For many years, coffee and its accompanying levels of caffeine were demonized by health experts. But now, it’s starting to seem like coffee is almost a health food! From its antioxidant content to its link with increased longevity, coffee (we’re talking about good, old-fashioned black coffee, not sugary flavored lattes!) is enjoying a good reputation these days.
But with that said, caffeine *is* still a stimulant, and there are real risks to consuming too much of it. So how much coffee is too much?
ADVERSE EFFECTS OF TOO MUCH COFFEE
Though coffee is a healthy and wholesome drink, caffeine itself is a stimulant, acting on the nervous system to speed things up and make you feel more awake. Taking in too much caffeine, however, can lead to side effects such as jitteriness, irritability, nervousness, sleeplessness and migraines, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Furthermore, drinking coffee may stimulate the production of cortisol, a stress hormone. This hormone helps us feel more awake, but if we cause our bodies to overproduce cortisol too often, we may find that our hormonal cycles become imbalanced. Cortisol over-production can cause sleepless nights, compounding the effects of caffeine itself.
Because cortisol is a stress hormone, too much of it can make your body, well, stressed out — and research has shown time and time again that stress is bad for the body, contributing to heart disease, high blood pressure, depression and anxiety, and hormonal issues.
HOW MUCH CAFFEINE PER DAY?
So, how much caffeine should you consume per day? The short answer is: It depends. Different bodies metabolize caffeine at different rates, which means that some people can get away with five cups of coffee before becoming jittery, and others may only be able to drink one cup.
“Caffeine can also metabolize at different rates among individuals for various reasons. For example, cigarette smokers metabolize caffeine twice as fast as non-smokers,” Steven E. Meredith, postdoctoral research fellow at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told Medical News Today. “However, caffeine metabolism is slower among infants, pregnant women and individuals with liver disease. In addition, some medications slow caffeine metabolism, which may increase the risk for caffeine intoxication. But the effects of caffeine also vary simply because we’re all different.”
The official answer is that 400 mgs of caffeine is safe for adults, the Mayo Clinic reports. That means roughly four cups of brewed coffee.