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You Bean Drinking Too Much Coffee?

Updated: Jul 30, 2018

The good, the bad and the not so ugly truth about Java.


It gives us motivation, sanity, and a discreet way to drink rum at work. People LOVE it. There is even emerging evidence hinting that it may have long term health benefits! But you can have too much of a good thing. Read on to see if you're overdoing it with the 'wakey juice'.



Caffeine

The whole point of coffee! So it's great news that there's no issue with an average dose.

It appears moderate caffeine intake (400mg/day) does not increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis or cancer. - Dietitians of Canada

In other words, for healthy adults it's safe to drink about 4 cups of coffee daily, unless pregnant or breastfeeding. If calculating your intake, remember that caffeine is also found in tea, chocolate, cola, energy drinks, and some pills.


What this doesn't explain is how some can drink liters of coffee without a second thought, and some people can hardly touch it without tweaking out. The truth is, the maximum amount you should drink depends on a lot of personal factors.



Tolerance

You can build up a tolerance to coffee. If you drink it daily, it takes more and more to get that alert, energetic feeling you used to get after one cup. Casual and serious coffee drinkers can handle very different amounts.

Sensitivity

So this part is a little technical. Caffeine is mostly metabolized in the liver by an enzyme called CYP1A2. Some people have a genetic mutation that lowers their ability to release these enzymes. This means caffeine is broken down slower and stays in the body longer. Others have a mutation that releases more enzymes that usual, which is how some people can drink coffee all day without getting the jitters.

Withdrawal

It may not compare to drug withdrawals, but there are real physical symptoms to cutting out large amounts of caffeine at once. Headache, fatigue, depressed mood, anxiety, and of course irritability! Steer clear of your coworkers trying to kick the habit.

Toxicity

Caffeine toxicity can be mild to severe depending how much you've surpassed your body's limit, or if you mixed it with something you shouldn't have (*cough* cocaine). You may feel:

  • Headache

  • Insomnia

  • Agitation

  • Frequent urination

  • Diarrhea (crapuccino anyone?)

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Tremors

  • Seizures (in serious cases)


Calories

Coffee itself may not have any calories, but what you add to it can make a big difference. For my Canadian friends, I'm going to use Timmie's as an example:


Calories in Medium sized coffee beverages at Tim Hortons

These numbers aren't huge, but many Canadians are drinking more than one medium Tim's a day. It all adds up! The fancier the drink, the more calories there probably are. At Starbucks, a Grande Vanilla Frappuccino® with 2% milk and whipped cream is 420 calories. To put that in perspective, a meal for the average adult should be around 500 calories.


Antioxidants

More good news! Just like blueberries, green tea and other "superfoods" coffee is full of antioxidants. What these do is neutralize molecules that cause damage to your body, protecting you from disease.


Coffee and Health Conditions


Cancer: It was once common belief that coffee drinking was linked to cancer. Recently the WHO reevaluated the growing research and found there was not enough evidence to support this claim. It is no longer considered carcinogenic to humans. Some studies even show it may protect against certain cancers, but it's still too early to say.


Blood Pressure: It's no surprise that coffee raises your heart rate. Fortunately there is no evidence that it causes heart disease. If you already have heart problems or high blood pressure, you should ask your doctor what they recommend in your case.


Osteoporosis: Caffeine can mess with your calcium and magnesium metabolism, both important for bone health. Luckily the effect is pretty small, so as long as you get the recommended amount of these nutrients you aren't likely to suffer. Post-menopausal women should be more careful as they're already at risk for osteoporosis. Yay hormones...


Dehydration: It may be hard to believe if you're peeing like a racehorse, but caffeine does NOT cause dehydration. You drink fluids to get the caffeine, science says it balances out.


Acidity related issues: There's no controversy here. The acidity in coffee can damage the enamel on your teeth, and aggravate acid reflux (heart burn).



There's lots more to say about coffee, and there will probably be a part 2 to this article eventually. Bottom line, coffee gets a thumbs up from me as long as you aren't having the negative symptoms mentioned above, and the liquid calories aren't adding up too fast!

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