Decaffeinated doesn’t always mean caffeine-free

Did you know you can get withdrawal symptoms like headache and sluggishness from just 100mg of

caffeine? That’s why many people choose to reduce their caffeine intake for their health’s sake and switch to decaffeinated coffee for at least part of their daily consumption. They do this on the confident belief that when they see the words ‘caffeine-free’ that meant that the product contained no caffeine or at least only very tiny amounts. However, that is not the case as the people from the Consumer Reports organisation recently found out.

They sent out a team of ‘secret shoppers’ with the arduous task of buying cups of decaffeinated and ‘normal’ coffee from six major US concerns: Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Seattle’s Best, 7-11, McDonald’s and Burger King. At least four of those brands are available in the UK and Europe and the results were not impressive when the different coffees were analysed for their caffeine content.

If you drink a can of coca cola or pepsi – the regular kind – you are getting around 30mgs of caffeine, but you get over that (32mg) if you got a decaf from Dunkin’ Donuts. Containing a third less caffeine, but still weighing in at a whopping 20mg was Starbucks. If you want to get coffee with the lowest caffeine levels (in a decaffeinated blend) then McDonalds came out best with less than 5 mgs.

If you like your caffeine content to be high, then again the amount varies wildly. In a 120z cup the levels ranged from 58-281 mgs – and at that highest level it’s practically giving your nervous system the equivalent of an electric shock.

What’s the answer? Don’t worry so much about the levels, but monitor the effect on your nervous system – if the coffee revs you up and boosts your adrenalin levels so you feel an increased heart rate, or perhaps jumpy and nervous, then you know you are getting a caffeine hit – whatever the label says. Herb tea anyone?