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Caffeine Vs. Decaf Coffee

Mar 28, 2011 | By Cheryl Jones

A medical writer for 25 years, Cheryl Jones assists researchers in writing articles for various medical journals, including the "New England Journal of Medicine" and "Headache." Her news articles have appeared in specialty publications, such as "Infectious Diseases in Children," "Ocular Surgery News" and "Hem/Onc Today." Jones holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism with a minor in biology from New Jersey's Glassboro State College.

Caffeine Vs. Decaf Coffee
Photo Credit cup of coffee image by Horticulture from Fotolia.com

A cup of coffee starts the day off right for some people. They enjoy the boost in alertness and the caffeine jolt awakens them. For others, caffeine causes an uncomfortable pounding in the chest, shaking hands and jittery nerves. The choice of caffeinated or decaffeinated products should be based on an understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of both types of beverages and your own health history.

Caffeine Benefits

Caffeine stimulates the nervous system, says the International Coffee Organization. It makes people feel more awake, alert and able to concentrate, although the effects vary from person to person. Caffeine is absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream but does not accumulate in the body, so any effects are temporary. Caffeine increases the effectiveness of analgesics up to 40 percent and it is a common ingredient in migraine medications, notes the website FitDay. Several studies have noted that caffeine may provide protection from Parkinson's disease, including one published in March 2000 in "The Journal of the American Medical Association."

Caffeine Drawbacks

The stimulatory effects of caffeine also count as its drawbacks. Caffeine, especially in high quantities, can cause high blood pressure, nervousness and increased production of urine and gastric acid, explains the International Coffee Organization. Drinking caffeinated beverages before bed can affect sleep by making it harder to fall asleep, decreasing total sleep time and reducing the overall quality of sleep. People with heart conditions may discover that caffeine triggers arrhythmia. Overuse of caffeine-containing products may lead to caffeine dependence, adds FitDay. People addicted to caffeine experience withdrawal symptoms, which can include headache, anxiety, fatigue and depression, when they do not receive their usual amounts of caffeine, according to Princeton University Health Services.

Decaffeination Process

Products that normally contain caffeine, including coffee, black tea, chocolate and colas, become decaffeinated through a chemical process, explains the International Coffee Organization. Green coffee beans run through a steam or water bath to swell the beans. The caffeine is extracted using water or another solvent, and then the beans are washed free of the solvents, dried to remove the excess moisture and roasted. All decaffeinated products contain small amounts of caffeine.

Benefits of Decaffeination

Decaffeination markedly reduces the amount of caffeine in a product without affecting the flavor, explains the International Coffee Organization. People who are sensitive to the effects of caffeine often tolerate decaffeinated products better than fully caffeinated versions. Because of the trace amounts of caffeine remaining, people may enjoy a mild stimulation after drinking a decaffeinated beverage, but they do not experience nervousness or irregular heartbeats.

Making a Choice

The choice of caffeinated versus decaffeinated comes down to personal preference, states FitDay. Caffeine is safe when consumed regularly in moderate amounts, the International Coffee Organization stresses. Regular caffeine consumption has not been linked with any harmful health consequences. Caffeine dependence can be avoided by limiting the amount of caffeine you consume daily, or by taking periodic breaks from caffeinated beverages. People who are allergic to caffeine should avoid all caffeine-containing products. Consult a physician if you are pregnant or if you have heart irregularities before consuming caffeinated products.

References

Article reviewed by Mia Paul Last updated on: Mar 28, 2011

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