Should You Limit Your Daily Coffee Intake?

Looking for a jolt? (Photo: Getty Images)

Drinking up to five espressos a day, or the caffeine equivalent, poses no risk to general population, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), has concluded.

The agency carried out the scientific study after some countries raised concerns about the health effects of caffeine on the heart and central nervous system, as well as possible risks to fetuses.

According to their research, adults can consume up to 400mg per day from the typical sources (including tea, coffee, chocolate and energy drinks) and chugging down a single serving up to 200mg of caffeine can be safe, as well.

But the EFSA warns to stop after five cups: Consuming more than that could be damaging to your health, they say. And for pregnant women, the limit is even less — 200 mg is the recommended cap to protect unborn children.

So what is the US’s official recommended guideline on caffeine consumption?

For healthy adults FDA has cited 400 milligrams a day. But that said, “We don’t have a standard policy,” Miriam E. Nelson, PhD, Associate Dean from the Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University, tells Yahoo Health.

Related: Coffee May Protect Against Some Skin Cancers 

Nelson and 13 other nationally recognized experts in the fields of nutrition, medicine and public health are part of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.“Our committee put together a technical report, which we were asked to do, and submitted it to the secretaries of the Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA),” she states. “However, there are some policies, like from the American Academy of Pediatrics for children and from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists for pregnant women. But in terms of adults, the United States doesn’t have any, which is why it was such a fascinating topic area for our subcommittee to address.”

The team considered two factors in their proposal: coffee, which is the major source of caffeine in our nation’s diet, and caffeine. “What we saw was that there was strong, consistent evidence in coffee,” says Nelson. “Within the three to five cups a day range, which is up to 400mg, coffee was not associated with any increased, major health risks. In fact, there was moderate but consistent evidence that drinking coffee in moderate amounts actually reduces your risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases in healthy adults.” She adds that coffee may also reduce risk of some liver cancers and cancers of the endometrium.

Related: 5 New Reasons Coffee Is The Best Thing Ever

And yes, caffeine had a perk, as well. “With respect to caffeine, what we saw was that there was, in fact, moderate evidence that caffeine intakes around that amount — and not coffee but caffeine — can reduce risk of Parkinson’s disease,” says Nelson.

Other research has shown that this popular stimulant may have other health benefits, such as enhancing memory and reducing men’s risk for erectile dysfunction.

Caffeine may even protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease, nutritionist Keri Glassman, founder of Nutritious Life, tells Yahoo Health. “German and French researchers have demonstrated that caffeine has a positive effect on tau deposits, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s,” she states. “They showed how giving regular doses of caffeine to mice bred to develop tau protein deposits in their brains slowed memory decline compared to controlled mice.”

Glassman adds that it may also help in pain relief, along with providing an extra boost in the gym. “Caffeine ingestion (3 to 9 mg) prior to exercise increases performance during prolonged endurance exercise and short-term exercise lasting approximately five minutes,” she says.

Related: Potential Super-Antioxidant in Coffee May Protect Against Obesity

However, Nelson emphasizes that all caffeinated beverages are not created equal. “There’s a lot of high caffeine products out there and also a number of highly-caffeinated beverages that have alcohol,” she says. “The highly-caffeinate beverages should not be mixed with alcoholic beverages because it masks the negative effects of the alcohol.”

And not all coffee drinks will do, either. “The specialty coffee drinks have a lot of additional calories, so you need to be cautious,” Nelson states. “A cup of black coffee with skim milk and one sugar is great. What we proposed is that moderate coffee consumption can be incorporated into a healthy lifestyle. If you don’t like to drink coffee, then you don’t need to drink coffee. But if you like it, two, three or four cups a day seems to confer some health benefits.”

- with additional reporting by Reuters

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