CaffeiNation: Are We Addicted to Caffeine? So What if We Are?

Coffee is a beloved part of everyday office life: picking up the spirits while providing the impetus and wherewithal to conquer a seemingly insurmountable day. It allows workers (and sometimes customers) to commingle, be social and start the day off on the right foot.


Coffee is $30 billion per year industry in the United States, as well as a huge part of daily life. To help back up that claim, here are some fun facts about coffee consumption from the National Coffee Association’s 2013 online survey:


  • Approximately 83 percent of adults in the U.S. adults drink coffee, making the U.S the biggest consumer of this beverage in the world.
  • Sixty-three percent of adults in the U.S. drink coffee on a daily basis.
  • Thirteen percent of adults in the U.S. opt for single-cup varieties.


Coffee Consumption at Work

According to a 2011 workplace coffee survey conducted by Alterra Coffee Roasters, 65 percent of U.S. workers drink coffee on the job, with the average worker drinking three cups of coffee per day! And, in a joint survey commissioned by Dunkin Donuts and CareerBuilder, cooks and other food service workers, sales representatives, scientists, lab technicians, marketing professionals, executives and more all said that without coffee their work suffers. Across all occupations, 43 percent of workers said that they are less productive without their morning brew. This survey also showed that 61 percent of working professionals had two or more cups per work day; and 28 percent had three or more cups.


A 2009 Harris Interactive study with a sample size of 1,400 U.S. employees showed that in the workplace beverage hierarchy, coffee was second only to bottled water: 25 percent of workers surveyed stated that coffee was extremely or very important to have at work.


Sources of Caffeine

The motivational elixir known as caffeine can be found in a wide variety of beverages in addition to coffee, including energy drinks and shots, tea and more. The amount of caffeine varies widely by the beverage of choice; for example, according to Consumer Reports, 5-hour Energy Extra Strength provides 242 milligrams of caffeine per serving (topping their list), a Rockstar Energy drink packs 229 milligrams, and an eight-ounce cup of coffee clocks in at 100 milligrams.


And, you may be getting more caffeine than you think. In 2012, Consumer Reports analyzed the caffeine contents of popular drinks and found that over a third of those that advertised a specific amount of caffeine actually contained over 20 percent more than the amount mentioned on the label.


Health Benefits of Coffee

According to research conducted by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), there’s quite a bit more to love about coffee than just that morning buzz and pick-me-up. (We’ll delve into caffeine health concerns below.) Coffee is gaining a steadily increasing healthy reputation: According to the 2012 NCI study, men who drank two or three cups of coffee per day had a 10 percent chance of living longer than those who drank no coffee. Women could benefit even more: the study showed a 13 percent increase in longevity in women who drink coffee when compared to those who do not. In addition, research from other institutions has found links between coffee and lower risks of Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, depression, death from liver cirrhosis and beyond!


On the Flipside: Potential Side Effects for Coffee Drinkers

According to the Mayo Clinic, healthy adults can consume 200 to 300 milligrams of caffeine per day (approximately two to three eight-ounce cups of coffee), though pregnant women should cap their daily intake at 200 milligrams. Children should consume even less, with recommendations for maximum intake ranging from 45 to 85 milligrams per day. Those who take in more than 500 mg per day can experience rapid heartbeat, muscle tremors, insomnia and other similarly displeasing and harmful side effects.


Take this with a grain of salt: For younger people, drinking too much coffee could be a deadly proposition. According to a 2013 study published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, those age 55 and under who drink more than four cups of coffee a day are at a greater risk of death from all causes. But, before destroying your death-hastening coffee machine, know that it isn’t clear if factors such as smoking, drinking, poor diet and sleep patterns and other such unhealthy behaviors that may be linked to heavy coffee consumption play a role in this increased risk.


Over the years, conflicting reports have surfaced, some praising coffee’s health powers and others condemning its effects upon the human body. In the end, moderation is key, as it is for everything. So, enjoy that steaming cup of Joe as it’s likely a (mostly) healthy endeavor on your part. It not only tastes great but can keep you feeling alert, alive and ready to conquer whatever the day throws your way, while hopefully providing positive health benefits.

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