Calling all fellow coffee addicts: How much is too much?
Another Cup S’il Vous Plaît!
*Content Warning: If you are currently sipping your morning, afternoon, or, let’s be honest, perhaps your evening cup of coffee, set it down for these first few paragraphs… Don’t worry – you can have it back soon ;)
Remember: Caffeine is a psychoactive drug and coffee is our biggest dietary source. In fact, caffeine dependence syndrome is a recognized diagnosis by the International Statistical Classification of Disease and Related Health Problems (ICD-10). The ICD-10 defines the disorder as, “a cluster of behavioral, cognitive, and physiological phenomena that develop after repeated substance use and which typically include a strong desire to take the drug, difficulties in controlling use, persisting in use despite harmful consequences, a higher priority given to drug use than to other activities and obligations, increased tolerance, and sometimes a physical withdrawal state” (1).
*Like you might have just now, I also had to double check the article title to make sure I hadn’t accidentally clicked a hyperlink classifying alcohol, smoking, or even narcotic addictions after reading such an intense description of what I think of as just a morning/afternoon/evening ritual.
To scare us even more, sub-classifications of caffeine addiction have since been added into the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Now, caffeine intoxication and caffeine withdrawal may be classified as mental disorders when either one interferes with daily life (2).
* Okay that’s it – we’re starting to feel personally violated. LET US DRINK OUR JAVA IN PEACE. That said, time to pick up our mug again… enough burn from that bitter dark roast - let’s look on the lighter side :p
Sure, a little too much coffee has been known to induce some anxiety and disrupt our sleep… and too much can actually lead to an overdose of caffeine causing heart concerns… BUT - Coffee consumption has also been linked with living a healthier, happier, and even a longer life. Take that, tea drinkers.
A study by the NIH's National Cancer Institute following 400,000 men and women age 50 to 71 for more than 10 years found that those who regularly drank coffee — either decaf or regular — had a lower risk of overall death than did nondrinkers. “In particular, the coffee drinkers were less likely to die from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and infections” (3). Keep in mind that while these studies found an association between better health and coffee drinking, researchers haven't yet found exactly what causes these benefits. That said, there is a presumed link between these physiological health benefits and the observation that coffee drinkers are more active and social. That’s right folks – little did we know the key to that flourishing social life we see in high-school dramas is found at the bottom of our thermos.
What’s more, a study by Harvard's School of Public Health found that those who drank two to three cups of caffeinated coffee a day cut their suicide risk by 45 percent (5); casting even more light on coffee’s potential to be our savior by boosting moral since discovery in the 15th century.
Luckily for us, the aforementioned “overdosing” only happens by consuming large amounts of caffeine, most often in energy drinks or diet pills. Up to 400 milligrams of caffeine is considered to be safe, according to the Mayo Clinic (4). This equals about 4 cups of coffee, depending on the varying amount of caffeine found in different brews. So, there you have it. Let’s air on the safe side and agree that right around 3 cups of coffee seems to be the golden ticket. That’s right – a meeting with joe morning, afternoon, and evening for me. Watch out world, if that COVID Curfew ever comes to an end, we’ll be ready with our coffee(s) in hand to make up for all our lost people skills and year + of social deprivation.
1. World Health Organization (2008). International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (10th Revision).
2. American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Edition).
3. Neal D. Freedman, Ph.D., Yikyung Park, Sc.D., Christian C. Abnet, Ph.D., Albert R.
Hollenbeck, Ph.D., and Rashmi Sinha, Ph.D. (2012). Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality. New England Journal of Medicine. 366(20): 1891–1904.
4. Dwyer, Marge (2013). Coffee Drinking Tied to Lower Risk of Suicide. The Harvard Gazette: Health & Medicine. Harvard School of Public Health Communications.