Yes, you can have too much of a good thing. Are you going overboard?

  • Coffee is a must-have to start the day for many runners, but too much caffeine has been shown to raise blood pressure, and may also lead to things like headache, shakiness, or abnormal heartbeat.
  • Now, new research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found the upper limit for coffee consumption is six cups a day.

For billions of people around the planet, coffee is fuel for the daily grind. Endurance athletes swear by java to get them going (in more ways than one). For many, life without at least one daily cup is simply a no-go.

But as with any good thing, too much coffee is a bad thing. Too much caffeine can cause high blood pressure, a precursor to heart disease, and can cause side effects like dizziness, shakiness, headache, or abnormal heartbeat.

Until now it was hard to say how much was too much. Thanks to new research from the University of South Australia, we now have an upper limit for how much coffee is safe when talking about your heart disease risk.

In the study, researchers delved into U.K. Biobank data of more than 347,000 people ages 37 to 73 years to explore how the caffeine-metabolizing gene (CYP1A2) helps carriers process caffeine, as well as identify the risks of cardiovascular disease as it relates to coffee consumption and genetic variations.

They discovered that those drinking more than six cups of coffee a day had a 22 percent higher risk of cardiovascular disease than those who drank 1 to 2 cups a day, putting that ceiling for safe coffee consumption at six cups per day.

Interestingly, the amount for safe consumption did not seem to have anything to do with whether you had the genes to metabolize coffee faster.

Despite carriers of the fast-processing gene variation being four times quicker at metabolizing caffeine, the research does not support the belief that these people could safely consume more caffeine, more frequently, without detrimental health effects, study author Elina Hyppönen, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the Australian Centre for Precision Health said in a press release.

“In order to maintain a healthy heart and a healthy blood pressure, people must limit their coffees to fewer than six cups a day—based on our data six was the tipping point where caffeine started to negatively affect cardiovascular risk,” Hyppönen said.

The study also suggests the heart-protective effects of drinking some coffee, since nondrinkers had an 11 percent increased risk of cardiovascular disease compared to those who drank 1 to 2 cups daily. That follows in line with a 2017 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition, which found low to moderate coffee consumption per day was linked to lower chances of heart incidents, while those drinking the most per day had the highest risk.

An antioxidant in coffee called chlorogenic acid may help improve blood vessel function and thwart the development of the plaque buildup that can clog arteries, those researchers believed. But too much caffeine can not only raise the chances of high blood pressure, but may also lead to artery stiffening—two factors which can raise your chances of heart disease.

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It all comes down to one buzzword that can apply to almost anything in the health field: moderation.

“An estimated three billion cups of coffee are enjoyed every day around the world,” Hyppönen said in the press release. “Knowing the limits of what’s good for you and what’s not is imperative. As with many things, it’s all about moderation; overindulge and your health will pay for it.”

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