In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

October 17, 2019

How Much is Too Much? A New Twist in the Great Coffee Debate

By In the Loop

New research suggests one's body may be able to handle up to 25 cups of coffee per day. But wait! There's definitely more you should know before you pour your next cup.

New research swirling around England has us feeling a bit better about what we thought was a bad daily habit. The research suggests one's body probably/maybe/possibly can handle up to 25 CUPS OF COFFEE PER DAY! (We'll take a double trenta, please. Just black.)

Before you join us, there is, of course, a catch. The research, Time magazine reports, "has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal" and is solely based on "an analysis of about 8,500 people in the U.K." that reportedly found "compared to those who drank less than a cup of coffee a day, people in the highest tier of consumption — those who averaged five cups a day, but some of whom drank up to 25 — did not have a higher risk of arterial stiffness, which can strain the heart and increase the risk of stroke and heart attack."

Sounds almost like permission, right? Not exactly. While Time reports "plenty of recent research has found health benefits associated with regular coffee consumption" and that "everyone also responds to and metabolizes caffeine differently," drinking a cup of coffee for every hour of the day is bound to do more harm than good. (OK, make it a venti.) "People with blood pressure issues have the clearest risk," the publication reports, "since excess caffeine consumption can spike their blood pressure to unhealthy levels."

Drinking up to 25 cups of coffee a day is also likely to have us speed walking and talking like Kramer after he won his court-ordered lifetime supply of free café lattes. It's also likely to affect our sleep, and as Time magazine reports, "sleep-deprivation is associated with obesity and a range of other chronic diseases, not to mention fatigue and lost productivity."

So … what exactly is a safe daily cap on coffee? Donald Hensrud, M.D., director of Mayo Clinic's Healthy Living Program and resident coffee guru, tackled that very topic and more in an interview a while back with the Rochester Post-Bulletin. Once again, we bring you the highlights:

Is it possible to drink too much coffee? Dr. Hensrud tells reporter Anne Halliwell that while "yes, it is" possible to have too much of a good (or great) thing, much of that revolves around potential side effects. "And these are well-known: problems sleeping, heartburn, urinary symptoms, especially in people who are predisposed," he says. "So if people are having side effects from it, they should cut back."

Does coffee dehydrate us? Dr. Hensrud says not as much as we might think, but that it depends on how much coffee we're drinking throughout each day. "The body's pretty smart, and if it's dehydrated, if it needs fluid, it'll hang onto it, even if it comes from coffee or alcohol," the good doctor says. "Now, at large amounts, it might promote some dehydration."

What's the right amount of coffee? Dr. Hensrud says that, again, depends on how our daily grind is affecting us physically. With one important disclaimer. "If somebody's not having side effects, the data on diabetes show that there's a benefit — a dose-response relationship — up to six cups a day," he says, while adding, "The one caveat there is if someone's trying to get pregnant, at high amounts, it does interfere with conception, and there's an increased risk of miscarriage."

For more proof, or, uh, reassurance, that (reasonable amounts of) coffee does a body good, check out this storythis one and this. Then perk us up by sharing your comments below. You'll find the social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.


Tags: Dr Donald Hensrud, Health and Wellness, Heart attack, Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program, stroke

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