Coffee Talk

Coffee is everywhere at Cooper and society at large. In Starbucks, break rooms, public spaces, the delicious drink has been ubiquitous throughout human history. But how much is too much? Coffee is linked with lots of health benefits, but there are some risks to consider from the caffeine it contains.

Alice Callahan at the New York Times recently wrote a piece exploring the pros and cons of coffee consumption.

Most adults can safely consume 400 milligrams of caffeine — or the amount in about four eight-ounce cups of brewed coffee or six espresso shots — per day, according to the Food and Drug Administration. If you’re pregnant, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends no more than 200 milligrams.

“Overall, coffee does more good than bad,” said Rob van Dam, a professor of exercise and nutrition sciences at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. But between your breakfast brew, lunchtime latte and afternoon espresso, is it possible to have too much? And if so, how can you tell?

Having too much caffeine can cause a racing heart, jitteriness, anxiousness, nausea or trouble sleeping, said Jennifer Temple, a professor of exercise and nutrition sciences at the University at Buffalo. It can also lead to headaches, acid reflux and, at high enough doses, even tremors or vomiting, said Dr. Adrienne Hughes, a medical toxicologist and an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Oregon Health and Science University.

Caffeine overdoses typically result from taking in too much caffeine from concentrated forms, such as powders or supplements, in a short period of time, she said. And in most cases, you would need to consume at least 10,000 milligrams of caffeine — or the equivalent of about 50 to 100 cups of coffee, depending on the strength — for it to be potentially fatal, Dr. Hughes said.

That said, if you’re prone to abnormal heart rhythms, or if you notice palpitations after having caffeine, you may be more sensitive to its effects and should not consume more than you’re used to, or ingest large doses from concentrated sources, like supplements or energy shots, Dr. Hughes said. And having too much caffeine while pregnant is associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, Dr. van Dam said.

At the end of the day, “you just kind of have to listen to your body,” Dr. Temple said. “If you’re starting to feel nauseous or jittery or anxious, maybe cut back,” she said. “If it’s affecting your sleep, cut back.”

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