It goes without saying that coffee is a popular beverage. It is at the heart of a multi-billion dollar industry and at the lips of hundreds of millions of people every morning â€“ and for many in the afternoon, evening and various times in between.
Status and Statistics
Although it is technically not the most-consumed beverage in the world â€“ an honor reserved for water and tea, respectively â€“ it is most certainly on the radar. Some 90% of American adults drink some form of coffee daily, and the average amount of consumption stands at 3.1 cups a day.
Despite this obvious love for the brew, the United States still only ranks 8th in the world among coffee consumers, though managing to generate $18 billion in annual sales. The Europeans, at least on a per capita basis, would seem to have an even deeper affection for the roasted bean.
Not to be outdone, however, coffee consumption has arrived at a place of status in the American cultural pantheon such that drinking more, better and stronger coffee has become a sign of a go-getter attitude; a gesture of courage and strength in the trenches of the American working world.
The real question becomes, then, whether all of this coffee consumption is healthy, or if it can even be harmful.
When it comes to general consumption, the old adage is wrong: a person can have too much of a good thing. Coffee overdoses are rare, but they are possible and have been known to occur. This takes a considerable amount of concentrated brew, and is only likely to happen when consumed over a short period of time.
That it does occur, however, stands as a good reminder that caffeine is addictive and can be abused. For most coffee drinkers, though, the more pertinent concern is if drinking too much coffee can be harmful over the long-term, and if there is a daily limit on how much one should drink.
Scientists agree that â€œmoderateâ€ coffee consumption, defined as two to four brewed cups of a coffee a day, is not harmful in the long-term and likely will not produce any unwanted short-term side effects for a person who is not overly sensitive to the effects of caffeine.
Some research shows, however, that consuming more than four cups a day can raise the incidence of heart problems as well as increase the chances of calcium loss, which can lead to osteoporosis. This is in addition to the more familiar short-term consequences of caffeine overload: irritability, restlessness, nervousness and not blinking.
In an interesting twist, newer studies suggest that large amounts of coffee may cause auditory hallucinations. Regardless of whether consumers will find this to be an incentive or a drawback, scientists believe the results indicative of a need to continue research on the effects of caffeine on the body, and for coffee drinkers to be aware of possible unknown effects.
As far as drugs go, caffeine is a comparatively harmless one. Moderation is the key, as is knowing whether one is predisposed to certain dangers â€“ like a weak heart or high blood pressure. If so, just remember to go easy on the joe.