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Decaffeinated Coffee... Not Really!

amples of Starbucks decaffeinated espresso and brewed decaffeinated coffee taken from a single store. The espresso drinks contained 3 milligrams to 15.8 milligrams of caffeine per shot, while the brewed coffees had caffeine concentrations ranging from 12 milligrams to 13.4 milligrams per 16-ounce serving.

Even though the amount of caffeine in these coffees is considered low, some people could conceivably develop a physical dependence on the beverages, said co-author Mark S. Gold, M.D., a distinguished professor of psychiatry, neuroscience and community health and family medicine at UF's College of Medicine.

"One has to wonder if decaf coffee has enough, just enough, caffeine to stimulate its own taking," Gold said. "Certainly, large cups and frequent cups of decaf would be expected to promote dependence and should be contraindicated in those whose doctors suggested caffeine-free diets." And even moderate caffeine levels can increase agitation, anxiety, heart rate and blood pressure in some susceptible individuals, Goldberger said.

"Carefully controlled studies show that caffeine doses as low as about 10 milligrams can produce reliable subjective and behavioral effects in sensitive individuals," said Roland Griffiths, Ph.D., a professor of behavioral biology and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. "More than 30 percent can discriminate the subjective effects of 18 milligrams or less. The present study shows that many decaffeinated coffee drinks deliver caffeine at doses above these levels.

"The important point is that decaffeinated is not the same as caffeine-free," Griffiths added. "People who are trying to eliminate caffeine from their diet should be aware that popular espresso drinks such as lattes (which contain two shots of espresso) can deliver as much caffeine as a can of Coca-Cola - about 31 milligrams."

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