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Should you decaffeinate your life?

TODAY nutritionist Joy Bauer reports on the latest research on caffeine and your health
/ Source: TODAY

Many of us can't start our days without a little jolt from coffee.  But for pregnant women, a cup of joe has long been considered taboo. TODAY nutritionist Joy Bauer has some good news for pregnant women who don't want to give up their lattes.

Caffeine acts as a stimulant on the central nervous system and for decades, most health professionals have told pregnant women to avoid drinking caffeinated coffee at all costs. Now a new study says otherwise: Coffee is now safe to drink during pregnancy!

In the study, published in January in the British Medical Journal, researchers found that moderate levels of caffeinated coffee (about 3 cups per day) did not lead to any greater risk of premature births and underweight babies. 

About the study: Danish researchers monitored the pregnancies of 1,207 healthy women who drank more than three cups of coffee a day — a high caffeine intake — and who were less than 20 weeks pregnant. This large group was divided randomly into two equal groups who received either caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee (participants were not told what type of coffee they were drinking). Each participant was regularly interviewed to monitor their caffeine intake from other drinks, such as tea and cola. The final results showed that there was no real difference in either the length of pregnancy or birth weight between the two groups. There were no other statistical differences between the groups regarding premature birth weights or underweight babies.

Coffee helps keep you alert and boosts short term memory: No surprise to avid coffee drinkers, but now science backs us up! In November 2005, researchers from the Radiological Society of North America found, on a functional MRI test, that coffee drinkers showed increased activity in the parts of the brain that control working memory and attention.

Coffee helps reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes: Although the first line of prevention for diabetes will always be diet and exercise, drinking coffee — especially when it is decaffeinated, may help to reduce your risk as well, according to a 2006 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine. The specific ingredient(s) in coffee that is responsible for this effect remains unclear, although it's possibly due to coffee’s magnesium content or compounds called polyphenols. Polyphenols have been shown to help the body process carbohydrates and antioxidants that may protect cells in the insulin-producing pancreas. Stay tuned, more research is needed. For people who already have type 2 diabetes, always speak with you personal physician about what's right for you.
Coffee shown to reduce the risk of liver cancer:
Dr. Manami Inoue of the National Cancer Center in Tokyo and colleagues followed more than 90,000 middle-aged and elderly Japanese men and women for 10 years. They found that those who drank coffee daily or almost daily had half the risk of liver cancer, compared to those who did not drink coffee. They didn't differentiate between caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee, but noted that decaf coffee is rarely consumed in Japan.

Does coffee raise your cholesterol? Large amounts of unfiltered coffee may. So if you have elevated LDL-cholesterol levels (the bad cholesterol), you’ll want to avoid large daily amounts of unfiltered coffee, such as coffee made by a French press or percolator, or espresso, even cappuccino and latte (both typically made with unfiltered espresso). Fortunately, most Americans drink filtered coffee, which is believed to have much less of an effect on cholesterol than unfiltered coffee; filters seem to remove most of the cholesterol elevating compounds (which are still not fully understood). 

Although, most folks can enjoy a hot mug of caffeinated joe, certain people should definitely decaffeinate:

  • People who are caffeine sensitive: caffeine will exacerbate restlessness, anxiety, irritability and/or headaches.
  • People with sleeping issues: caffeine tends to stay in your system anywhere from 3-8 hours. So depending on your personal sensitivity — you’ll want to stop drinking accordingly.
  • People with gastrointestinal problems: A dose of caffeine may irritate your stomach if you have irritable bowel syndrome or ulcers.
  • People with elevated blood pressure or abnormal heart rhythms: in this case, your personal physician knows best.

Amount of caffeine in popular beverages

Average coffee (8oz): 100-150milligramsBlack Tea (8oz): 40 milligramsGreen Tea (8oz): 20 milligrams


Tall (12oz):195mg caffeineGrande (16oz): 260mgVenti (20oz): 325mg1 oz shot of espresso: 65mg

Decaf Brewed Coffee

Tall (12oz): 8-20mgGrande (16oz): 10-25mgVenti (20oz): 12-32mg
Dunkin Donuts

Brewed Coffee

Small (10oz): 129mgMedium (14oz): 181mgLarge (20oz): 258mg


Small (10oz): 9mgMedium (14oz): 13mgLarge (20oz): 18mg

For more information on healthy eating, visit TODAY nutritionist Joy Bauer’s Web site at