Coffee Myths: Part 2

Can caffeine cause gastritis or cancer?

It is believed that coffee, especially on an empty stomach, can harm the stomach. Studies show that coffee stimulates the secretion of gastrin, an enzyme that increases the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. True, this effect is associated with other components of coffee, and not with caffeine – in its pure form, it does not cause such a reaction. Be that as it may, at the moment there is no evidence that small changes in gastric acid production can be a risk factor for peptic ulcer disease. The discomfort after drinking coffee should not be a cause for concern.

Last year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that coffee does not contribute to the development of malignant tumors. What’s more, it was found that drinking coffee is associated with a reduced risk of liver cancer. Of course, we shouldn’t forget that cancer is a multifactorial disease, and different aspects of diet, lifestyle, and genetic predisposition can affect its development.

But still, is coffee a drug?

Regular consumption of even small amounts of caffeine is physically addictive, however, it cannot be compared to the effects of alcohol and other drugs. A sharp reduction in caffeine in the diet can lead to short-term “withdrawal” – it manifests itself in changes in mood, headaches, muscle pain, insomnia, high blood pressure. Fortunately, this syndrome is short-lived: symptoms are most acute a couple of days after abstinence from caffeine and disappear completely within a week.

Too early for a Guinness
Photo by Clay Banks / Unsplash

As for the addiction to caffeine, that is, the gradual disappearance of its effects, scientists differ. It appears that caffeine sensitivity varies from person to person. Some people manage to quickly get used to it – that’s why there are people among us who calmly fall asleep after a cup of coffee, without experiencing any of its effects. Others never build up a dependence; right now there are no unambiguous decisions about what factors this is related with.

Can pregnant women drink coffee?

The latest estimate from the European Food Safety Agency  is that single doses of caffeine no higher than 200 milligrams – one to two cups of coffee – are not harmful to health, nor do they interact with other substances such as alcohol or taurine. Daily doses not exceeding 400 mg are also not associated with health risks – however, this does not apply to pregnant women, for whom a lower dose is recommended, not exceeding 200 mg per day.

Can you die by drinking too much coffee?

Caffeine overdose can be fatal – but its amount must be huge – 200 mg per kilogram of body weight, that’s about 70 cups of coffee drunk at the same time. Lower doses – 400-500 mg at a time can lead to poisoning and its effects: confusion, hallucinations, agitation, tachycardia, vomiting. Overdosing usually occurs either by consuming caffeine in pills or capsules or by quickly absorbing several drinks containing it in a row – it turns out that drinking coffee in a measured way throughout the morning can be safer than triple espresso at a time.

Check part ONE of the coffee myths out!

Anastasia Fetter

Anastasia Fetter