From Italy, Spain and France to Turkey to Brazil to the United States and Canada, coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world. Coffee lovers have vigorous debates about what constitutes a great brew, and which countries offer the best ones. Opinions vary. But there is one thing that coffee lovers all over the world can agree on: coffee’s popularity is showing no signs of decreasing in 2020. And because its popularity is so widespread, coffee inspires a great deal of analysis and debates about its effects.
The question, “Is coffee good for you?” has been asked many times, but it doesn’t always receive an accurate answer. And there is a lot of misinformation about the effects of caffeine.
Here are five myths about the effects of coffee and caffeine.
Myth 1: Caffeine makes you sleepy
On one hand, coffee is often accused of promoting insomnia — even if a person doesn’t drink it after 1 or 2 p.m. But on the other hand, coffee is also accused of making a person sleepy. There is no evidence, however, to suggest that coffee actually causes sleepiness. First, different bodies metabolize caffeine differently. Second, if a person falls asleep after drinking a cappuccino or a latte in the afternoon, that doesn’t automatically mean that coffee is the reason. The person might simply find that coffee is a good way to relax and unwind. Sleepiness, depending on the person, can be attributed to a wide variety of factors — from hot weather to eating a heavy afternoon meal. Or, it can simply result from feeling relaxed.
Myth 2: Coffee will dehydrate you
When the question, “Is coffee good for you?” is debated, coffee is sometimes wrongly cited as a cause of dehydration. But a University of Alabama study conducted in 2013 found no correlation between dehydration and coffee consumption. In the study, 50 male coffee drinkers took part in two trials — both of which lasted two consecutive days — and consumed multiple cups of coffee each day. And the study found that coffee was no less hydrating than water. According to Jonathan Dick, a coach for the Tier X training program and London-based nutrition specialist, coffee can have a diuretic effect and increase the need for urination. But there is no evidence to suggest that coffee is a major cause of dehydration.
Myth 3: Caffeine is bad for your heart
Some coffee critics have blamed caffeine for heart disease, but in 2017, a National Institutes of Health review of more than 300 studies found no link between caffeinated beverages and heart disease, irregular heartbeats, arrhythmia or heart failure. The research showed that a person who is healthy can consume up to 600 milligrams of caffeine per day without adverse effects — and that amount of caffeine would be found in roughly six cups of coffee (depending on how strong the brew is) or 15 cups of black tea (which has more caffeine than green tea or white tea).
Coffee has also been accused of promoting osteoporosis, but that is also a myth. There is no connection between osteoporosis and coffee or any other caffeinated beverage. Moreover, coffee is often consumed with cow’s milk, which is an excellent source of calcium.
Myth 4: Caffeine is addictive
Coffee has been described as the most widespread legal addiction in the world, but that claim is misleading. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system — and while a person can grow accustomed to consuming several cups of coffee per day and enjoy its stimulating effects, it isn’t addictive in the way controlled drugs are addictive. Cutting back on coffee would not have the types of severe withdrawal effects of cutting back on a drug that is actually quite addictive, including some drugs sold legally in pharmacies.
Myth 5: Coffee stunts your growth
According to an old wives’ tale, coffee consumption stunts a person’s growth — and therefore, parents shouldn’t let their children drink it at all until they have reached adulthood. Parents who let their teenagers or pre-teens drink coffee, according to the wives’ tale, will end up with short kids. But there is absolutely no connection between coffee consumption and whether one grows up to be short or tall, which is a matter of heredity and genes. Some of the world’s tallest people live in North European countries such as Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway, and coffee is hardly unpopular in those countries. Many countries in Northern Europe are known for their cold, snowy winters, and hot beverages taste great during the winter months — which is one of the reasons why Swedes and Germans enjoy them that time of year.
Is coffee good for you? The research strongly suggests that the answer to that question is a definite “yes.”