Do you find yourself craving — scratch that — needing a cup of coffee in the morning to start your day? If you rely on that cup of coffee for an energy boost, rest assured, you're far from alone.
Most adults view daily coffee drinking and the inevitable caffeine intake attached to it as a very socially acceptable drug addiction. But is having the daily urge to get your 'fix' of coffee a habit you should be worried about?
Keep reading to find out exactly why coffee caffeine is so popular and why it may be worth considering healthier coffee alternatives for an energy boost.
Just how popular is coffee?
According to the National Institute of Health database, coffee is the most popular caffeinated beverage in the US.
Using data from National Health and Nutritional Examination Surveys, researchers estimated that the largest contributors to dietary caffeine were coffee (64%), followed by tea (18%), and then caffeinated sodas (15%).
Caffeine is by far the most popular drug in the US.
Each day, about 90% of Americans consume caffeine in some shape or form. More than half of the adults in the country consume 300 milligrams a day, making it America's most popular drug.
What is caffeine?
Caffeine is a psychoactive drug that increases the activity of your brain and nervous system. It is a natural stimulant found in coffee, energy drinks, tea, and chocolate and has also made its way into numerous medications.
Once ingested, caffeine often takes around 30–60 minutes to hit peak concentrations in the blood – with its effects usually lasting about three to nine hours, depending on the person.
Is caffeine addictive?
Studies have shown that caffeine users may develop a dependence, though symptoms are typically considered mild compared to those associated with illegal, harder drugs.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) currently acknowledges caffeine withdrawal as a clinical condition but doesn't classify caffeine addiction as an actual substance abuse disorder. That being said, the APA has suggested more research needs to be done on the topic.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) does officially acknowledge caffeine dependence as a syndrome.
What is the risk of coffee addiction?
The risk of coffee addiction depends on several factors, including genetics -- with regular coffee consumption leading to brain changes and caffeine dependence.
According to researchers, the exact time for your body and brain to adapt to daily caffeine intake and become addicted remains uncertain.
Withdrawal symptoms like headaches, lack of concentration, drowsiness, and irritability can emerge within 12-24 hours after your last caffeine dose and may persist for up to nine days.
How much caffeine do most adults consume in the US a day?
Statistics point to most US adults consuming around 135 mg of caffeine daily. This equals about 1.5 cups of coffee, with 1 cup being eight ounces.
3 Reasons why coffee is such a popular source of caffeine in the US
Let's explore why coffee stands apart as one of the most popular caffeine sources in the world. There are three key reasons that contribute to its widespread appeal and need for coffee:
1) The body quickly absorbs caffeine from coffee
Caffeine from coffee is incredibly addictive and fast-acting because of the way that caffeine is absorbed through the small intestine and then dissolved into your bloodstream.
It immediately hits the human brain and produces the alert feeling people crave.
Other alternative caffeine sources, such as matcha caffeine, are processed more slowly by the body. Matcha can also keep your trips to the bathroom regular but without any of the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that come with coffee.
2) Coffee is available virtually everywhere, anytime, any way you want it.
Morning, afternoon, and evening coffee is readily available to boost energy in various forms, from brewed cups to instant packets, catering to diverse tastes and preferences. Depending on where you live, coffee shops can be on every block and occasionally on the same street.
Plus, there are endless ways people enjoy coffee and a kick of caffeine, thanks to the range of demographics and age groups that drink it. Hot, cold, cappuccinos, frappes, or latte form — there are seemingly endless ways to enjoy coffee.
3) Coffee has a richer history and culture compared to tea in the US
Let's roll back the clock. Way back in the late 1700s, tea was quintessentially British. In other words, the King and Queens sipped on it for their energy boost. All the royalty drank it, and the entire British population were maniacs for tea.
Sadly, tea culture for American colonists was so closely linked to Britain that to boycotting tea meant boycotting British culture — which is precisely what they did from 1773 to 1783.
Does the Boston Tea Party incident ring a bell?
So, over this decade, people developed a taste for coffee. Once people started to drink coffee every day and got addicted to the almost immediate caffeine rush, it was hard to switch back to tea.
There is a lack of awareness of caffeine safety
Although most adults (67%) think that caffeine and coffee are safe when consumed in moderation, few know what a safe amount of caffeine truly is.
The US Food and Drug Administration notes 400 milligrams a day as a daily recommended limit for healthy adults that is not usually associated with side effects.
Why it's worth considering other sources of energy besides coffee
While coffee is beloved for these reasons, it's essential to remember that caffeine consumption, in excess, can adversely affect your health. If you are sipping on more than 4 cups of caffeinated coffee a day (or the equivalent of more than 400mg of caffeine), studies have shown you may suffer from unpleasant side effects such as:
Frequent urination or the inability to control peeing
Plus, researchers have found that some people, due to their genetic makeup, are just much more sensitive to caffeine from coffee, energy drinks, and chocolate than others – with just one cup of coffee in the afternoon or too much chocolate after dinner ruining their afternoon and ability to get a good night's rest.
If you are anxious, matcha is a great energy source that can actually help alleviate symptoms of anxiety while still providing an energy boost.
Also, remember that how you react to caffeine is impacted by how much caffeine you consume. Adults who aren't typical coffee drinkers tend to be more sensitive to its effects.
Matcha is also a good caffeine choice for women who are pregnant.
The bottom line: Be mindful of your overall coffee intake and other caffeine sources
It's important to remember that The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers 400 milligrams (about 4 cups of brewed coffee) to be the recommended daily caffeine limit for healthy adults.
In the end, whether you stick with drinking coffee, switch to matcha, or opt for other caffeine alternatives, understanding the effects of caffeine and consuming it in moderation is essential for maintaining your overall well-being.
You may also like:
- Switching from coffee to matcha | Everything you need to know
- What is matcha caffeine?
- What is matcha?
- Combining chai tea and matcha
- Can you drink too much matcha green tea powder?
Disclaimer: These statements in this blog post have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information provided here is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. It's essential to consult with a qualified healthcare professional before making any dietary or lifestyle changes.
Drewnowski, A., & Rehm, C. D. (2016). Sources of Caffeine in Diets of US Children and Adults: Trends by Beverage Type and Purchase Location. Nutrients, 8(3), 154. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8030154
Jee, H. J., Lee, S. G., Bormate, K. J., & Jung, Y. S. (2020). Effect of Caffeine Consumption on the Risk for Neurological and Psychiatric Disorders: Sex Differences in Human. Nutrients, 12(10), 3080. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12103080
Juliano, L. M., & Griffiths, R. R. (2004). A critical review of caffeine withdrawal: empirical validation of symptoms and signs, incidence, severity, and associated features. Psychopharmacology, 176(1), 1–29. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-004-2000-x
Meredith, S. E., Juliano, L. M., Hughes, J. R., & Griffiths, R. R. (2013). Caffeine Use Disorder: A Comprehensive Review and Research Agenda. Journal of caffeine research, 3(3), 114–130. https://doi.org/10.1089/jcr.2013.0016