Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Caffeine variation: Drinking coffee from different restaurants could throw you into health troubles

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Drinking coffee from different restaurants could throw you into health 
troubles. It may sound strange, but health researchers point out that the big variations 
for caffeine in each cup of coffee served at different restaurants would more than exceed 
the permissible level.

The daily-recommended level of caffeine intake for Indians fixed by the National 
Institute of Nutrition under its new dietary guidelines is 200 mg. Any excess intake 
could lead to increase in blood pressure and cause abnormalities in cardiac rhythm. But 
people often exceed this level for caffeine as they drink coffee from different places 
during the course of day. A couple of chocolate bars (100 mg of caffeine), a bottle of 
cola drink (40 mg) and a can of “health” drink (80 mg of caffeine) will only further add 
to the daily caffeine intake.

By Indian standards, a 150 ml cup of brew coffee contains 80 to 120 mg of caffeine. A 
similar cup of instant coffee has as much as 65 mg of caffeine. No two restaurants add 
same quantity of coffee. Even in the same restaurant, different cups contain different 
quantity of coffee.

Generally, low doses (20 to 200) of caffeine produce mild positive effects like a feeling 
of well-being, alertness and being energetic. Higher does 200 mg or more can produce 
negative effects like nervousness and anxiety, especially in people who do not usually 
consume caffeine-containing beverages. Moderation in coffee consumption is advised so 
caffeine intake does not exceed the tolerable limit.

According to Dr D Raghunatha Rao, deputy director and head of the division of extension 
and training, National Institute of Nutrition, caffeine is a nervous stimulant and it 
should be taken in low doses. In case of pregnant women, they should take nutritious food 
for the development of the foetus. Excess caffeine intake may interfere with the 
development of foetus in the womb.

Unlike Europeans, who consume several cups of coffee a day, South Indians in general 
consume two cups of coffee. The caffeine content varies greatly depending on the method 
of preparation. The thicker the decoction or higher the content of coffee the more is the 
percentage of caffeine in a cup. Some cups may be up to six times stronger than others.

Doctors point out that the human body metabolises caffeine slowly and in case of pregnant 
women, the rate is even slower. Those suffering from liver disease do not have the 
enzymes to metabolise caffeine. A research study in the UK revealed that caffeine is 
rapidly absorbed into the body of pregnant women and even crosses the placental barrier. 
It enters the circulatory system of the baby in the womb, affecting its growth.

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