20 January 2009

Coffee, a relative newcomer discovered some 1,000 years ago. Over the last hundred years, cola drinks, ready-to-drink tea and coffee beverages have steadily gained in popularity. Caffeine is the common ingredient in those beverages. Although products containing caffeine have been enjoyed all over the world for centuries, there are many misperceptions about this common food component.

Caffeine occurs naturally in over 60 plant species. Tea leaves, coffee beans, cocoa beans (for chocolate) and kola nuts (added to cola drinks) are the most common sources. The caffeine content of coffee varies depending on :
  1. Type of beans
  2. Where the coffee grown
  3. The way they are processed, ground and brewed.
Tea and Caffeine content is determined by :
The duration of fermentation
  1. Size of the leaves
  2. Brewing time.
Tea leaves actually contain more caffeine than coffee beans but, since a relatively small amount of leaves is needed to brew tea, the caffeine content of a cup of tea is generally less than a cup of coffee.

  1. Caffeine acts as a mild stimulant.
  2. Moderate amounts of caffeine can help improve alertness and concentration.
  3. Caffeine may improve memory and logical reasoning.
Caffeine generally reaches its peak concentration in the blood within 30 to 60 minutes after consumption. Caffeine does not accumulate in the body and is usually eliminated within several hours.

Individuals vary in their sensitivity to caffeine. Some individuals can drink several cups of coffee, tea or soft drinks within an hour and notice no effects whereas others may experience effects after just one serving. Individual sensitivity and frequency of consumption determine the effect of caffeine on sleep and level of alertness. As with everything we eat or drink, it is important to do so in moderation.

Most experts agree that moderation and common sense are the keys to consuming foods and beverages containing caffeine. Moderate caffeine consumption is considered to be about 300 mg, which is equal to approximately two to three cups of coffee.

Antioxidant activity
Antioxidants in food are generally considered to help protect against a range of diseases including cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

When regular caffeine intake is stopped abruptly, some individuals may experience mild temporary symptoms such as headache, irritability or fatigue. These symptoms can be minimised or prevented if caffeine intake is decreased gradually. This is very different from drug dependency or a true addiction, where the user feels a compulsive need to use a substance in ever-increasing doses.

Cardiovascular Disease
Moderate caffeine consumption does not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and does not raise cholesterol or cause irregular heart beat. A slight, temporary rise in blood pressure has been observed with caffeine consumption; however, this rise is similar to that resulting from normal activity, such as climbing the stairs.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that caffeine does not increase the risk of cancer. There is no indication that caffeine, a natural component of both coffee and tea, is a risk factor in human cancer.

Bone Health
Research has shown that moderate caffeine intake is not a risk factor for osteoporosis, particularly in women who consume adequate calcium. Although caffeine slightly increases calcium loss in the urine, the amount lost can be replaced by the equivalent of two tablespoons of milk added to a cup of coffee.

Women's Health
Most experts agree that there is no reliable evidence that moderate caffeine consumption is harmful to a pregnant woman or her unborn child.


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