Caffeine: how much is too much?






With so many studies on the effects of caffeine coming up with completely contrasting results, who do we believe in the debate about coffee? Is it good for you or do you need to avoid it?


Looking back at our previous blog on superfoods  we found that coffee consumption is linked to a potential reduction in the risk of developing depression.


Let’s look at the data out there: according to the British Heart Foundation it is safe to have one cup of coffee a day even if you suffer from high blood pressure. However, if you are already feeling stressed caffeine will make your stress symptoms worse. Caffeine consumption (or rather, eccessive caffeine consumption) has been linked to the risk of developing heart disease, hardening of the arteries and increased blood pressure.


In laboratory tests with mice it was found that consuming caffeine caused stiffness in the arteries and the formation on plaques. Because of this risk, pregnant women are normally advised to avoid drinking coffee to ensure their babies’ blood pressure is unaffected.


The flipside to these studies is that caffeine has a number of health benefits due to its antioxidant properties. Coffee has been linked to prevention of degenerative illnesses like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s plus it has been found to protect against developing type 2 diabetes. Some studies have even linked coffee to a reduced risk of developing heart disease.


What is the verdict then?


Each study looks at specific samples of the population: in some studies it is women in their fertile stage, in other studies it is men over 50 years old, and the list continues. Stress levels, hereditary and lifestyle factors also need to be taken into account. Most of these studies are not comparable.


Interestingly, caffeine was banned at the Olympics until 2004; caffeine is now accepted as a safe substance but it is still being monitored by the World Anti-Doping Agency.