Do you rely on your morning cup of coffee to jump-start your day? Rely on caffeine to help keep you awake after a restless night of sleep? Do you need caffeine to help you get through the afternoon slump? If you answered yes, you’re not alone. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, approximately 50 percent of Americans over the age of 18 drink coffee every day. Whether you call it java, cup of Joe, cup of brew, or morning fix, coffee consumption is a cultural staple.

Whether or not caffeine is good or bad for your health has been a much debated topic. Although many people indulge in caffeine usage, many are not aware of some of the basic facts regarding its effects. To help clear-up the mystery about coffee, here are some facts everyone should know about caffeine:

  1. Some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others. People who don’t drink caffeine often may experience a larger effect when they do indulge. Things such as body mass, age, medication use and general overall health conditions will dictate how powerful of an effect caffeine will have on your system.
  2. Caffeine should be consumed in moderation. Like many things in life, moderation is key when it comes to caffeine consumption. A safe, healthy intake of caffeine ranges from two to four cups of coffee a day, or 200 to 300 milligrams. Keep in mind that “a cup” of coffee is an 8-ounce cup. It’s important to look at the amount of caffeine contained in the foods and other drinks you consume as well. Remember that some soft drinks and foods such as chocolate contain various amounts of caffeine, contributing to your daily caffeine intake.
  3. Caffeine can be beneficial. Studies have shown that coffee drinkers may be benefitting from more than just the energy-boosting effects of caffeine in coffee. When consumed in moderation, coffee may lower the risk of liver cancer, colon cancer, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and depression. Contrary to popular belief, moderate coffee consumption isn’t “bad” for your health. A Harvard Health Professionals follow-up study found that for the general population, moderate coffee drinking doesn’t have any serious detrimental health effects.
  4. Caffeine should be consumed at only certain times of the day. When you have a cup or two of a caffeinated coffee in the morning, it will not interfere with your sleep; however, drinking it late in the day may. Because it takes about 5 to 7 hours for your body to eliminate half of the caffeine you consume, try to avoid drinking large amounts of caffeine 8 to 10 hours before sleep to allow your body to eliminate most of the caffeine within it.

How do you know if you’re consuming too much coffee?

While everyone reacts differently to caffeine, consuming more than 500 to 600mg of coffee per day may cause some of the following symptoms:

  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Stomach upset
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Muscle tremors

How to cut-down

If you’re drinking so much coffee that you start to notice some of these symptoms, considered cutting-back on your coffee intake. For some people, cutting back on caffeine can be a challenge. When cutting-down, it’s important to do it gradually. An abrupt decrease in caffeine may cause caffeine withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, irritability and nervousness. Drink one less cup of coffee a day, until you’ve cut-back to a healthier number. Drink decaffeinated coffee, or supplement some of your regular cups of coffee with decaffeinated coffee.