Coffee is not the only source of caffeine. The stimulant is also present in tea, chocolate and energy drinks. Now the European Food Safety Agency is warning that many of us are exceeding our recommended daily caffeine intake and we may be damaging our health as a result.
Excess caffeine can cause a range of unpleasant effects including panic attacks, insomnia and heart problems. According to EFSA, many of us do not realise just how much caffeine we consume so we regularly exceed the recommended limits.
EFSA report that for most adults 400mg of caffeine a day has no health risks. However, for pregnant women and children, this figure is much lower. The upper limit for pregnant women is 200mg a day and for children no more than 3mg of caffeine for every kg the child weighs. Excessive caffeine throughout pregnancy may affect the growing foetus.
The problem with caffeine is that most of us just don’t know how much of it is contained in what we eat or what we drink. The average cup of filter coffee contains around 90mg of caffeine and surprisingly an espresso contains less at 80mg. This is the same as a standard energy drink.
A cup of instant coffee contains around 100mg of caffeine. A cup of tea is also surprisingly high in caffeine at an average 50mg. A can of Cola checks in at around 40mg, depending on the brand.
Caffeine is also present in dark chocolate at 25mg a bar. There’s less in milk chocolate, around 10mg a bar.
Many people regularly over-consume caffeine. According to the EFSA report over a third of Danes, drink over 400mg of caffeine a day with the Dutch and the Germans checking in at 17% and 14% of the population respectively.
They did not provide figures for the UK but as a nation of tea drinkers, we shouldn’t feel too smug because it seems that most of us are probably ingesting too much caffeine as well. 400mg of caffeine is equivalent to 4 cups of tea and just 2 cups of instant coffee. Add a bar of chocolate and you will be over the recommended daily allowance.
Maybe it is time to wake up and smell the coffee, or at least switch some of our daily drinks to caffeine-free alternatives.