A lot of us can’t even imagine getting through the day without a few cups of coffee. If you drink a ton of caffeine, you might have a little voice in the back of your mind wondering if you might be harming your health in the process. New science seems to validate that voice.
A nonprofit foundation called ILSI North America recently published a meta-analysis of 740 caffeine studies in the journal Food and Clinical Toxicology. Their findings tentatively support the current recommended daily caffeine intake of 400 mg or less per day for adults, 300 mg for pregnant women and 2.5 mg for children and teenagers. The analysis also suggests that exceeding this daily budget can have bad effects on your health.
400 mg per day roughly translates to four cups of normal-strength coffee. Of course, many people have an affinity for mega-caffeinated coffees, sodas and energy drinks that can quickly stack up. As a rule of thumb, the lighter the coffee roast, the more caffeinated it is. If you down a venti blonde roast from Starbucks, that one drink is enough to put you over the line, at 475 mg of caffeine.
If you drink caffeine in excess, lots of bad things can happen. It has a negative impact on your cardiovascular system, your central nervous system, your bones, your gut and your circadian rhythms. It may also exacerbate mood disorders like depression and anxiety.
You may subjectively experience caffeine overload as headache, nausea, hyperventilation, tinnitus, dizziness, tremors and vomiting. Those symptoms are the “milder end of the spectrum,” the study’s authors note ominously.
The deeper end of the pool consists of seizures, irregular heartbeat, muscle breakdown, abdominal pain, altered consciousness and other nasty conditions. Out of the 740 studies examined, fourteen of them resulted in one of their subjects dying from caffeine overdose.
Coffee has garnered a reputation for itself as a health drink in recent years. Indeed, it has been shown to confer some health benefits when taken in moderation. But caffeine is a stimulant and should be treated with respect. If you’re chugging coffee every hour of the day, cutting back would be prudent. Not only will it reduce your risk for these side-effects, it will also probably result in a net gain for your sense of general wellbeing and energy level. Caffeine spikes are followed by state crashes, which can establish a vicious cycle of caffeine dependency.
At least try to limit yourself to four coffees a day. After that, it might be easier than you think to cut down to one or two cups, or none.