The holidays are over and winter has set in. The days are short as it's often dark when we wander in and out of the office. If you're like me, January is the ultimate month for needing a caffeine pick-me-up. The increase in caffeine (typically coffee) always reminds me to review the recent literature on the topic.

People seem convinced that coffee is bad for you, but researchers haven't been successful in proving this to be true. For a while, research was consistently showing higher rates of everything from cancer to heart disease among coffee drinkers, but often didn't account for other factors that were present in a significant amount of heavy coffee drinkers- smoking, inactivity, overweight, etc. Recent literature on coffee consumption further strengthens the "everything in moderation" argument revealing that coffee, consumed in moderation, is a perfectly safe beverage that may even offer some health protective health effects.

All in all, there is no conclusive evidence pointing towards NOT drinking coffee. If anything, it's been shown to have protective effects against diseases ranging from type 2 diabetes to Parkinson's disease, and even certain types of cancer. If you aren't a coffee drinker, don't feel compelled to start, but if you do enjoy a cup of joe (or two or three), there's no need to stop.

Nutritionally, when it comes to coffee, some leeching of calcium can occur. In an 8 oz cup, however, just a splash of milk (1-2 Tbsp.) can offset this side effect. When it comes to children, the biggest concern should be over what the caffeinated beverage is replacing. If you're choosing coffee over milk, for example, you clearly won't get the same nutritional benefit. Pregnant women should continue to minimize caffeine consumption. Aside from that there isn't much to worry about; there appears to be some modest increases in metabolism and, as mentioned above, some protective effects against type 2 diabetes.

Caffeine Facts

• Caffeine is a substance that exists naturally in certain plants. It is a stimulant and a mild diuretic.

• Caffeine is not stored in the body. It is excreted in the urine within a few, but up to several, hours after consumption. Therefore, it does not accumulate in the bloodstream.

• The American Medical Association states that moderate tea or coffee drinking "likely has no negative effective on one's health, as long as the person lives an otherwise healthy lifestyle." Like other major medical and health associations, however, the AMA's Council on Scientific Affairs emphasizes moderate caffeine use.

• Remember: caffeine can also be produced synthetically and used as a food additive in food, beverages, or even medicine where it does not naturally exist. Read your labels carefully!

• The National Library of Medicine states three 8 oz. cups of coffee per day is considered a moderate amount of caffeine intake. They equate this to about 250 milligrams of caffeine. On the other hand, TEN (8 ounce) cups of coffee daily is considered excessive caffeine intake.

Mayo Clinic has put together an extensive list of common products and their caffeine content which can be found here. Below is a brief summary of the chart. Most surprising for me? Coffee ice cream could keep you up at night!

Product Caffeine (milligrams)
Hershey's Milk Chocolate bar, 1.5 oz 9
Ben and Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar Crunch, 8 oz 84
Excedrin, Extra Strength, 2 tablets 130
Red Bull, 8 oz 76
Monster Energy, 16 oz 160
Coca-Cola Classic or Coke Zero 35
Diet Coke 47
Mountain Dew, regular or diet 54
Black Tea, Brewed, 8 oz 40-120
Green Tea, Brewed, 8 oz Varies*
Coffee, Generic, brewed, 8 oz 100-200

Tanya Zuckerbrot, MS, RD is a nutritionist and founder of www.Skinnyandthecity.com. She is also the creator of The F-Factor DietaC/, an innovative nutritional program she has used for more than ten years to provide hundreds of her clients with all the tools they need to achieve easy weight loss and maintenance, improved health and well-being. For more information log onto www.FFactorDiet.com.

Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian in New York City and the author of two bestselling diet books: The F-Factor Diet and The Miracle Carb Diet: Make Calories and Fat Disappear – with Fiber.

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