Americans, on average, have 3.1 cups of coffee a day as of 2023. Now, this isn't very surprising. If you're one of the three out of four Americans who can't do without coffee, you know just how important the delicious energy boost is for daily functioning.
What probably IS surprising is that this was the same number of average cups per day Americans were having in 1962, according to the New York Times. It's safe to say we've been addicted to coffee for a while - but is that a bad thing?
If you're an avid coffee drinker, or even if you generally tend to have a lot of caffeine intake in the form of energy drinks and tea, you might be wondering what kind of impacts it has on your health. Fortunately, owing to just how popular and widespread coffee (and ultimately caffeine) is, we have a range of studies to decode questions like: Is coffee bad for you? How much coffee is too much?
The Short Answer: Coffee Consumption is Linked to Many Health Benefits
That's right - most studies (though not all) have found that there's a surprising number of really important health benefits of coffee. This isn't just because of the caffeine, even though its one of the major compounds in coffee. In fact, its because of a combination of caffeine and the ~1000 bio-active compounds found in an average cup of roasted coffee beans.
Here are a few of these benefits:
Increased Alertness, Mental Clarity, and Physical Energy Levels:
Drinking coffee can help increase alertness and concentration. It can also decrease levels of fatigue for 2-3 hour windows! This makes it a perfect wake-me-up and energy-kick starter through the day. Caffeine's ability to make your physically more energized also works as a 'pre-workout,' which can temporarily boost endurance and stamina.
Rich in Antioxidants:
Coffee is a rich source of antioxidants, such as chlorogenic acid and polyphenols. These antioxidants have been linked to lowering insulin resistance and helping with high blood pressure, as well as benefiting the overall health of your blood vessels
- Reduces the risk of certain illnesses:
- Type 2 Diabetes: Some studies suggest that regular coffee consumption may lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Parkinson's Disease: Coffee drinkers may have a reduced risk of developing Parkinson's disease.
- Alzheimer's Disease: Some research has suggested that coffee consumption might be associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease.
- Liver Disease: Coffee consumption has been linked to a decreased risk of liver diseases, including liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. It may also help improve liver enzyme levels.
- Coffee may have mood-enhancing effects and may reduce the risk of depression for some regular drinkers!
- Caffeine has been linked to increasing metabolic activity in the body while also reducing appetite. This makes it a convenient way to manage weight - not only will your calorie intake be lowered, your body will also burn fat much faster.
Possible Downsides of Drinking Coffee
Coffee clearly has some substantial and important health benefits that come along with it. According to the Food and Drug Administration, drinking coffee about 4-5 times a day is safe to have, usually without any adverse effects. However, like with everything, coffee in excess can have some adverse effects.
These are largely a result of a caffeine overdose - for example, unchecked caffeine consumption throughout the day could increase jitteriness, worsen anxiety disorders, and cause palpitations. Caffeinated beverages at night could end up harming sleep quality, making you restless and unable to get a full-night's rest.
The issue is, caffeine sensitivity varies from person to person. So while some may have 4 or more cups of coffee a day and still feel fine, others may feel jittery after a few sips. In addition to this, the levels of caffeine and other compounds vary greatly between bean type, bean origin, the strength of the roast, and how the coffee is brewed. These variables mean that it's important to find out what works for you in terms of coffee: is a lighter, less caffeinated roast early in the morning better at keeping you up? Or is a strong brew on a full stomach more suitable?
Either way, it's a matter of finding out how to best utilize the wonderful benefits of caffeine.