Some news surrounding coffee is conflicting. This news seems just plain irresponsible.
A study by the British Heart Foundation examined the relationship between coffee consumption and stiffening arteries. The study’s researchers found that drinking up to 25 cups of coffee every day does not increase the likelihood of stiffening arteries, which can increase a person’s likelihood of heart attack or stroke.
“Hooray!” and “I can’t stop shaking!” is how we presume the people drinking 25 cups per day reacted to this news.
Sure, it’s comforting for coffee lovers to hear that their habit ― even if it errs on the excessive side ― is heart-safe. But does that mean everyone should up their intake by 20-plus cups? Not quite.
“This is rather silly and irresponsible reporting in my view,” Dr. David Katz, a director at the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research center and author of “The Truth About Food,” told HuffPost. “Imagine a study showing that routine use of a radial arm saw did not increase the frequency of, say, migraine headaches. Would that prove the perfect safety of radial arm saws? If you think so, I know some people with missing fingers you ought to talk to.”
Katz’s point, of course, is that just because something is deemed safe for a (very) specific reason does not make it safe overall. Coffee and caffeine, for all their researched health benefits, have also been found to have a potentially negative impact too. The more you consume, the more vulnerable your body becomes.
“There is much more reason to be concerned about a host of other dose-related effects, from blood pressure elevation, to heart rate elevation, to cardiac dysrhythmias,” Katz said. “More importantly, extreme coffee consumption is likely to be associated with harms unrelated to the heart (or at least not directly related), such as insomnia, agitation, and possibly a range of other metabolic effects, from microbiome to bone density.”
Caffeine is the most used drug in the world and typically safe at a daily dose of 400 milligrams ― between three and four cups ― or less, according to the American Psychological Association. Beyond that, though, there is potential for trouble, including the symptoms described by Katz along with others like headaches and anxiety.
That’s because caffeine is a stimulant, and research suggests that people with anxiety disorders may have an increased sensitivity to it. For people who experience panic attacks, the potential side effects of too much caffeine may sound all too familiar.
L. Kevin Chapman, a clinical psychologist in Louisville, Kentucky, who specializes in anxiety disorders and cognitive behavioral therapy, described the similar sensations to U.S. News and World Report in September.
“Caffeine acts as a stimulant and mimics the physical symptoms associated with anxiety, such as heart palpitations, restlessness, chest tightness, hot flushes and other symptoms,” he said. Caffeine can also trigger a stress hormone that can also cause anxiety-type symptoms, according to U.S. News and World Report.
So, Katz said, this news is only really exciting for a very small number of people for one very specific reason.
“This study does not prove that 25 cups of coffee a day are reliably safe,” Katz said. “It simply shows lack of one very specific harm in a population where some few self-selected to drink that much, quite possibly suggesting an extreme tolerance the rest of us do not enjoy.”
Think we’ll stick to our one to three cups a day for now.