How much caffeine are you taking? Why you probably don’t know.
According to the National Coffee Association, about 83% of people who take caffeine are doing so in the form of coffee. It seems reasonable to think that by drinking exactly the same amount of coffee in the same mug each day, you’ll get the same serving of caffeine. But that’s not at all the case. Even in circumstances when it might seem reasonable to assume some degree of serving consistency – as when the same volume of the same type of coffee bean has been brewed in precisely the same manner – the caffeine yield of the beverage can vary widely as a result of inherent plant variability.
An excellent case in point comes from a University of South Florida study. Researchers purchased a 16-oz. cup of ‘Breakfast Blend’ coffee from the same Starbuck’s location every day for 6 consecutive days, then they assayed it for caffeine content. The results were startling: The same serving of the same beverage from the same store varied from 250 mg to 564 mg. This suggests that a loyal customer’s ‘regular’ daily caffeine serving is anything but ‘regular’ – it could, in fact, be twice as much from one day to the next.
Taking an energy supplement might seem to be the best way to get an accurate serving of caffeine, but the amount that’s actually present in most of the energy pills and capsules available to consumers isn’t necessarily the same as the amount noted on the label. Some brands contain caffeine amounts that are at 20% variance – or more – with the amounts noted on their label, and others fail to note the amounts of caffeine and other stimulants on the label at all. In a recent study, Pieter Cohen, M.D. and his colleagues at Harvard Medical School assessed the content of caffeine-based energy products that were available for purchase on various U.S. military bases. They found that only 9 out of 20 such products were found to have accurate dose labeling, and these are the same products that are available at convenience and ‘nutrition’ stores across the country. So while most energy supplement products offer the consumer the illusion of accurate caffeine servings, it is usually an illusion.
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