How Much Coffee is Too Much?

Published: 2024-01-30 00:00:00

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Is there such a thing as too much coffee? With as cold as it has been recently, it can be easy to reach for an extra cup of hot coffee throughout the day for a jolt of energy, a mood boost, or an afternoon sweet treat. But how much coffee is too much? Most experts agree that a couple of cups of coffee a day is likely fine for most people, but those with pre-existing health conditions should be more cautious. Some people who should avoid caffeine include children, people taking anti-anxiety medications, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and people with heart disease or high blood pressure.

If you are otherwise healthy, caffeine is safe in moderation. According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), healthy adults should not consume more than 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine per day. That is about four 8-ounce cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of soda, or two "energy shot" type drinks. Teens should limit their caffeine intake to less than 100 mg per day, or one 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee or about 2 cans of soda. It is important to note that caffeine levels can vary widely among drinks, especially energy drinks.

As a stimulant, caffeine can boost your energy levels, improve physical and mental performance, and even help you burn fat. But over-caffeinating can lead to side effects that can be unpleasant or even unsafe. Some of these negative side effects include insomnia, anxiety, heart palpitations / racing heart, a "jittery" feeling, dehydration, high blood pressure, heartburn, and upset stomach.

A daily cup of coffee may also be riskier for consumers if they add sugar, syrups, flavors, or cream, noted Nikki Cota, a dietician at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona. She notes that some of the elaborate caffeinated beverages from coffee shops can contain up to 50 grams of sugar - which is how much added sugar the FDA recommends for the entire day for people who eat 2,000 calories per day. "Watch out for that pumpkin spice latte with the extra sugar and calories," Costa said. She recommends making coffee yourself at home to control the amount of added sugar.

However, there is good news for coffee! Study after study has indicated that coffee is full of substances that may help guard against poor health conditions - including Alzheimer's disease and heart disease. Nutrition experts from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine note that coffee also contains antioxidants and other active substances that may reduce internal inflammation. Another reported health benefit is that drinking coffee may help your body process glucose better, which reduces your chance to develop type 2 diabetes. In addition, caffeine itself, not just coffee, is not only linked to a lower chance of developing Parkinsons' disease, but it may also help those who already have Parkinson's better control their movements.

If you need to reduce your caffeine levels but still like the taste of coffee, both regular and decaffeinated coffee seem to have a protective effect on your liver. Research shows that coffee drinkers are more likely to have liver enzyme levels within a healthy range than people who don't drink coffee.

Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, so it is important to know how your body tolerates and reacts to caffeine. If you need to cut back on your daily caffeine consumption, don't forget to check your favorite non-coffee food and drink items. Caffeine is found in other food and non-food sources, including tea, chocolate, weight loss supplements, and over-the-counter medications, including some pain relievers such as Excedrin.  

Registered dietitian Beth Czerwony said, "There are benefits to caffeine, but it can really get away from you. Too much of a good thing is still too much." To avoid a headache or other caffeine withdrawal symptoms, she recommends cutting caffeine down gradually over several weeks.

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