How Much Coffee is Too Much Coffee?

3 min read  |  September 29, 2017  | 

This year was kind to the country’s favorite caffeinated beverage – several reports were published on the effects of caffeine on health, three of them even associating more coffee with longer lives.

The media took off with this idea with headlines like, “4 Cups of Coffee Keeps the Grim Reaper at Bay,” and “Drinking Four Cups of Coffee a Day Lowers Risk of Death.”

But, a caffeine-fueled research session revealed that the link between coffee and health is not so simple.

An important word in research studies is “association” as in “Association of Coffee Consumption With Total and Cause-Specific Mortality Among Nonwhite Populations,” which is the title of the study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

“An association is just that – an association.” says Sheah Rarback, registered dietitian nutritionist at the University of Miami Health System. “Despite what the headlines may say, drinking more coffee does not directly lead to longer life.”

She goes further to explain that because there is so much variation in people’s diets and health, a link like this is nearly impossible to make.

So many studies, so little time

My curiosity piqued, I delved even deeper but after a few hours I realized that there was no way I could drink enough coffee to read all the material out there on this topic.

That’s when I found a report published in the Food and Toxicology journal. According to the authors, there has been more than 10,000 papers published on the impact of caffeine consumption and – luckily for me – they decided to conduct an analysis of findings.

What they concluded is that healthy adults could drink up to 4 cups (8 ounces each) of coffee daily with little to no adverse effects, healthy pregnant women could drink 3 cups and even children and adolescents could consume 2.5 mgs per pound safely.

Yeah, but …

Excited (which may or may not have been connected to my own caffeine consumption), I went back to our dietary expert with my findings and again she reminded me that humans are complex beings.

“Just because some people may be able to drink four cups of coffee a day,” Sheah says, “doesn’t mean everyone can or should.” People are different – they metabolize caffeine at different rates and some may experience more side effects than others.  These can include jitteriness, depression, increased heart-rate and so on, she explains.

Listen to your body … and, your doctor

“So, what is the answer?” I asked her.

“Check in with how you feel when you drink coffee,” she says. “Your body will tell you if its too much.” Also, if you prefer your coffee to taste more like desert, watch the calories – moderation is the key.

And, if a doctor has told you to limit your caffeine intake because of health reasons, take their advice.

Natasha Bright is a contributor for the UMiami Health News Blog. 

Tags: coffee, diet, National Coffee Day, Nutrition, Sheah Rarback

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