Caffeine in Food and Drugs

Due to its stimulant properties, caffeine is used around the world in any of its many forms, such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, and chocolate. The accompanying table displays the amount of caffeine in foods. An eight-ounce cup of drip-brewed coffee has about 85 milligrams of caffeine, whereas the same amount of brewed tea contains about 47 milligrams. Twelve-ounce cans of soft drinks (soda) provide about 35 to 45 milligrams of caffeine.

The caffeine content of coffee and tea depends on the variety of the coffee bean or tea leaf, the particle size, the brewing method, and the length of brewing or steeping time. Brewed coffee has more caffeine than instant coffee, and espresso has more caffeine than brewed coffee. Espresso is made by forcing hot pressurized water through finely ground, dark-roast beans. Because it is brewed with less water, it contains more caffeine than regular coffee per fluid ounce.

In soft drinks, caffeine is both a natural and an added ingredient. About 5 percent of the caffeine in colas and pepper-flavored soft drinks is obtained naturally from cola nuts; the remaining 95 percent is added. Caffeine-free drinks contain virtually no caffeine and make up a small part of the soft-drink market.

Numerous prescription and nonprescription drugs also contain caffeine. Caffeine increases the ability of aspirin and other painkillers to do their job, and it is often used in headache and pain-relief remedies as well as in cold products and alertness or stay-awake tablets. When caffeine is an ingredient, it must be listed on the product label.

Though it has mildly addictive properties, caffeine taken in moderation is not considered to be a health risk, and may improve athletic performance. [AP/Wide World Photos. Reproduced by permission.]

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