Like many Americans, you may need to make a cup—or two—of coffee to get through the workday. However, you may be wondering if the habit is good for health or if you need to scale back. Take a look:
While some people blame coffee for causing dehydration, the Mayo Clinic says that while it is a mild diuretic, it actually doesn’t cause a person to become more dehydrated. And although caffeine often has a negative connotation of being a substance to avoid, it actually does have some benefits. The Wiley Online Library has a study that shows that when taken in moderation, caffeine can improve cognitive function, mood, and physical endurance. This increase in energy occurs because caffeine can block an inhibitory neurotransmitter called Adenosine. Adenosine is a chemical depressant that can increase sleepiness.
Coffee also contains important minerals, like magnesium and potassium, and important antioxidants, like Vitamin E and Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin). Like the name implies, antioxidants prevent oxidation in other molecules. Oxidation can cause free radicals which cause chemical reactions that damage cells.
Besides improving energy levels and providing nutrients, many studies have been conducted to show how coffee affects those with serious illnesses. For instance, coffee has been shown to help those with diabetes and those at risk for cirrhosis, and Parkinson’s Disease. However, these studies should be taken with a grain of salt since they may show correlation, but not causation.
Four cups of coffee contain about 400 mg of caffeine. For most healthy adults, this amount should not be a problem. But if you drink any more than that—about 500+ milligrams—you may start experiencing side effects, like insomnia, tremors, irregular heartbeats, nausea, irritability, anxiety, and the like. It is possible to build up a tolerance for coffee that can reduce these effects.
Some medications and certain conditions, like autoimmune diseases, sleep disorders, or anxiety disorders, do not go well with coffee and symptoms may be exacerbated. While coffee does provide some vitamins and minerals, it can hinder the absorption of some nutrients, like zinc or calcium. For instance, because coffee has tannates—or salts and acids that form bonds with other minerals—it is harder for those chemical bonds to break down and you might excrete nutrients instead of absorbing them.
The Bottom Line
Coffee has some great benefits if you consume it in moderation. If you know are concerned you are drinking too much coffee, you may want to slowly wean yourself off and start drinking fresh water at work. Because coffee withdrawals can cause insomnia or headaches, it’s best to re-hydrate with water to lessen those symptoms. As long as you don’t drink coffee in excess, and as long as you add more fresh water to your diet, you can reap the benefits.