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If you read all the latest research on coffee and caffeine, the results are a bit of a muddle. Caffeine raises your blood pressure in the short term, but coffee may lower your risk of chronic hypertension. Caffeine affects the ability of the body to metabolize sugar, but long term coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Coffee drinkers seem to have a lesser risk of developing multiple sclerosis, and drinking coffee may delay the onset of the symptoms or slow them down.
Caffeine increases the risk of miscarriage in pregnant women, and may increase the risk of certain birth defects. Caffeine can increase athletic performance and stamina, but too much caffeine can affect performance badly. If all the contradictions have you confused and wondering if coffee is good for you or bad for you, the answer is a simple one – it depends.
While recent studies have suggested that drinking coffee is beneficial on a broad-based population level, individual tolerances can be far more difficult to determine. One person may deal very effectively with the caffeine in coffee and tolerate large amounts of caffeine. Others may be more sensitive to caffeine and show serious symptoms with just a few cups of java.
So how much coffee is safe to drink or how much coffee is too much? Recent studies have suggested amounts as high as 6 to 8 cups daily can be a health benefit – but that amount of coffee contains well above the recommended amount of caffeine for daily consumption. And when ill effects are reported from coffee drinking, caffeine is nearly always the culprit.
Even more difficult is the fact that bodies deal differently with excreting caffeine. If you drink large amounts of caffeinated coffee on a daily basis, you could be building up caffeine from day to day even as you build a tolerance to it.
Coffee is not the only source of caffeine, of course, and even decaf coffee has a few milligrams of coffee still in it. The American Heart Association calls the existing evidence about caffeine and heart attack risk ‘conflicting’, but they say that moderate coffee consumption “one to two cups daily” is probably not harmful. The Heart and Stroke Foundation also agrees that moderate coffee consumption is probably safe, but they define ‘moderate’ as two to three cups of beverages that contain caffeine.
One solution that’s recommended by many health professionals is to drink decaf coffee. The caffeine in coffee is the compound most likely to cause problems. Other compounds in coffee could counter the harmful effects of caffeine. Those compounds include antioxidants like flavonoids, which have been connected to lower risk of many chronic diseases. It only makes sense to get the benefits and leave out the problem compound.