Wednesday 28 September 2016

More tea? Our love of a cuppa keeps a lid on caffeine consumption

Published 11/07/2015 | 02:30

Ireland has the highest caffeine intake from tea and lowest from coffee in Europe
Ireland has the highest caffeine intake from tea and lowest from coffee in Europe

We may have turned into a nation of latte-lovers, but most of our daily caffeine intake still comes from tea.

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And despite fears that our need for a caffeine fix as a pick-me-up is bad for our health, only a minority are exceeding the recommended 400mg a day upper limit, according to a new watchdog report.

The 400mg amounts to around four cups of filtered coffee or eight cups of tea, the report by the European Food Safety Authority points out.

The findings, summarised by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, show that Ireland has the highest caffeine intake from tea and lowest from coffee in Europe.

And perhaps because of our tea fixation, the top 5pc of caffeine consumers here only exceeded the suggested upper limit of caffeine intake of 400mg on less than 5pc of days.

"By comparison with Denmark, where caffeine intakes are among the highest, the upper limit was exceeded on 32pc of days by the country's top caffeine consumers."

The report points out that caffeine is found in a range of drinks and foods - for instance an energy drink could have 80mg a can.

A small bar of plain dark chocolate can have 50mg of caffeine, while a bar of milk chocolate has about 10mg.

Caffeine amounts of up to 400mg a day raise no safety concerns for the general adult population, except for pregnant women.

It advised that pregnant women should stick to an upper limit of around 200mg a day, two cups of coffee or four regular cups of tea.

"This is because caffeine can freely pass across the placenta to the foetus and it can be exposed to caffeine for extended periods.

"Throughout foetal development, and up to three months of age, infants lack the enzyme to break down caffeine."

If a new mother is breastfeeding, the safe daily limit may be raised to 200mg-400mg a day - but this could lead to babies becoming irritable and taking longer to go to sleep.

It said caffeine in amounts of up to 200mg taken within two hours of intensive physical exercise under normal environmental conditions do not raise safety concerns. However, no studies are available to assess this in pregnant women, the middle-aged or elderly people taking intense exercise.

A cup of coffee can increase the time for adults to fall asleep, and can also shorten our sleep particularly when taken close to bed time.

Chocolate is the most common source of caffeine in children and toddlers. Around 8pc of adolescents consume more than 200mg from energy drinks. The effects of caffeine are more pronounced in people who are not regular consumers.

Irish Independent

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