Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Caffeine 2.0: How the 'eat your coffee' movement is getting it right


Happy spring!

It started slowly. First I noticed a few caffeine-bite products with clever names (VERB caffeinated energy bites; Eat Your Coffee caffeinated snack bar; Awake energy granola bars, etc.), and then it became a THING. As a coffee-lover, with a seriously caffeinated lifestyle, I personally like Wild Ophelia cold brew caramel latte bites. Think New England fudge meets morning coffee and Brach’s caramel, with a nice buzz---a little piece of caffeinated heaven.

The market for caffeinated food is not entirely new---there have been coffee- and/or caffeine-infused foods around for a while, but now there is a whole new level of caffeine awareness, as well as a lot of clinical evidence to confirm that caffeine is not only stimulating, but also health-enhancing.

What the data says about caffeine
According to researchers at Stanford, caffeine makes people healthier on a molecular level. They looked at the health of two cohorts of adults over time, including a healthy group of 20- to 30-year-olds and a healthy group of adults aged 60 and older.  Results were published in Nature in January 2017.

They found that older adults had more IL-1-beta, a circulating inflammatory protein, than younger adults. However, they also determined that older adults who consumed more caffeine than their peers had lower IL-1-beta levels, suggesting lower overall levels of inflammation, especially cardiovascular inflammation.

The lead researcher in the study, Dr. David Furman, a Stanford professor, has pointed out that 90% of non-communicable diseases of aging are associated with chronic inflammation.  And by extension, caffeine can have a profoundly anti-inflammatory effect in the body.



The eternal love affair with caffeine

Caffeine is a beautiful, life-affirming substance that increases alertness, whether a person is rested or fatigued, according to researchers.  It is especially helpful for tasks related to vigilance.  In addition, caffeine is thought to improve short- AND long-term memory because of its stimulatory and neuroprotective effects.  And finally, caffeine helps with endurance and physical performance.

Exercise physiologists point to coffee's ergogenic (something that enhances physical performance, stamina, and recovery) properties, which not only helps performance, but contributes to caffeine's fat-burning phenomenon.

Starbucks takes on twice the caffeine and ups the ante with nitro

So a couple of months ago, Starbucks introduced their new Starbucks Plus Ground Coffee with 2X the caffeine---a promising concoction that I buy in pod form and have enjoyed immensely. Can I taste the extra caffeine? No, but I can certainly feel it. (Hallelujah!)

But wait, there's more! If you're lucky you either live or work (or hang out near) a Starbucks location that serves Nitro Cold Brew. Nitro Cold Brew is the Starbucks version of nitro coffee (there are others, but Starbucks is definitely the frontrunner in this area).

What is Nitro Coffee?

Nitro coffee is cold-brewed, infused with nitrogen gas, and served on tap---just like Guinness. This process not only makes the coffee taste smooth and slightly sweet (no sugar or milk needed), but it has 30% more caffeine, on average, than a comparable non-nitro brew. Another benefit: Nitro coffee is generally made with dark roasts, which have less acidity and fuller body.

The process of brewing nitro coffee takes 16 hours. There is one caveat, however: Generally, when you order Nitro Coffee at Starbucks, you order the smallest size (tall). Venti (the largest cup at Starbucks) is NOT an option because it is considered too caffeinated. I find that level of caffeination very exciting!
I had my first cup of Nitro last week, and truth be told, I'm hooked. Have you tried it yet? My prediction: If you are a coffee lover, you will LOVE it. Spring 2019 is the perfect season for exploring and enjoying Nitro Coffee. Enjoy!