Addicted to Decaf?

22 September, 2012

Here's some surprising news: Decaf coffee can still contain enough caffeine to boost your mood, wake you up, help you concentrate -- and get you hooked on caffeine. Three 8-ounce servings may contain as much as 21 milligrams (mg)
-- enough to do the job. Other signs your body craves the fix? Headaches or sleepiness when you skip it.
Few decafs are 100 percent caffeine-free. Many brewed varieties contain up to 7 mg of caffeine per 8-ounce serving; a 1-ounce serving of decaf espresso can have up to 16 mg.

That may not seem like a lot when you consider the caffeine content of other beverages (90-135 mg for 8 ounces of caffeinated coffee; 35-50 mg for an ounce of espresso; 40-60 mg for a 12-ounce cola; 15-50 mg for 8 ounces of tea), but caffeine is a powerful -- and legal -- psychostimulant, which means that even small amounts may affect you.

Caffeine acts like an all-around upper. It decreases fatigue, increases alertness, and gives you a mood boost. But it has a dark side, too. Consuming too much can make you anxious and send your heart rate and blood pressure soaring. It's also addictive, which means that stopping your five-cups-a-day coffee habit cold turkey may cause withdrawal symptoms. Translation: It'll make you sleepy, nauseous, irritable, and headachy.

Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others. If you get the shakes and feel anxious after sipping a cup of coffee or a caffeinated cola, nix it from your diet; same if you have high blood pressure, arrhythmias, or an anxiety disorder. And if you're really sensitive, you might just want to ditch decaf, too.

SOURCES: Caffeine content of decaffeinated coffee. McCusker, R. R., Fuehrlein, B., Goldberger, B. A., Gold, M. S., Cone, E. J., Journal of Analytical Toxicology 2006 Oct;30(8):611-613.

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