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The Buzz on Coffee

The latest research shows your morning pick-me-up may be brimming with health benefits.

Caffeine Caution continued...

The caffeine content of coffee varies widely, depending on the bean used, the size of your cup, and how it is brewed. A standard 8-ounce cup of drip coffee has 85 milligrams of caffeine, while a standard dose of pain reliever with caffeine usually has 120 milligrams.

We each have our own thresholds for caffeine. Most people can tolerate two cups of coffee each day with no problem. But more than that may cause nervousness, rapid heartbeat, palpitations, sleeplessness, and irritability. It can even lead to health problems such as osteoporosis or high blood pressure. Of course, if you skip your usual morning cup, you can develop a caffeine withdrawal headache.

While coffee is the main source of caffeine for many people, it's also found in energy drinks, soft drinks, tea, chocolate, and over-the-counter cold and headache medicines. All these sources can add substantially to your daily caffeine total.

You might be surprised to learn that the "energy" from the popular energy drinks comes in part from their caffeine content. Energy drinks are not required to list their caffeine content on their labels, even though they can have twice as much as caffeinated soft drinks. So consumers have no way of knowing just how much caffeine they're getting. If you're a fan of energy drinks, contact the manufacturer or go to its web site to learn how much caffeine is in your favorite drink.

Beyond Caffeine, Calories Count

It amazes me how many people at Starbucks and other coffee houses order the high-calorie special coffees, laden with whipped cream, flavored syrups, and/or cream. Those add-ons can take a zero-calorie cup of coffee and turn it into more than a meal's worth -- as much as 570 calories per cup.

Here's the rundown for a few common coffee additions:

  • 2 tablespoons of flavored liquid nondairy creamer = 80 calories and 4 g fat.
  • 1 tablespoon of plain liquid nondairy creamer = 25 calories, 2 g fat.
  • 1 tablespoon half-and-half = 20 calories, 2 g fat.
  • 1 tablespoon cream = 50 calories, 6 g fat.
  • 1 tablespoon whipped cream = 90 calories, 9 g fat.
  • A drizzle of Starbucks caramel syrup = 25 calories.
  • 2 tablespoons flavored syrup = 80 calories, no fat.
  • 2 pumps of flavored sugar-free syrup = 0 calories.
  • 2 tablespoons malt = 90 calories, 2 g fat.
  • 1 tablespoon mocha syrup = 25 calories, 0.5 g fat.
  • 1 teaspoon sugar = 15 calories.

The next time you order your favorite joe, try it black or with nonfat milk and/or artificial sweeteners to get the health benefits without the extra calories.

Play It Safe

Researchers are cautious about making public health claims. But it certainly appears safe to keep drinking that delicious, aromatic, pick-me-up cup or two of coffee each day.

Just be sure to keep your intake moderate, to be on the safe side. If you experience palpitations, a rapid heartbeat or any symptoms associated with caffeine overload, talk to your doctor about your coffee intake. The same goes if you're pregnant, nursing, or have high blood pressure, heart disease, or osteoporosis.

Reviewed on May 07, 2008

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