There is nothing better than that first coffee sip in the morning that gives you the energy to take the world by storm. But should you limit your daily coffee intake?
The first cup is empty, then the second, then the third, fourth, fifth…sixth? Wait, that’s a LOT of coffee. Coffee drinkers, it is officially time to slow down and look at what happens to the body when you drink too much caffeine!
Coffee is one of the most widely loved and consumed drinks amongst adults and young people around the world. People’s consumption can range from one cup a day to over 20 cups of coffee a day… that’s a lot of coffee!
Getting strait into numbers, 64% of Americans drink coffee beverages daily (which means over 212 million people), and most coffee drinkers consume 3-4 cups of coffee per day. Beyond the US, over 2.25 billion cups of coffee are consumed worldwide every day, and 500 billion cups a year! Just considering exporting, the coffee industry is valued at $20 billion and continues to rise.
It is clear from these statistics and the amount of coffee shops on street corners that coffee as a business and a product is a huge part of life for all human beings. Given how prevalent coffee is in our lives, it is important to fully understand all that drinking coffee does to the body and mind.
There are hundreds of studies on what coffee does to the body, and, in moderation, caffeine can be an incredibly beneficial part of one’s diet. Caffeine can improve brain function, reduce risk of throat and mouth cancer and stroke, reduces risk of diabetes, and many other positive effects. It can also enhance mood, boost self-confidence, and improve physical performance (increase speed, endurance, strength, reaction time, and metabolism). Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing, and with all of the coffee Americans are drinking daily, it is important to look at some of the side effects connected to excessive coffee drinking.
Caffeine effects on our body
Before we jump into what happens to the body during a caffeine overload, let’s get into some of the science of what caffeine actually does to the body. Caffeine is a stimulant and a psychoactive substance that is in many everyday foods and drinks. Minutes after drinking caffeine, the bloodstream carries it to every organ in the body, including the brain. Once it has made its way to the brain, it crosses the blood-brain barrier. Caffeine works by imitating the release or reuptake of neurotransmitters which are in charge of all brain function, and therefor body function.
Caffeine specifically blocks the reuptake of adenosine, whose primary function in the brain is to signal to the body that it is tired. Because adenosine is being blocked, the body is not feeling its tiredness. Caffeine is capable of boosting performance when we are tired and have an even more effective response on the body when we are rested as well. Caffeine can also lift our mood by increasing the transmission of dopamine, a hormone related to happiness. This is why caffeine has been proven to reduce depression and increase memory and cognition.
Caffeine side effects
Now that the science of caffeine has been explained, we may move on to the downsides of having too much caffeine. As we know, caffeine stops us from feeling tired by blocking adenosine, so if there is too much caffeine, adenosine will not be able to enter the brain properly for elongated periods of time. After all, caffeine is fake energy, so if the body is unable to calm down or show signs of tiredness, bad side effects come into play.
Most of the side effects are related to having too much energy. Just as coffee wakes you up in the morning, having too much can make you jittery, anxious, and have a hard time maintaining focus on tasks, Along with having too much energy, excess caffeine can cause insomnia and other sleep problems. Sleep problems can lead to fatigue and a further dependence on caffeine.
Other symptoms of too much caffeine are migraines, nervousness, irritability, restlessness, upset stomach, fast heartbeat, and tremors. If you already suffer from anxiety disorders, drinking excess caffeine can make your symptoms worse. It is also important not to drink coffee or caffeinated beverages on an empty stomach. This can intensify one’s reaction to caffeine and damage the stomach wall and can cause indigestion and heart burn.
What is too much coffee?
Researchers at the University of South Australia analyzed the health records and the self-reported coffee consumption of 347,077 people between the ages of 37 and 73 in the U.K. Biobank. UK Biobank is a national and international health resource open to all bona fide health researchers. It is following the health and well-being of 500,000 volunteer participants and provides health information, which does not identify them, to approved researchers in the UK and overseas.
The results of the study shows that people who drink one to two cups of caffeinated coffee a day had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than people who drank decaf or no coffee at all. However, when the coffee consumption increased beyond these levels the results were different. For individuals who consumed six or more cups of caffeinated coffee a day, the risk of cardiovascular disease increased by 22 percent.
It is encouraged that people do not drink more than 6 cups of coffee a day, or 400mg of caffeine. Keep in mind, caffeine can also be ingested through other things like tea! Having more than the recommended amount of caffeine in a day can lead to some unfortunate side effects.
The basic moral of this story is to drink coffee (duh!), but drink responsibly and in moderation.
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