More than 80 percent of American adults consume caffeine regularly. That’s no surprise, what with a coffee shop seemingly on every corner and in every supermarket, and tiny $3 bottles of 5-hour Energy popping up like mushrooms wherever there’s a checkout counter. It turns out, though, that there is also caffeine in ice cream and frozen yogurt.
How does caffeine work in the body?
Caffeine works mainly by temporarily binding to adenosine receptors in the brain. That prevents adenosine, which is a natural sedative produced by the brain, from occupying those receptors and making us feel drowsy. Adenosine levels build up during waking hours and then drop as we sleep.
People who don’t use caffeine regularly and who haven’t developed a dependence on it “usually become significantly more alert and better able to perform cognitive and motor tasks – such as paying attention during boring tasks or typing – if they’re given the right dose of caffeine,” says Laura Juliano, a professor of psychology at American University in Washington, D.C.
Sometimes, caffeine doesn’t change anything.
In a study that followed more than 130,000 Kaiser Permanente members in California for 30 years, drinking coffee (regular or decaf) didn’t increase the risk of cardiac arrhythmias, even among those with existing heart conditions.
Caffeine is not always good, though.
The March of Dimes recommends that women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant consume no more than 200 mg of caffeine a day because the harmful effects of more than that on fertility, miscarriage, and fetal growth “cannot be ruled out.”
The Food and Drug Administration’s advice: “Pregnant women should avoid caffeine-containing foods and drugs, if possible, or consume them only sparingly.”
“People who routinely rely on caffeine to overcome too little sleep can end up in a vicious cycle,” cautions Henry Ford Hospital’s Timothy Roehrs. “Disturbed sleep leads to sleepiness and then to increased caffeine consumption, which can lead to more disturbed sleep.”
“People don’t realize how much caffeine affects their sleep,” says American University’s Laura Juliano. “For those who are slow metabolizers of caffeine, there’s still enough in their system to disrupt sleep at night even if they stip consuming it much earlier in the day.”
A list of caffeine in ice cream and frozen yogurt
- Bang!! Caffeinated Ice Cream, all flavors (4 fl. oz.) – 125 mg
- Ben & Jerry’s Coffee, Coffee BuzzBuzzBuzz (4 fl. oz.) – 45 mg
- Cold Stone Creamery Coffee Ice Cream (Gotta Have It, 12 fl. oz.) – 40–45 mg
- TCBY Coffee Soft Serve (13 fl. oz) – 40 mg
- Dannon All Natural Coffee Lowfat Yogurt (6 oz.) – 30 mg
- Häagen-Dazs Coffee Ice Cream (4 fl. oz.) – 29 mg
- Stonyfield Gotta Have Java Nonfat Frozen Yogurt (4 fl. oz.) – 28 mg
- Baskin Robbins Jamoca Ice Cream (4 fl. oz.) – 20 mg
- Dreyer’s or Edy’s Grand Ice Cream—Coffee or Espresso Chip (4 fl. oz.) – 17 mg
- Breyers Coffee Ice Cream (4 fl. oz.) – 11 mg
- Häagen-Dazs Coffee Almond Crunch Snack Size Bar (1.9 oz.) – 10 mg
- Dreyer’s, Edy’s, or Häagen-Dazs Chocolate Ice Cream (4 fl. oz.) – less than 1 mg
Are you sensitive to caffeine? Are there other foods to watch out for? Let us know in the comments.
Sources: Morbid. Mortal. Wkly. Rep. 61: 281, 2012. Perm. J. 15: 19, 2011.
Caffeine contents are accurate as of February 2014. Information was obtained from company Web sites or direct inquires.
This article was originally published in 2014 and is updated regularly.