9 scary facts about caffeine

betty ming liu Food, Writing how-to's 10 Comments

coffee cupA new book about caffeine has me feeling wary about this psychoactive drug found in coffee and soda. The facts are so disturbing that I’m wondering if it makes sense to become caffeine-free.

The author, Murray Carpenter, said he learned a lot in writing “Caffeinated: How Our Daily Habit Helps, Hurts and Hooks Us,” which was published in March 2014.

Murray has very interesting things to say about the coffee and carbonated soft drinks that make up a monster-sized, $100 billion industry.

Here are 9 facts to drink in from Carpenter’s book:

— Coffee guzzling hit its peak in 1950 just as soda, which has less caffeine, became more popular.

— In nature, plants produce caffeine as a bitter-tasting white powder. Today, huge drug companies make it synthetically.

— Most caffeine is manufactured in China. Carpenter made it as far as standing outside of the world’s biggest factory in a “run-down industrial park” that looked “sketchy,” he said during a radio interview on NPR’s “Morning Edition.”

— You can order the same coffee from the same place and end up with a different shot of caffeine each time.

— One tablespoon of caffeine, which weighs about 10 grams, can kill you.

— Eight of the top 10 selling soft drinks are caffeinated, including the top five: Coke, Diet Coke, Pepsi, Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper. Even an orange soda like Sunkist is caffeinated.

— There’s some research to prove coffee’s benefits. Three to four cups a day, which is considered moderate usage, is “probably” healthy, according to Carpenter. (Although, this still sounds like a lot to me!)

— Caffeine is famous for disrupting sleep.

— Caffeine is also notorious for making us anxious.

All of this information comes from Carpenter’s NPR interview. You can hear the entire 7-minute, 19-second segment hereOr, read a summary of the interview here.

You can also read sections of the book on Amazon.com. The writing’s good. Easy to read. If you’d like to visit the book by going through my Amazon affiliate link, click here. In skimming around, I was intrigued by the dosage information…

The typical soft drink has a sixty-fourth teaspoon of caffeine, enough for a pick-me-up. The typical 12-ounce cup of coffee usually delivers a sixteenth of a teaspoon of the white stuff. If you ingest a quarter of a teaspoon you can expect a pounding heartbeat, sweating and anxious feelings. Then, of course, there’s the killer tablespoon.

While caffeine can sharpen our brains and help athletes run stronger and faster, I am moved by Carpenter’s call for us to pay attention. I like this quote from the NPR interview:

It’s fraught, isn’t it? I mean, on one hand, caffeine makes you feel wonderful and most of us use it every single day. On the other, we have unease about being dependent on a psychoactive chemical. And so I think it’s much easier for us to think, “Oh, I like my coffee” or, “I like my Diet Coke” — rather than, “I need my dose of caffeine right now.”

Hmmm, what do you think? Should we rethink caffeine? Does this make sense to you?

Comments 10

  1. Post

    Note to my students! Over the past week, we listened to this NPR broadcast in two of my journalism classes. Everyone agreed that this was a really fine segment with many surprising facts.

    So to my students: This post is an example of how you can summarize info from an interview. Actually, this is how you can summarize any experience you have. Figure out an angle and then lead with it.

    Sometimes, making bullet points is very helpful for clarifying your points for readers. When you post lists like this on line, they’re called listicles! A very useful tool.

    Of course, there’s no one single way to capture an experience. Every writer is different. So if you want to see another writeup of this NPR interview, just go to the NPR reading link in this blog post and check out the piece that the station posted on its website.

    Btw, all of my students agreed that “Morning Edition” host David Greene did a great job with the interview. He kept the questions short and simple. His tone was very relaxed and conversational. We give him an A+!!!

    And one more thing — a tip for bloggers. If you look in this post, I have a link to Amazon.com which I refer to as an affiliate link. That means I’m an affiliate for Amazon. Just about anyone can be an affiliate. All it means that if any of my readers clicks on this link and ends up shopping on Amazon, I get a commission! They don’t have to buy this book, which is where the link will take them. If they start cruising around and buy anything, I get paid.

    The most I ever got for a quarterly commission was about $14. Not much but it was fun to spend it back on Amazon. And remember blogging ethics: If you’re an affiliate for anyone, you have to disclose it on your blog. :)

  2. I started drinking coffee around the age of 7. My grandfather drank coffee and would make some for us to have when he babysat my siblings and I. My mother was at work in the mornings and I remember him giving it to me with bread for breakfast. That seemed normal. I drank it. I liked it. When I see a can of Bustelo in the supermarket, I think about him.

    I would only have it with him, my mom didn’t serve us coffee. She occasionally drank Sanka. By the time I was in high school, I started buying a cup with a bagel pretty often. I started drinking in cafes and loved the whole experience. It made me feel grown up. The smell of it still takes me back.

    When I was pregnant, I stopped drinking coffee. It was the right thing to do. When I was nursing, still no coffee. When I stopped, I didn’t rush back to it. Maybe I didn’t see a need, maybe I was just used to refraining from it.
    I don’t like things that are habit forming, and that’s probably why I mostly avoid it now. I don’t drink sodas or caffeinated teas. I maybe have it less than five times a year…I enjoy Stumptown Coffee:)

    Wondering if being caffeine free is the way to go. That tablespoon of caffeine info is alarming. Thanks for sharing, Betty.

  3. Post

    Skye, thanks for giving us such a clear picture of how coffee drinking evolves for us. And I love Bustelo too. But really, what does moderation mean in today’s society?

    I’m still recovering from the accepted definition of moderate alcohol consumption. The CDC — the US government — defines moderate drinking as one daily drink for women and two for men. If I drank a glass of wine every night, I think that might be feeling like too much!

    The bigger question for me is, why not just drink a little more water every day? :)

  4. I read this article with a great deal of trepidation because I’m working and going to grad school. I was afraid there was going to be something alarming that would force me to think about major lifestyle change.
    But it looks like my daily 1-2 cups of coffee are still OK. Phew. And I’ll work on the rest of my diet AFTER I graduate.

    1. Post

      Aha! Elizabeth, nothing like a fear-generating headline to pull in readers. :)
      But seriously, congrats on grad school. No doubt, that coffee gives you the lift you need to get through the papers and exams. Go for it, girl!

  5. The content seems very skewed towards soft drinks. The caffeine in coffee beans is not manufactured in China, it actually comes in the beans that grow on the tree! Lol.
    There are indeed many benefits to having coffee in moderation. Soft drinks however are known to be bad for you for many more reasons than manufactured caffeine: high fructose syrup, aspartame or other synthetic sweeteners, water laden with chemicals, including those that cause the bubbles, additives, preservatives, coloring agents, etc.
    The title of the piece really ought to be: one more reason why soft drinks are not good for you!
    I never had them, did not allow my kids to have them either and they don’t drink them now. But you can probably tell from my grumpy tone that I’ve only had half of a cup of coffee so far this morning! Lol.
    Thank you for giving me added ammunition for my arsenal against soft drinks though. I’ll go finish my coffee now:)

    1. Post

      Clearly, Murielle, I needed a shot of caffeine while writing this blog post! You are so, so right about the caffeine from beans. I suppose I could fix the blog post to look smarter. But then, no one would see WHY I NEED COMMENTS FROM MY READERS. Thanks for stopping by!

      And kudos for you for steering clear of soda. You are an inspiration! No question, all those fake sweeteners are totally toxic. Better to inject real sugar into our veins. Since I don’t really drink anymore, my vices are a cup of tea (or two) every week. And when I’m really in a partying mood, I grab a ginger ale, which doesn’t have caffeine (but plenty of sugar).

  6. I was just explaining to my friends why I sold my coffee machine. If people have to debate whether or not coffee is good for us, then I think that shows something. Maybe we should just drink something that we all agree is beneficial: water, tea, etc.

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  7. Pingback: 9 Things for Better Sleep Tonight - Healisty.com

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