Kris Carr recently wrote an article about the potential health perils of drinking too much coffee.
She’s mostly right but she gets a few important points wrong.
She begins by talking about the fact that coffee is acidic, and how that might be bad for you:
Minerals are required to balance pH in your body. Coffee is the arch enemy of minerals since it’s extremely acidic. When you’re guzzling caffeinated beverages throughout the day, you can kiss pH-balancing minerals goodbye as you flush them down the toilet along with your hot cup of java.
The idea that the pH of your food is somehow meaningful for your health is a chestnut that refuses to die. It’s popular because it’s anchored to a science-y sounding insight that you remember from your high school chemistry class (pH).
It completely ignores the other half of the same lesson, which is that pH is a meaningless concept if it’s not related to the buffer capacity in which it’s acting in. Buffers are chemicals that absorb the alkalinity or acidity of the solution being added to it.
Coffee’s Acidic: Should We Care?
Your whole body is a deeply interwoven buffering system. It does this precisely because foods have a wide range of pH values and our physiological systems have evolved to make the pH of our food irrelevant.
So we start off the article with one tick against her.
She then moves on to how coffee affects your adrenal glands, and how that might be bad for you:
When you drink caffeine, neurons are triggered in your brain and your adrenal glands start producing adrenaline, the hormone produced when you’re stressed out. When the adrenaline wears off, you’re left feeling wiped out, anxious, and moody. Next stop? You guessed it! Off to dose up on more caffeine, sugar, or other stimulants. It’s a vicious daily cycle.
Here she’s basically right, but with some caveats. Coffee (and therefore caffeine) probably does have modest affects on our adrenal glands because it causes your body to secrete cortisol, which is an important regulator of your heart, stress, and blood pressure.
However coffee’s ability to affect your mood and behavior is much greater than its ability to affect your endocrine system. To start experiencing significant shifts in your hormone balances most people need to drink about 500mg of caffeine a day, which is a lot, even for heavy coffee drinkers.
Then she talks about coffee and sleep:
You don’t have to enter monastic life and stick to perfect sleep hygiene, ya just need to create the conditions for more sleep on a consistent basis. Keep your room cool, block out all light, and definitely dump the coffee by noon—or switch to green tea.
Yep. Well said Kris.
The discussion then moves to coffee and miscarriage:
Ladies, listen up. A 2008 study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that hot mamas who guzzled high doses of caffeine during pregnancy (around 200 milligrams or more per day, or two cups of brewed coffee) had a greater risk of miscarriage than those who drank less caffeine.
Without getting too much into methodological detail, this is the exact type of study that’s hard to draw results from, even though it comes to a conclusion that many will find interesting.
I say this because it’s hard to tell whether or not girls who drink coffee regularly are exactly the same as girls who don’t.
Ask yourself: why do most people drink coffee? It’s usually because they’re really busy. Or really tired. Is someone who’s always tired going to have a greater chance of miscarriage than someone who’s always well rested and perky? More than likely, because sleep is really important regardless of whether or not you’re drinking coffee to keep yourself awake throughout the day.
The study she cited definitely isn’t the first of its kind, and when you look at them as a whole it sure doesn’t look like caffeine has any effect on your risk of miscarriage if you’re drinking normal amounts.
So when you put it all together does this change the way most people ought to think about their morning cup of brew? No, not really.
Should a lot of us be drinking less of it? Almost certainly yes. But the coffee drinking is probably masking a deeper underlying problem: a daily grind with too much stress and busyness.