Coffee: Are We Drinking Too Much?

Hundreds of millions of people drink coffee, every day, around the world. And we’ve been doing it for a long time. Anthropologists and historians think that humans began roasting coffee beans in the 13th century.

The well-known Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach is thought to have said, “Without my morning coffee I’m just like a dried up piece of roast goat.” Many of us can relate to the sentiment.

But are we drinking too much coffee? When does caffeine become dangerous?

Mary Sweeney, who researches the effects of caffeine at John Hopkins University, said the effects of consuming too much caffeine can “range from mild to severe, for example, jitteriness, nervousness, restlessness and trouble sleeping. The most serious effect would be cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).”

And researchers at John Hopkins School of Medicine are warning consumers about dangerous levels of caffeine in brands of new, high-intensity coffee.

Certain new roasts of coffee (with appropriate names such as “Black Insomnia” and “Death Wish”) can have more than 50 miligrams per fluid oz. of caffeine. Compare that to the 9.5 mg/fl.oz found in energy drinks like Red Bull or 2.8 mgh/fl.oz of cola products.

The FDA recommends no more than 400 mg of caffeine a day. So, just one standard 12 oz. cup of one of these so-called “world’s strongest coffees” will put you well above that limit. For added perspective, the International Food Information Council recommends keeping your daily consumption under 300 mg.

The Mayo Clinic suggests that adolescents should limit caffeine consumption and everyone should avoid mixing caffeine with other substances, such as alcohol, which can have harmful effects and put a heavy stress on the heart.

Common side effects from excessive caffeine consumption can include migraines, difficulty sleeping, muscle tremors, fast heartbeat, restlessness, irritability, nervousness, and frequent urination, among others.

Most sources suggest limiting your coffee consumption to four cups a day. But everyone’s biological make-up is a little different. So, if you’re having symptoms, you might consider switching to something lighter—like green tea—or just drinking water.

If you’re worried about your caffeine consumption, consider talking to your primary care provider. If you need to find a primary care provider, use our online Find a Doctor tool to locate a physician in the Upper Peninsula.

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