Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Modern America is considered the consumption capital of soda (say cola drink), the much hated sugary drink with caffeine, phosphoric acid and caramel color. Compared to any other nation in this planet Americans can boast that their per capita consumption of soda is the highest in the world and some time one wonders whether soda consumption and power go hand in hand! It took quiet some time for these super rich nation to realize that soda consumption can be dangerous to the health of their citizens and what New York did recently to ban large sized soft drinks through retailers is a right step in the right direction to curb consumption of sugary drinks. Now comes the news that there is a distinct trend emerging where brewed coffee is being increasingly being favored in preference to soft drinks. Here is a commentary on this new development that may have some implications on the health of the population in that country.

"And that makes sense. New survey data from the NPD group, which tracks trends in what Americans eat and drink, finds that 18- to 24-year-olds are turning to coffee, rather than caffeinated sodas, as their pick-me-up of choice. In 2002, about 25 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds reported drinking coffee sometime within a two-week period. But by 2012, the percentage of young adults drinking coffee in that same time frame hit 39 percent. For evidence of this trend, I hit a coffee shop near the campus of George Washington University, which is just a Metro-ride away from NPR headquarters here in D.C. In mid afternoon, I found a packed house. "This is nothing for two o'clock in the afternoon," senior Arturo Lichaucho tells me. Often times, the line is out the door and around the block, he explained, and lots of students hit the coffee shop before hitting the books in the late afternoon. The students I chatted with gave lots of reasons for a steady coffee habit, including increasing demands on their time that lead to less sleep, and the 24/7 culture of overstimulation. And why not drink more coffee? Recent studies link coffee consumption to a range of good health effects, including decreased risk of dementia and decreased risk of depression among women.
But experts say there is one downside that's often overlooked: Coffee consumption can get in the way of a good night's sleep. "Our data has shown that a brewed coffee contains much more caffeine than a cold cola beverage" says Bruce Goldberger, a toxicologist at the University of Florida. The Center for Science in the Public Interest took a look at several popular items and analyzed their caffeine content. It found that a 12-ounce cup of coffee from Starbucks contains about 260 milligrams of caffeine, which is about five times more than a 12-ounce can of Diet Coke".

What worries some health pundits is the possibility of increased levels of caffeine consumption as coffee contains significantly higher levels of this intoxicant. Caffeine is a natural component of beverage crops like coffee, tea and cocoa and beverages based on these crops have been consumed for ages without any adverse consequences. However an issue that needs consideration is whether at the moderate levels of coffee consumed during yesteryear it has any ill effects at all whereas to day there is a tendency to over consume that can result in undesirable impact on health. Advent of decaffeinated coffee was thought to lessen the impact of caffeine on human health through high consumption of this stimulant beverage but it appears there are not many takers for this version except for medically impaired conditions. Is it not time ripe for the WHO to come up with a universal safe upper limit for caffeine for the sake of millions of people who are addicted to coffee? If appropriate guidelines are forthcoming from competent sources, coffee consumers may yet moderate their coffee drinking habit to stay below the danger mark vis-a-vis caffeine.  


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