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Sorry to ruin your latte, but it turns out decaf coffee isn't quite as 'decaf' as you think it is.

Image via iStock. 

People choose decaf coffee for a variety of reasons. If you’re pregnant, have trouble sleeping, experience anxiety or have health concerns that can be affected by caffeine, you’ve probably considered making the switch.

Or hey — you might just prefer it. It’s got all the deliciousness of coffee, with the benefit of being caffeine-free. The perfect compromise, right?

Well… not exactly. You might not realise this, but decaffeinated coffee is not the same thing as caffeine-free coffee. Yep, decaf isn’t actually, well, ‘decaf’.

A University of Florida study, published in ScienceDaily, found almost all decaffeinated coffees contain some measure of caffeine — all but one contained it. The doses of caffeine detected in the coffees ranged from three to 15.8 mg.

The researchers also determined that if someone were to drink five to 10 cups of decaf coffee, they could easily reach the levels present in one or two cups of the caffeinated kind.

So should you be concerned by the amount of caffeine present in decaf if it is your beverage of choice? We spoke to nutritionist Melanie McGrice to get the low-down. (Post continues after gallery.)

“The amount of caffeine [in decaf] is quite low, with a maximum of 15mg caffeine per cup. A 30g bar of chocolate contains more caffeine than that,” McGrice explains.

“I guess if we were to be technically correct, it should be called ‘low caffeine’ instead of ‘decaf’ though. I think that it’s important that people become aware that decaf coffee still contains some caffeine so that people can make informed choices though.”

We know caffeine increases alertness, increases our metabolic rate, increases our heart rate, slows blood flow to the stomach, constricts blood vessels and causes the liver to release more glucose into the bloodstream. And because it does increase our heart rates, as it’s a stimulant, it can increase anxiety and agitation in some people. Some individuals can be very sensitive to caffeine, and coffee may affect them.

But it isn’t just anxiety-prone people who should pay attention to their caffeine levels: decaf coffee can also be a concern for pregnant women.

“Too much caffeine has been shown to increase the risks of miscarriage and having a ‘small for gestational age’ baby. I find it fascinating that many women tend to naturally develop an aversion for caffeine when they fall pregnant,” McGrice says.

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Is your decaf coffee really decaffeinated? (Image via iStock.)

Australian government guidelines advise pregnant women limit their daily caffeine intake to 300 mg or less, or avoid it altogether. So, if the maximum amount of caffeine in decaf is around 15.8 mg, to reach that recommended daily intake you would need to drink around 20 coffees in a day. To offer a comparison, a standard latte can contain up to 200mg of caffeine.

While decaf coffee is a much lower-caffeine option than a standard latte, it does still contain the substance. Therefore, if you've been advised to cut caffeine from your diet entirely, it's not exactly the saviour you think it is.

McGrice says it's particularly important for people with heart problems to be conscious of how much caffeine they consume.

“Coffee has been found to be good for the heart and protective against heart disease, but too much caffeine is not recommended for people with an already damaged heart,” McGrice says.

If you are concerned with the amount of caffeine present in decaf, speak to your doctor or a nutritionist to determine whether or not it's a safe option for you.

Okay decaf lovers - tell us the best brands out there that we need to try?

You can read more about Nutritionist Melanie McGrice on her website, or visit her Facebook page

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