Along with energy drinks and certain sodas, coffee is one of the most well known and popular sources of caffeine. However, more and more products are coming on the market that include caffeine as well; sometimes this is made clear to consumers, and other times it’s not.
Just recently, Wrigley’s introduced a chewing gum with a caffeine jolt called Alert Energy Caffeine Gum, which includes nearly as much caffeine as a half-cup of coffee. Other companies have already brought their own versions of caffeinated gum to the market as well. Perhaps in response to this growing trend, the Food and Drug Administration is about to more closely examine the health implications associated with the consumption of caffeine, especially as it relates to children, teens and young adults.
Energy drinks, soda, coffee, and now caffeinated gum – these are sources of caffeine that are typically pretty easy to identify due to the product labeling. But many other foods, beverages and consumables may contain caffeine, some of which might be quite unexpected.
A cup of coffee usually has about 100 mg of caffeine, give or take a few milligrams depending on the specific brew. Tea, in comparison, has lower levels of caffeine but still enough to pack a punch, especially if you drink multiple cups close together. A cup of green tea usually has between 24 and 40 mg of caffeine, while a cup of traditional black tea can have up to 60 mg or even more. Combine that with one piece of Alert Energy Caffeine Gum, and it’s equivalent to drinking a cup of joe.
Dark chocolate is actually a very rich source of caffeine; one cup of dark chocolate chips has about 104 mg of caffeine, more than you’d find in a regular cup of coffee. Keep that in mind when you’re considering snacking on a candy bar before you go to bed for the night, or better still, when you’re passing out chocolate candy to your kids and their friends!
By comparison, milk chocolate has only a tiny amount of caffeine. A single Hershey’s Kiss has about 1 mg of caffeine. You’ll get an upset stomach long before a caffeine buzz if you’re snacking on milk chocolate.
It’s understood that caffeine can often provide a quick fix for a headache. Just a single tablet of Excedrin Extra Strength, a popular pain medication, contains a whopping 65 mg of caffeine. Of course, if you’re suffering from a headache worth medicating in the first place, you’re probably going to take two tablets as directed on the box, putting you at 130 mg of caffeine.
This one’s especially alarming. Many dietary supplements, including multivitamins and others, contain caffeine, and it often says so right on the label. However, if the label doesn’t also state how much caffeine is in each serving, it’s cause for concern. In a recent study of dietary supplements, six of the 20 supplements analyzed fit the description of stating that caffeine is included, but not disclosing the specific amount. All of these supplements contained a staggering 210 to 310 mg of caffeine per recommended dose.
Yes, decaffeinated coffee. Unlike with soda, coffee contains caffeine naturally. The coffee must be processed in order to remove the caffeine, and unsurprisingly, this process is less than perfect.
It’s not a major point of concern since a cup of decaf coffee only contains about 7 mg of caffeine. However, if you drink three cups of decaf coffee, you’re receiving about the same amount of caffeine that’s in a cup of green tea.
The Bottom Line
Soda, coffee and energy drinks contain caffeine, but they’re far from the only sources. Chocolate, dietary supplements, certain medications, tea and even decaf coffee contain caffeine as well. The most noteworthy sources of “hidden” caffeine are dietary supplements, which can contain as much caffeine in a single dose as up to three cups of coffee.