The Amount of Coffee Per Day That's Safe Is a Bit Surprising

Feel a pang of concern when you reach for that second, or even third, cup of coffee in the morning? Go ahead and indulge. A new study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology concludes that a healthy adult can safely consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day. (For the record, that’s four 8-ounce cups of coffee or six shots of espresso.)

A healthy adult can safely consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day. (Image: efetova/iStock/Getty Images)

Like us, you’re probably wondering what the researchers actually mean when they say it’s “safe” to consume that much coffee? After reviewing 15 years of conflicting data, they found that consuming four cups of coffee doesn’t have a negative effect on bone health, calcium intake, heart health or behavior health, nor does it have a negative effect on reproduction and development.

But bear in mind that coffee is not a one-dose-fits-all kind of thing — and just because something won’t kill you doesn’t mean you’ll enjoy it. Like with booze, your ability to consume caffeine and tolerate side effects like jitters and anxiety depends on your sensitivity, height and weight.

If you drink too much caffeine, you can experience some really unpleasant side effects, such as migraines, insomnia and irritability, according to the Mayo Clinic. And if you’re under the age of 55, drinking more than four cups of coffee per day was found to be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

But the new four-cup limit is good news, considering there are many studies out touting the health benefits of coffee — including evidence that it might actually reverse liver damage from booze. Participants in a study at Southampton University who added two extra cups of coffee to their daily routines lowered their chances of developing cirrhosis of the liver by as much as 44 percent.

What’s more, an article published by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health says coffee consumption can ease depression in some women while protecting against Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. An older study had already revealed that caffeine can also help lower the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, though scientists aren’t exactly sure why.

All this is fantastic news if you love a good latte. However, if you’re pregnant (or planning to be), you should slow your roll to maybe three cups a day. And if you’re trying to get pregnant, you should consider easing up on your coffee consumption even more. A National Institutes of Health study from last year links pre-pregnancy caffeine consumption to an increased risk of miscarriage.

— Vivian Manning-Schaffel

Vivian Manning-Schaffel is a journalist, essayist, senior copywriter and rabble-rouser who lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

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