Whether it’s an iced coffee on a summer morning, a hot cup before work or a warm latte on a snowy day, there is no doubt that Americans love coffee – or at least its caffeine.
We use it to wake up, stay focused and get work done.
But two age-old questions about the world’s most widely used psychoactive substance linger: How much coffee is too much? And is it actually good for your health?
Studies around the world have attempted to address coffee’s health effects to varying results. One study will say coffee is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, while a health professional will say it can lead to higher risk of the condition.
When it comes to a drink downed by roughly two-thirds of American adults each day, answers to such simple questions are surprisingly elusive.
First, go easy on cream and sugar
As long as you limit cream and sugar, coffee isn’t fattening like other caffeine-based substances such as energy drinks and soda. The calorie content in a plain cup of brewed coffee is next to nothing, and there’s no fat either.
But not everyone drinks their coffee black, as any Starbucks menu suggests.
Loading up a coffee with too much cream or sugar can drown out some of the positive health associations it provides.
“We know that sugar has adverse effects,” Penny Kris-Etherton, a nutrition professor at Penn State University, told the American Heart Association.
“Even if you add sugar and don’t exceed your calorie needs, you’re still negating some of the benefits because sugar is a negative food ingredient.”
How much coffee is too much?
There’s ongoing dissent in the health community about how much coffee one should drink.
Among recent studies, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded in March that six eight-ounce cups or more per day can increase risk of cardiovascular disease by 22%. The study examined nearly 350,000 individuals.
Similarly, a 2013 study by University of South Carolina researchers found men and women under the age of 55 who consume an average of more than 28 cups per week (four per day) were more closely associated with death over the course of the 32-year-long study.
But other research has found that even extremely high coffee intake may be safe. One study partially funded by the British Heart Foundation said you can safely drink 25 cups of coffee per day. It should be noted, however, that the study examined only about 8,000 people around the United Kingdom.
Multiple studies have found that a daily coffee intake of four cups is a safe amount. Even federal dietary guidelines suggest three to five eight-ounce cups of coffee per day (providing up to 400 milligrams of caffeine) can be a part of a healthy diet.
Dr. Steven Nissen, Chief Academic Officer of the Heart and Vascular Institute at the Cleveland Clinic, told USA TODAY there isn’t a specific daily limit that would apply to everyone, but drinking more than four to five cups provides for more caffeine than he would recommend.
“Keep in mind that the biological half-life of caffeine is seven to nine hours. So, if you have a bunch of coffee in the morning, it’ll be gone by bedtime. But, if you drink it all day long and you really load up, you may have insomnia, which really is an issue,” said Nissen.
Not all people react to caffeine in the same way, so if you are feeling some of the negative symptoms of the substance, like insomnia or anxiety, don’t be afraid to scale back or cut off your coffee intake.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Jay Cannon