Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Coffee?

French author Honoré de Balzac once said he was a "galley slave to pen and ink," but he should have included one other captor: coffee. While it might come as no surprise that someone who wrote 47 novels, eight plays, a dozen novellas, and 18 short stories counted on caffeine to keep him going, Balzac downed a daily amount of espresso equivalent to 47 cups of coffee. And he did it for 25 years. While many studies have suggested that drinking coffee can have positive health effects, most people aren't equipped to handle what Balzac did, and would most likely suffer big-time jitters and sleep problems if they came anywhere close to his coffee consumption. And Balzac didn't limit himself to liquids, either. He kept coffee grounds on hand and chewed them whenever he needed a little pick-me-up.

A brief Balzac bio:

  • At an early age, Balzac struggled in school and was often sent to detention; it was there that his love of literature and reading began.
  • Balzac aimed to describe all of French society in his writing, and his best-known work, The Human Comedy, offered a panoramic view of French life after Napoleon.
  • Balzac had more than 80 works published between 1829 and 1847, largely thanks to spending 16 hours a day writing; no doubt, aided by all that coffee.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the health risks associated with drinking too much coffee?

Excessive coffee consumption can lead to various health issues. According to the Mayo Clinic, consuming more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day can result in insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, an upset stomach, a fast heartbeat, or even muscle tremors. Additionally, some individuals may be more sensitive to caffeine and experience these symptoms at lower doses (Mayo Clinic, 2017).

How much coffee is considered safe for most adults?

For most adults, a safe amount of coffee is equivalent to about 3 to 4 cups per day, providing up to 400 milligrams of caffeine. This guideline is supported by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which consider moderate coffee consumption of up to 5 cups a day to be part of a healthy diet for adults (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2015).

Can drinking coffee have any long-term effects on health?

Long-term coffee consumption has been associated with several health benefits, such as a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and certain cancers. However, chronic overconsumption may increase the risk of heart problems in people with a specific genetic mutation that slows caffeine metabolism. It's important to balance intake and be aware of individual tolerance levels (Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health).

Are there any benefits to drinking coffee in moderation?

Yes, moderate coffee consumption has been linked to various health benefits. Research suggests that it can improve cognitive function, increase metabolism, and reduce the risk of depression. Coffee is also a significant source of antioxidants, which can protect against free radicals. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that moderate coffee drinkers had a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease and other causes (Journal of Nutrition, 2016).

Is it possible to develop a dependency on coffee?

Yes, it is possible to develop a dependency on coffee, or more specifically, on caffeine. Regular, heavy caffeine use can lead to dependence, which may result in withdrawal symptoms such as headache, fatigue, and depressed mood when intake is reduced. The American Psychiatric Association recognizes caffeine withdrawal as a clinical condition, highlighting the potential for dependency (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

More Info: Inc.

Discussion Comments


This is interesting, but it does not answer the question posed "Is there such a thing as too much coffee." Please have the headline reflect the actual content of the article. It is unfair to promise one thing and deliver another.


Great to know!

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