Can Drinking Coffee Really Kill You?


November 19, 2013 by gregrabidoux2013


Fancier than anything I drink. But still, pretty.

Is my morning cup of coffee each day speeding up more than just my nervous system? Like say, my departure date from planet earth? I hope not because that would leave the world with far too many tea drinkers and they have always struck me as too shifty and calculating for their own good. Maybe it’s all that time on their hands they seem to have, brewing, steeping, stirring and lingering over their small cups of tea.

Of course, they don’t get to enjoy earthly pleasures like donuts and coffee. Donuts and tea? Please. Tea and crumpets are more like it and that just leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. Or so I am told. Scones? Sounds like a made-up word to me meant for an ice-cream cone in the shape of the letter-S.


Beary-tea time (get it, with berries?) Tea-drinkers like stuff like this apparently.

But I come here today to not be haughtily dismissive of tea drinkers (haughtily is a word they seem to enjoy using) but rather to take a wide-eyed (after at least 2 cups of Joe) look at my beverage of choice and try, once and for all to decide if my daily coffee habit is really bad for me (as I fear) or good for me (as I so fervently hope). First, a recent study on coffee consumption (and really, isn’t there always yet another “study” to um, digest?) seems to bring me and all my fellow coffee enthusiasts good news.

Dr. Rob Van Dam (whose friends never confuse him with Jean Claude Van Damme) an epidemiologist at Harvard University and the National University of Singapore, informs us that Coffee, since it is a bean from a plant contains yummy (my word) and healthy (his word) items like vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and flavonoids. That, it seems is his good news. On the other hand (curses to always having another hand) unfiltered coffee, especially those found in hearty coffee like Turkish and French Press brewed seems to raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of elevated heart rates excessively. This seems due to the caffeine (1,3,7-trimethylxanthine) potency of this method of brewing the coffee bean.

jean claude van damme

Go ahead, offer him tea not coffee and see what happens. I dare you.

Van Dam, the medical guy and not the martial arts guy, also qualifies this new finding with caution to not consume huge amounts of coffee. Sure. But just how much is “huge” amounts? Well, the American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide (their name rolls right off the tongue just like a sip of espresso, no?) recommends no more than 200-300 milligrams of coffee per day for adult drinkers. Since we, as Americans, have long given the unit of measure “finger” to the rest of the world, that translates to 2 seven ounce cups of coffee per day for us non-metric Yanks.

Now, as I take another sip of my more than 7 ounce cup of coffee I begin to be concerned. How about other studies, what do “they” tell us? A review of The Journal of American (Internal) Medicine research on the subject reveals the following general findings. A 2011 study suggests that drinking moderate (there’s that “M” word again) amounts of coffee reduces diabetes risk while another recent study found that women who drank coffee were 15% less depressed than those that did not and a study on Finland linked coffee drinking to reduced suicides.

More good news? Well, other studies have linked coffee consumption to lower rate of heart attacks, prostate and breast cancer and a greater chance to dunk a basket-ball like LeBron James. Okay, I made up that last one but a guy can dream can’t he?

lebron james

Hey, it ain’t tea powering the big man’s dunks. More like a little Miami-Cubano espresso…

Bad news? Well, not surprisingly, pregnant women who already seem like they can’t eat or drink virtually anything already should avoid ingesting “excessive” coffee since the fetus can’t properly metabolize the caffeine in coffee well and this can lead to a number of other health risks. Okay, well not to be purely self-centered here but I think I am not at risk for getting pregnant anytime soon, so what else do I and others like me need to know about their favorite mug of coffee?

Well, a 2013 study lead by Dr. Pieter A. Cohen found that excessive caffeine consumption and nervous system stimulation can lead to higher risk for things like hypokalema and rhabdomyolsis. Great. Now I will be done in by stuff I swear Dr. “Pete” is making up just to scare me to start steeping my own “Earl Grey.”

But before I cross that bridge made of tea-bags, I must consider the richness of my coffee history before I’d consider kicking the habit. So, the sheep herder Kaldi in Caffa Ethiopia and the story of how he noticed his sheep getting all jiggy with it after they ate coffee beans comes to mind. Or how the Turks in 1453 made the world’s first drink out of coffee beans. They even passed a law permitting divorce if a spouse didn’t provide enough coffee per day for the other spouse. Now that people is some serious coffee grounds for divorce. I think of the smuggling and even death over the early coffee traders. I relive how the Dutch smuggled the coffee plant out of Arabia and to Ceylon and the island of Java and then how those underhanded French smuggled coffee from the Dutch to Martinique.


Give me my daily coffee or else.

I then imagine the euphoria that the inventor of the espresso machine the Italian Achilles Gaggia must have felt as he downed one “cappuccino” after the other shortly after World War II. Cappuccino I find out was named after the color of this new beverage reminded its early aficionados of the robes worn by the Capuchin Order of Monks.

cafe espresso arundino

Now, as I wake up a bit and smell the coffee I wonder, just what the world would be like if not for that momentous day in 1971 when Starbucks first opened its doors and cash registers to pricey coffee beverages in Seattle’s Pike Place Public Market? I shudder like Burl Ives in Rudolph is Coming to Town. So, I now come full circle. Is my daily coffee habit going to be the end of me?

promo04 starbucks

I trust Starbucks, there really is coffee in these cups…somewhere.

I guess it depends on which study or rather, which parts of which studies are most applicable to me. I should probably consider cutting my “habit” down to the 200-300 milligrams a day. I’ll put my French Press on E-Bay (some poor uninformed caffeine-addict who hasn’t read my blog may buy it) and oh yes, make sure I drink from a porcelain cup or mug because that not only preserves warmth and taste of my coffee it reduces risk of toxin erosion.

Cafe cupFinally, just as I feel good about myself and my new coffee resolutions, I come across yet another study that informs me that coffee is actually made up of caffeine (a natural purine alkaloid), theobromine and theophylline and may come from 63 plant species around the world. Sometimes, I think, it’s good to be one of Kaldi’s sheep and just follow the rest of the coffee-swilling herd. Beats steeping tea in a hand-knit sweater-vest.



20 thoughts on “Can Drinking Coffee Really Kill You?

  1. Mara Lencina says:

    A very interesting post about coffee! Every time I watch my fave show The Mentalist and Simon Baker sipping his tea I go and try it BUT always come back to the coffee hard-stuff!

  2. Tim Odum says:

    I guzzle coffee like there’s no tomorrow and after reading this post there might not be a tomorrow! Yipes. Maybe I need to cut down a bit.

  3. Marcus Huntley says:

    This a very interesting topic based on coffee, I believe consuming too much of anything may cause health concerns.As far as mentioning death as a possible outcome from drinking too much coffee is a bit over the top!

  4. This is a very interesting discussions on coffee.I believe that consuming to much of anything may cause potential health concerns.As far as coffee killing you by drinking too much is a bit over the top!

  5. Patrick Hilgert says:

    Anything that is taken constantly without moderation is generally bad for your health. This includes alcohol, caffeine, fruit, sugar, even water. Sure, some of the things may taste good or help you get through the day, but let’s not make it your last day to get through now, shall we?

  6. Allison M says:

    Let’s just say, in the interest of my own health, that I gave up my 2 cup a day habit. I would fail my 8 am class without a second thought, therefore sending my GPA deep into the land of where GPAs starting with 1’s and 2’s roam carefree. This sad turn of events would eventually get back to my parents, who are as addicted to excellence as I am to my cup’a Joe, who would kill me for failing such a simple class, as my 8 am is rather easy. Dying for such a thing would be a shame since I provide all the coffee for my neighbors in the luxurious Langdale Hall and the same fate befall all of them. So in the end, yes, my coffee habit could kill me, key word COULD but if I stop drinking it all together it WILL kill me and perhaps several of my friends. I won’t be the girl who died because she stopped drinking coffee. Drink on my friends.

  7. Michael R. says:

    I too am a coffee drinker. Yet, ‘coffee fanatic’ may be more of an accurate description. An interesting point to note regarding the stimulatory nature of coffee is that the human body can desensitize itself from caffeine stimulation. What does this mean? Following a state of abstinence, the human body is physiologically capable of regaining its sense of sensitivity to caffeine. In fact, research indicates that the elevation of blood pressure and heart rate that accompanies excessive caffeine consumption will also return to pre-coffee values.

  8. Barbara B says:

    It’s amazing to see that others have replied to this article. I am an avid coffee drinker, and in fact, I cannot reduce the amount of coffee that I consume to an exact cup number. However, I do drink more coffee when I am working night shift every other month than when I am working day shift. Initially, I adopted a love for the drink as an energy supply to make it through 12-hours of work over night. Now, I really just love to drink it for much more. Of course, the title of this article was interesting to me since coffee drinking has become a huge portion of my life. Coffee seemingly keeps me sharp and alert. I especially like those qualities in the beverage, but there are some blends are too strong and make me too hyper. Really, it’s all about balance and what one can handle. Nevertheless, the idea that it could kill me never crosses my mind when I am consuming it. If anything, after reading this article, I will more than likely now watch my portion sizes and know actually how much coffee I am having. Instead of relying on coffee to offset lack of rest, I think I will sleep more and have coffee for its other qualities instead.

  9. Jon Musselwhite says:

    Anything you eat or drink is moderation is good for you, but when people start doing to much of one or the other it starts to become unhealthy. Even healthy food can be bad for you if to much is eaten, and not balanced out with other foods. I’m a tea drinker so maybe i will have to look into trying some coffee in the future.

  10. Amber G says:

    Nooo!! Say its not so! I love coffee! It give me so much life day and night. I only drink about 2 a day though. Not such a big deal.

  11. Cara says:

    First and foremost, I just have to mention that your inserted photographs coupled with the captions are quite hilarious! Second, the content spoke volumes. I, like all those who commented before me, love my coffee and drink it on a daily basis. I will say that because of this recent “health kick” I am on, I have minimized it to two cups a day. I also do not add anything to the coffee, confirming my love for the taste of coffee itself and not the added sugars and flavoring. I will say that I was “that person” who bombarded the dunkin donuts drive thru every morning for my large iced coffee with two sugars, two creams, French vanilla, coconut, and an added turbo shot for that extra kick. I would also stop on the way home for the same drink! After my own research when preparing for this new lifestyle pursuing “optimal health,” I too read articles discussing its negative affects if not consumed in moderation; not to mention too much sugar. What I did not see was the harm done to the body from a non porcelain cup/mug. I will have to start that now too! Thanks for the information. It is always great and more effective when it directly impacts our own lives!!!

  12. Casey Holcom says:

    Drinking too much of anything can kill you. I like to have a cup of coffee in the morning sometimes, and I think coffee is okay when it’s not consumed too heavily and without too much cream/sugar. In moderation I think it has it benefits, but if you drink 5 cups a day then don’t be surprised when it affects you later on.

  13. Lawhorne says:

    I thoroughly enjoy my morning coffee and find it to be a simple pleasure in life. With that said, as others have posted, I too agree that moderation is critical and applies to most things in life.

    From a social interaction standpoint, there are a second-order effect for some that come as a result of having conversation over coffee . To me, this can be healthier in excess than other social outlets such as drinking alcohol, smoke cigarettes (electronic or otherwise), or Marijuana (depending on the state). Interestingly to note, I recently read a parenting article suggesting that many parents view their teens’ coffee drinking as the least of possible evils. Moreover, it was suggested that drinking coffee might also allow a teen to fit in with a group of peers, and feeling accepted during the teenage years can improve self-esteem.

  14. tara c says:

    MMMMMM……. Coffee. Between my fiance and I, we make two pots of coffee by noon every weekend when we are both at home. Everything is possibly slowly killing us all, I’m pretty sure the flavored creamer is not helping. I guess the only thing to do is to continue to balance out my morning coffee with my 1 – 2 glasses of wine a night.

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