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How much coffee is safe?

(BBC News) Large variations in the quantity of caffeine available in coffee sold on the high street means that our daily intake of caffeine may be higher than we think. This caffeine intake may pose a threat for some consumers, and depends on a number of factors. The caffeine content of a caffeinated beverage depends on how big the cup is, how fine the coffee ground is, how dark the roast, the brewing method used, how much coffee is used to make the drink, and the type of bean used. Homemade coffees and specialty drinks will be different from store-bought, as well.Four hundred milligrams is the daily limit of caffeine for the average person. When it comes to pregnant women, however, they must be sure to consume no more than 200 mg of caffeine, equivalent to two mugs or four cups of coffee. The Food Standards Agency warns that too much caffeine could lead to miscarriage or a baby with lower birth weight.

1.

For the moderate drinker, coffee is safe

Harvard Health Publications - Harvard Medical School
Many people still avoid caffeinated coffee and beverages because of worry over its health effects, says this article. However, research reveals that a few cups of coffee a day, in moderation, is a safe beverage that may offer some health benefits. The risk for type 2 diabetes is lower among regular coffee drinkers, this article says, and coffee may reduce the risk of developing gallstones, discourage the development of colon cancer, improve cognitive function, reduce the risk of liver damage, and reduce the risk of Parkinson's disease. The article also says that coffee has been shown to improve endurance performance in certain physical activities. Any negative effects of drinking coffee tend to emerge when coffee is consumed excessively, so moderate consumption is safest.

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Is coffee safe during pregnancy?

Talk about coffee - All you need to know about coffee
An early study suggested that a connection may exist between coffee during pregnancy and ADHD in children. However, this article says once researchers adjusted their results to account for factors other than coffee intake, they determined that ADHD risk from caffeine was statistically insignificant. Drinking coffee during pregnancy has been discouraged for a long time, so new studies that say consuming coffee in moderate amounts during pregnancy is safe, has come as a surprise for some. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists revised its caffeine guidelines in July, 2010. The guidelines now say that up to 200 mg of caffeine daily will not increase the risk of a miscarriage or preterm birth. An eight ounce cup of coffee has about 137 mg of caffeine.

3.

It's your health

Health Canada - Caffeine
Health Canada is the go-to source for the caffeine issue. It states that the 200 mg daily limit of caffeine should apply to women of child-bearing age, and to children, pointing out that caffeine is found in more than just coffee. Coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate, and some medicines all have caffeine. Tolerance to caffeine differs from person. A healthy adult, for example, might only show increased alertness after consuming a caffeinated beverage, while someone who is more sensitive to caffeine may experience insomnia, headaches, irritability and nervousness after drinking a coffee. Health Canada lays out a number of ways that people can limit any risk from caffeine intake, which includes limiting the number of cups of coffee consumed in a day, and substituting tea and other beverages.

4.

Caffeine in food

Health Canada - Food and Nutrition
This Health Canada page reminds us that caffeine is a natural part of consuming coffee, tea, chocolate, and certain flavours. It can also be added to soft drinks, and is found in certain foods. When it is used in food, caffeine is regulated as a "food additive" under the Food and Drug Regulations. Health Canada thoroughly assesses the safety risks of these caffeine quantities. Coffee, tea and chocolate are not the only sources of caffeine. Guarana, a Brazilian plant, has seeds that are high in caffeine, and yerba mate is a kind of tea which has caffeine. These are increasing in popularity and are often used as food ingredients. Guarana, in particular, has been used in energy drinks and alcoholic beverages in Canada.

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Yerba Mate: a coffee alternative

Yerba Mate vs. Coffee: Which is healthier?
For the person who desires coffee, but cannot handle the caffeine, there is another option. Yerba Mate (pronounced mah-tay) is a kind of herb grown in the South American rain forest, and is brewed as a kind of tea. It is widely considered a "better-than-coffee" alternative, and it has boomed in popularity over the past few years, particularly as an alternative drink for people who may be trying to kick the coffee habit. It can be drunk for health, as it contains vitamins and minerals, amino acids and is rich in antioxidants. Yerba Mate is more bitter than traditional English or Indian teas, with a very complex earthy or grassy taste. There is caffeine in Yerba Mate, so it may hit the same spot for a coffee fan, but it tends to deliver the benefits without the caffeine jitters. Yerba Mate contains 30 mg of caffeine in an eight ounce cup, compared with 100 mg found in a cup of coffee.

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