Coffee was a part of my regular routine in high school. Upon rolling out of bed, I would drearily meander my way downstairs towards the coffee pot. Although my motor skills are not fully activated during these wee hours of the morning, they’re good enough to pour the grinds into the pot, add some water, and plug in the machine. Within minutes, I am enjoying a freshly brewed cup of joe and ready to conquer the day.
But morning isn’t the only time when I need caffeine; at around lunchtime, it’s back to the pot again, or maybe Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks. And if I’ve got three blog posts to write before tomorrow? Tonight you may find me in the mini-mart purchasing a Starbucks Double Energy Iced Coffee. Or maybe worse: a full-blown Monster Energy Drink.
It’s nights like these when I begin to wonder: how much caffeine can I have before it’s detrimental to my health? Is one cup of coffee a day OK? Will I begin to have high blood pressure if I have too much? Let’s take a look at the research.
According to ConsumerReports, approximately 90% of consumers 18 years and older drink caffeinated beverages daily (ConsumerReports.org). The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear this statistic is: “Well, if everyone’s doing it, and I haven’t seen anyone drop dead because of it, I should be fine.” Perhaps caffeine has a more minute, covert effect on human health. While consumption of the drug may not be a habit that can induce paralysis, doctors typically tell patients to limit their use as much as possible. So we know that it has potential for harm, but how exactly?
The Mayo Clinic recommends having no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day for healthy adults, and up to 100 milligrams per day for healthy adolescents. Livestrong.com says that 200 milligrams is a safe dose. While the numbers may vary, the organizations report that that health issues typically arise when consuming roughly 500-600 milligrams of caffeine per day. Negative side effects include nervousness, restlessness, irritability, and fast heartbeat–all of which I have personally experienced from caffeine consumption.
So what are the long-term effects of caffeine consumption? Another article from Livestrong.com claims a few long term ailments. The first is dehydration; caffeine is a well-known diuretic, drawing out water by increasing urination. In effect, the consumer suffers from decreased organ functionality and ultimately a lack of energy. Another side effect, one I initially believed, is augmented blood pressure levels. Other putative complications may include peptic ulcer irritation and depression, according to the same article. While there are certainly links between the mood variations caused by intermittent caffeine consumption, there is no clear mechanism which provides evidence that caffeine consumption causes depression. It is certainly possible, but more longitudinal studies need to be done in order to better understand this matter.
I have not really come to a clear decision regarding the long-term effects of caffeine consumption, but I still learned a few valuable lessons. I now know to limit myself to roughly 400 milligrams of caffeine per day. I did some research and found that a ‘normal’ cup of coffee (with no added fancy stuff) contains roughly 90-200 milligrams of caffeine, so one cup a day should be OK according to these parameters. I personally believe that more research needs to be done in order to better understand the long-term effects of caffeine consumption, but I don’t think that we should assume that caffeine has no long-term effects. There is a well-known Greek saying: Meden Agan, meaning “Nothing in excess.” I think it is fair to say they were talking about beverages too.
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