Illustration: Ashley Siebels
Admit it, you’ve wondered during those late working nights or foggy mornings: how much coffee can you drink before you do yourself physical harm?
It’s been hard to get an answer until today. Oh, sure, there’s been speculation, but nothing a coffee addict can definitely trust. Government regulators have long been conflicted about our human limit to drinking coffee. Health Canada says four cups of coffee is the recommended limit, while the Food and Drug Administration recommends no more than three eight-ounce cups of coffee before you become a jittery hot mess.
But morning coffee lovers like me can rejoice that the latest science is on our side.
In an April study, International Life Sciences Institute researchers conducted a systemic review of 15 years of data on caffeine.
We finally have the answer we’ve been seeking.
They found that four eight-ounce cups of coffee were acceptable in healthy adults: “400 mg caffeine/day in healthy adults is not associated with overt, adverse cardiovascular effects, behavioral effects, reproductive and developmental effects, acute effects, or bone status.”
Your official coffee limit
What that adds up to: 4 cups of plain brewed coffee; 10 cans of caffeinated soda; two of those tiny energy shots or five — yes, five — Red Bull-type energy drinks.
Although caffeine consumption has been previously linked to miscarriage risks, the new study found that pregnant women can safely consume up to 300 milligrams of coffee.
After that threshold in healthy adults, you may run into downsides, including increased unhappiness, depression and anxiety.
Of course, coffee affects everyone differently. Just because research says an average adult can guzzle down four cups, doesn’t mean you necessarily should. Everyone has a different tolerance to it.
“There’s a great deal of inter-individual variability in how people respond to caffeine. That’s one of the research gaps. We need to better identify differences and identify people who are more sensitive,” Esther Myers, one of the study’s researchers, told The Atlantic.
As with every beverage, know your limits and drink in moderation.