The Side Effects of Drinking Too Much Decaffeinated Coffee

If you are trying to curb your caffeine intake, you can still enjoy the experience of coffee by drinking a decaffeinated variety. Before you reach for your next cup of decaf, know that decaf coffee is not necessarily caffeine-free. Besides the inevitable coffee breath, drinking too much decaf coffee can be associated with minor health risks worth considering before overindulging.

Close-up of a woman holding a to-go coffee cup. (Image: DAJ/amana images/Getty Images)

Decaf Versus Regular

Decaffeination is a process that removes the majority of caffeine from coffee beans. Decaf coffee contains 2 to 5 milligrams of caffeine per cup, or eight ounces, which is significantly less than regular coffee, which has 60 to 150 milligrams of caffeine per cup. A 2006 University of Florida study published in ''Journal of Analytical Toxicology,'' revealed that the caffeine content of decaffeinated coffee ranges from 8 to 13 milligrams of caffeine per 16-ounce serving, indicating how multiple cups of decaf coffee could be a significant source of caffeine for those who are attempting to avoid the compound entirely.

Caffeine Effects

The term decaffeinated is not the same as caffeine-free. Caffeine is a legal drug that stimulates the central nervous system, causing an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and a feeling of alertness. Due to the varying levels of caffeine in decaf coffee, it is possible to experience caffeine's side effects, including withdrawal, from drinking multiple cups of decaf coffee throughout the day. People with caffeine sensitivity can experience the effects of caffeine with as little as 10 milligrams of caffeine, or approximately two cups of decaf coffee.

Potential Health Risks

The potential health risks of coffee consumption are still being understood. A 2006 ''Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition'' literature review noted that coffee consumption can increase cardiovascular disease risk factors including blood pressure, total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein and homocysteine levels. However, research has not clearly identified the extent to which these acute effects are associated with cardiovascular disease risk. Moderate coffee consumption, or three to four cups per day is not associated with an increased risk of heart disease and even has demonstrated health benefits.

Coffee Additives Add Up

A cup of coffee is only as good as what you put in it. Decaf coffee has all the flavor of regular coffee with very few calories, but when you add cream and sugar, the calories multiply. One individual container of liquid creamer has 20 calories and a single sugar packet has 11 calories, making it easy to see how multiple cups of decaf coffee can contribute extra liquid calories. Choose skim milk and drink your coffee without sugar, if possible.

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