of adults use caffeine daily — yes, “use,” as you would a drug! — many of us know little about the nitty-gritty of caffeine.
According to MedicineNet.com, “Caffeine is considered the most commonly used psychoactive drug in the world.” Scientifically known as 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine, caffeine earned its common name from the German kaffee and the French café, both of which mean “coffee.”
It’s no surprise, then, that so many of us turn to coffee for our caffeine fix. An 8-ounce cup of plain, brewed Joe contains 135 mg of caffeine, almost four times as much as a 1-ounce pour of espresso (40 mg) and more than twice as much as an 8-ounce cup of brewed tea (25-40 mg for green tea, 40-70 mg for black tea). Diet Coke contains more caffeine than regular Coke (47 mg vs. 35 mg). (Diet Pepsi contains 36 mg of caffeine, whereas regular Pepsi packs 38 mg.) Even chocolate and many over-the-counter medications contain substantial amounts of caffeine.
A moderate daily intake of caffeine — anywhere from 200 to 300 mg/day — is considered safe for most adults. A quarter to one-third of American adults consume twice that every day. “Heavy” caffeine consumption is classified as more than 6000 mg/day. (Picture 85 cans of Mountain Dew!)
Health nuts and purists often eschew caffeine usage altogether, though sometimes they might not be able to say why. Perhaps it’s how caffeine can induce over-stimulation or jitters. In any case, understanding how caffeine works in the body can help anyone make a mindful decision about whether to order that next cup of coffee — or maybe to make it a decaf (though even “decaf” coffee contains 5 mg of caffeine per 8-ounce pour).
Interestingly, nutrition labels on foods and beverages don’t list caffeine content. And more products keep popping up on the market touting their energy-boosting effects, often due to high levels of caffeine. Don’t be fooled into believing that caffeine is risk-free.