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6 things to know about caffeine

Photo: Courtney Hale/iStockphoto

For many of us, there’s magic in a morning cup of coffee. The magic being, of course, caffeine, which can help us wake up and start the day.

However, experts say you shouldn’t consume more than the Food and Drug Administration recommended daily limit of 400 milligrams for healthy adults.

What does 400 mg amount to? Some examples: A 12-ounce soft drink has 30 to 40 mg of caffeine, while an 8-ounce cup of coffee averages about 80 to 100 mg and an 8-ounce energy drink can range anywhere from 40 to 250 mg.

Here are six facts about caffeine.

1. It’s a naturally occurring drug.

Considered a stimulant that triggers a temporary increase in energy while boosting nervous system function, caffeine is found in coffee beans and tea leaves. It’s also in cacao pods, which are used to make chocolate. That means cocoa, chocolate bars, hot chocolate and chocolate milk all contain small amounts of caffeine.

2. It can have good AND bad side effects.

Did you know caffeine is an ingredient in some over-the-counter headache treatments? Denver-based registered dietitian nutritionist Abby Seeb says research has shown that caffeine may boost the effects of common analgesics such as ibuprofen. It’s also sometimes used to treat orthostatic hypotension – a form of low blood pressure. But it’s not without risks.

“Caffeine increases blood pressure, is a diuretic, can increase the release of stomach acid – which for some can cause heartburn – and may interfere with the absorption of calcium in the body,” Seeb said.

3. Not all beverages are equally caffeinated.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, most Keurig K-Cups contain 75 to 150 mg of caffeine, while a 20-ounce Dunkin’ coffee with an espresso shot contains nearly 400 mg. And keep in mind that “decaf” doesn’t mean “caffeine-free”: According to Mayo Clinic, an 8-ounce cup of decaffeinated coffee or black tea has 2 to 5 mg of caffeine.

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