There's no getting away from it - coffee-drinking, or rather the caffeine it contains, is addictive, so much so that some people can't get through the day without it. True, it gives you an energy boost first thing in the morning and it's a great pick-me-up when energy levels start flagging through the day, but drinking too much of the brown stuff can cause a myriad of health problems, some of which are well known to be connected with caffeinated beverages.
Coffee has become a “social” drink, many coffee franchises such as Starbucks and Costa have sprung up in just about every town and city, not to mention having outlets in retail parks, roadside restaurants and service stations. In fact, just about anywhere that it's feasible to stop and have a coffee you'll find some sort of coffee shop.
It's not only the big chains though, that tempt us into their coffee shops, most cafe's and even tea shops, now have signs advertising their particular brand of coffee, some having tables and chairs outside on the pavement, making it difficult for coffee lovers to pass by and not stop for their favorite coffee.
Unfortunately, this new found desire to frequent the coffee outlets, or reach for a relaxing coffee at home brewed in our best coffee maker, is the result of being brainwashed by the multinational coffee companies who spend large amounts of money on coffee ads, convincing us all that coffee is a safe and healthy drink - but is it really as healthy as we are led to believe?
Is Coffee a Drug?
Actually, it's the caffeine in the coffee that is the drug and just like any other drug it's addictive. It's a 'stimulant' drug, which means it speeds up the messages that travel between the body and the brain.
Caffeine is essentially a bitter white powder that is derived from a natural insecticide found in various plants, it is quite tasteless and doesn't provide any nutritional value whatsoever.
Although coffee is considered addictive, it is reasonably safe for most adults to drink in moderation. Those who do drink large amounts of coffee daily may find that they need to consume more and more coffee to get the same effects, which could result in being dependent on it. Drinking more than 6 cups per day can result in 'caffeinism (a condition resulting from overdosing on caffeine).
How Does Caffeine Effect The Body?
Caffeine is a stimulant that affects the central nervous system and despite the many claims about the benefits of drinking coffee, the fact is that coffee 'addiction' can be harmful to your health.
Although it can make you feel temporarily more alert and energetic, drinking too much (overdosing) or stopping your consumption (withdrawal) can cause a range of problems some of which are listed below.
Caffeine Overdosing Symptoms
- Nausea and Vomiting.
- Increased Heartbeat.
- Cardiac Arrhythmia (heart palpitations).
- Cardiac Arrest.
Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms
- Flu-Like Symptoms.
- Lack of Concentration.
12 More Negative Effects of Coffee
As well as the overdosing and the withdrawal symptoms associated with drinking coffee, there are also a host of other negative effects of coffee which should also be taken into account. lets take a closer look:
1. Heartburn and Stomach Upset
Caffeine reaches its highest levels in the bloodstream within an hour or so of drinking it. For those who have an irregular heart rhythm, the caffeine may make the heart work harder, it can also be a factor in heartburn. Coffee is responsible for a raised amount of acid in the stomach which can lead to stomach upset and because coffee is thought to be a diuretic, it also flushes water out of the body.
Large amounts of caffeine may interfere with the metabolism and absorption of calcium, which can contribute towards osteoporosis (bone thinning). Women who are post-menopausal and who have an inherited condition which prevents them from processing vitamin D, should be more cautious when consuming caffeine.
3. Pregnancy and Nursing Mothers
Caffeine travels within the bloodstream and crosses into the placenta, since it is a stimulant, it can cause the baby’s heart rate and metabolism to increase. Too much caffeine can also inhibit fetal growth and increase the risk of miscarriage. A little caffeine is safe for most women during pregnancy, but large amounts of caffeine can irritate the digestive tract of a breast-feeding baby or infant, though it's deemed safe for the nursing mother to drink around I or 2 cups of coffee a day. Having said that, caffeine can reduce the chance of becoming pregnant by 27%.
The link between coffee-drinking and elevated homocysteine levels in the blood is still unclear, but it's thought that drinking four or more cups of coffee per day can raise these levels. Homocysteine is a common amino acid which is made in the body from protein in the diet, High levels of homocysteine are linked to early development of blood vessel disease and heart disease.
Because caffeine is a diuretic (a substance increasing urine production) regular drinkers of coffee are at risk of dehydration. Living in a dry climate or extreme exercise can cause sensitivity to the dehydrating effects of coffee.
7. Anxiety and Insomnia
Those who suffer from anxiety disorders can make their anxiety worse if they consume too much coffee and coffee consumed just before bedtime, can cause insomnia. Diabetes Research has shown that caffeine can decrease and increase blood sugar, thereby drinking coffee may change the way in which diabetic people process sugar.
8. Blood Pressure
Caffeine can raise blood pressure for a short time, especially for those who don't normally drink coffee and people suffering from hypertension, though most people don't suffer long term effects.
9. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Diarrhea
Reports have shown that drinking too much coffee can make Irritable Bowel Syndrome and diarrhea worse.
Studies on women who drink large amounts of caffeine, have shown that they are 70% more likely to become incontinent.
Drinking too much coffee can result in headaches and migraines, though it is reported that the occasional cup of coffee can actually relieve the symptoms of headaches.
Heavy coffee drinkers should be aware that caffeine inhibits the production of collagen in the skin, though this is dependent on the amount consumed .
...... So How Much Coffee is Safe to Drink?
Well it actually depends on how big the cup is, then you have to take into account the brewing method, the type of coffee bean that is used, how dark the roast is and how finely ground it is, as well as how much coffee is used. Other factors to take into consideration are the difference between instant coffee and filter coffee, the type of coffee, such as a cappuccino and latte and whether it is home brewed or bought in a cafe or coffee shop.
No two people are the same when it comes to the effects of drinking coffee, some people are more sensitive to the caffeine it contains and are less tolerant, so they have to be aware of how much they can drink, while others can tolerate stronger brews and consume more without effect. In general, drinking up to four to five cups of coffee per day (which is around 400mg of caffeine) is thought to be a safe amount.
A person’s tolerance level is affected by body mass, age and health. (caffeine can interact with some medications if you have a health condition). It's really a question of knowing your body and knowing your limits. You don't have to stop drinking coffee but if you notice any of the negative effects mentioned here, then it would be wise to cut down on your caffeine habit, at least until the symptoms subside.