Coffee is the fuel that feeds our modern lifestyle. Marketers have done well over the past century to build up a mythology around coffee. We can’t hope to realistically function without it — it’s a veritable super fluid — society itself might fall to pieces without a fresh pot  every morning. The coffee industry has blossomed to the point where we cannot move through a city without tripping over barista-filled coffee chain outlets. Disposable branded coffee cups have become nearly ubiquitous.

Of course, there are dangers to drinking too much coffee as well. Every once in a while a horror story pops up on the news, announcing the demise of someone who flooded their system one too many macchiatos, overloading what their heart could handle. In a broader sense, health warnings for coffee have become as prevalent as for other caffeinated products, such as energy drinks and supplements.

But just how accurate are the warnings regarding the consumption of our favorite roasted bean juice? We’ve certainly become more conscious about how issues like quality of sleep affect our holistic health. Generally, people are more careful than ever in monitoring what they consume. So how can we enjoy coffee in a way that is responsible and beneficial, and what are the pitfalls?

The Benefits of Coffee

Most people don’t think that coffee is some kind of magical, cure-all beverage. We can observe the stimulating effect it has on us and understand that the caffeine in each cup is an addictive substance. But that doesn’t mean coffee — as well as other caffeinated beverages like tea — are without some significant health benefits.

According to recent studies, coffee has been linked to reducing the risk of colon cancer in women (in subjects consuming  more than three cups a day),  and possessing protective benefits against post-menopausal breast cancer (in subjects consuming four cups per day). There is also evidence to suggest that people who drink four or more cups of coffee per day have a 50% decrease in the possibility of developing Type II diabetes. Considering the fact that the average American consumes about 3 cups of coffee a day, it isn’t far fetched for most people to take advantage of these health benefits.

Coffee is also has a positive effect on your body’s metabolism. Studies suggest that consumption of caffeine can increase your metabolic rate by 3-11%. This metabolic increase helps burn the body’s fat reserves, with one study showing a jump in fat burning of up to 29% in some subjects. Turns out a cup of coffee can be the perfect addition to a weight-loss diet plan.

The Truth in Negative Reports

There are noted benefits of coffee consumption (aside from its inherent deliciousness), but how accurate are those tales of caffeine-caused woe? Is it the relative infrequency that propels those stories to the forefront or are there really underlying health risks to coffee consumption? Coffee does contain a psychoactive substance—caffeine—and it’s our responsibility to ensure we’re aware of any potential risks.

Chemical Formula of Caffeine

Let’s take a look at the most extreme concern: how likely is it that a person can die from over-consumption of espressos? It’s not something that is particularly common, and when it occurs, it is generally dependent on underlying health issues. For example, a study of more than 100 middle-aged coronary heart disease patients produced results that show those drinking upwards of 10 cups of coffee per day were 50 times more likely to experience a cardiac arrest. Of course, upwards of 10 cups of coffee a day is rare even for the most caffeine-dependent of us.

Rather than considering whether coffee will end your life, it’s more useful to look at how the effects of caffeine can take their toll on the healthy functioning of your body and brain. Caffeine can increase the need for urination, as well as induce the jitters and a rise in blood pressure. All these symptoms can affect both your short- and long-term health.

Sleep is another area that coffee can have a negative impact on your health. The quality of your sleep can affect many different facets of your health. It’s generally accepted that coffee can negatively affect your sleep patterns.

Incorporating a Healthy Coffee Routine

Nobody is saying that you need to immediately cut coffee from your life — especially since caffeine withdrawal symptoms can lead you to experience increased anxiety, irritability, and headaches. It may seem like a hackneyed expression, but it really is in your best interest to take everything in moderation.

Audit your lifestyle; how much does coffee play a part in your day, and is it balanced out by the recommended daily intake of water? If you rely on caffeine for your mental focus at work, consider other methods such as eating a sugar-free snack, or de-cluttering your environment. If you need a cup of coffee in order to get going in the morning, it may well be time to take a look at the elements of your lifestyle that may be disrupting your sleep.

Coffee has been part of our routine for the last couple of centuries, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t remain a feature of our cultural landscape. We keep finding new creative ways to use it, and the more we study its properties, the more we can see its positive effects on our health. Balanced with an effective morning routine, we can continue to enjoy our favorite drink without much worry.

By Frankie Wallace