Coffee is delicious, but should we drink it everyday? How much is too much?
There is a lot of mixed information out there about whether coffee is good or bad for you. The health benefits and risks of drinking coffee is sometimes a controversial topic. Some people consider coffee to be a health drink and swear by its benefits, such as its rich antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals content, and its health benefit of preventing various diseases. But just how much coffee do you have to drink to achieve those health benefits, and what are the side effects and long term effects of indulging in coffee?
Many studies have been done on the health benefits of coffee, and results have shown that coffee is high in antioxidants, with two key antioxidants chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid. Coffee also contains vitamins and minerals. The nutritional breakdown of one typical 8-oz cup of coffee is 2.4 calories, 0.3g protein, 0.2mg riboflavin (11% daily value), 0.6mg pantothenic acid (6% DV), 116mg potassium (3% DV), 0.1mg manganese (3% DV), 7.1mg magnesium (2% DV), 0.5mg niacin (2% DV).
The short term benefits of coffee include boosting cognitive function. Caffeine does this by blocking the inhibitory neurotransmitter adenosine and releasing the norepinephrine and dopamine to cause a stimulating effect. This reduces tiredness, increases alertness, improves mood, reaction time, vigilance, and general cognitive function. This can lead to a boost in metabolism by 3-11% and exercise performance by 11-12%.
The long term health benefits of coffee include protecting the brain from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, promoting heart health, lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes, liver diseases, depression and suicide, and even possessing some anti-cancer properties. Studies have shown that coffee drinkers have up to 65% lower risk of Alzheimer’s, 30-60% lower risk of Parkinson’s, 20-65% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, 80% lower risk of cirrhosis (liver damage), 20% lower risk of depression, and 50% lower risk of committing suicide.
As with everything, there are also negative effects to consider. Drinking too much coffee can lead to side effects including migraine, insomnia, nervousness, irritability, restlessness, frequent urination, stomach upset, palpitations, and muscle tremors. Drinking coffee too late in the afternoon can interfere with sleep, leading to tiredness the next day, and thus can create a cycle of chronic sleep deprivation with dependence on caffeine. Chronic sleep loss can disturb daytime alertness and performance. Also caffeine is addictive, causing a buildup of tolerance with daily use and withdrawal symptoms lasting several days.
The daily recommended caffeine amount is 400mg, which translates to about 4 cups of coffee max. Of course, different coffee varieties, roast, and brew time can have different effects on caffeine content. Espressos (75mg) have lower caffeine content than coffee (100-200mg). Typically darker roasts have lower caffeine levels than lighter roasts. Finer coffee grinds and longer brew time also leads to higher caffeine levels. Decaf coffee is not completely caffeine-free; they usually contain a small amount of caffeine (2-12mg).
Besides limiting caffeine content, also take note to avoid mixing caffeine with other substances like alcohol and certain medications. Adolescents should limit caffeine consumption. Pregnant women and women trying to become pregnant should take caution as well and consult a doctor. For those more sensitive to caffeine, it is a good idea to drink coffee earlier on during the day and not in late afternoon so it does not interfere with sleep quality.
The bottom line is: too much of a good thing becomes a bad thing. Drinking coffee is great if you don’t overdo it.