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Java Jive at AOL Health by Vicki Salemi, February, 2009

Sure, it's one of the most popular beverages in the country. Millions of people begin their day by consuming a morning cup of joe. In fact, a worldwide forecast has predicted 6.7 million metric tons of coffee will be produced in 2010 alone. This brewed beverage, prepared from roasted coffee beans, does have several negative health effects and addictive qualities. Heavy drinkers can start craving a caffeine fix, particularly when it's consumed in excess.

Liver damage

If you don't think coffee is doing damage to your liver, think again. Zartarian explains, "Caffeine is broken down by the liver through the use of enzymes. The more these enzymes are involved in breaking down caffeine, the less available they are for breaking down other chemicals in the bloodstream. Excessive caffeine use, therefore, causes the liver to work less efficiently at its job of detoxifying the body." While one to two cups each day seems normal, anything above that amount may seem excessive. Experts recommend replacing those additional cups of coffee with water instead.


According to a recent study reported by the BBC, people who drink too much coffee could start seeing ghosts or hearing strange voices! Students in the study who drank more than seven cups of instant coffee each day were three times more likely to hallucinate than people who drank one cup. "Any stimulant that you're overdosing on, such as seven cups a day, will stimulate hallucinations," Dr. Teitelbaum explains.

Pregnancy issues

The effect of caffeine on fertility and pregnancy has become a hot topic in research the past two years. "A recent study [by Kaiser Permanente Division of Research] found that consuming more than 200 mg, or two cups, of drip coffee a day doubled the risk of miscarriage. Another study published in the British Medical Journal in November 2008 found that more than one cup or more than 100 mg of caffeine a day while pregnant resulted in a lower birth weight for the baby, which can be a marker for future health issues for the developing infant," Zartarian explains.
Sleep disruption

"We should get eight hours of sleep every night," says Edward F. Group III, D.C., N.D., DACBN, of When you combine stress, anxiety and coffee, the eight hours start dwindling and become easily interrupted. "Put coffee on top of that [stress and anxiety] and you'll wake up during the night, wake up too early in the morning and experience insomnia." Dr. Group mentions the body heals itself at night, so additional coffee may disrupt this normal cycle.

Plus, a morning cup of java may interrupt your bodily cycle for the day. Zartarian explains, "We have a natural rise in cortisol in the morning to help us get out of bed and perform our daily tasks. However, if you are drinking coffee all day, then this cycle becomes disrupted, and your higher cortisol and adrenaline levels may interrupt a restful night of sleep."
Addictive qualities

"When used at more than 12 ounces a day for energy, it becomes an energy 'loan shark,' crashing you later and taking more energy than it gives," says Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. and Medical Director of the national Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers. He notes coffee consumption becomes problematic when it's not done in moderation and exceeds two cups each day.

Plus, excessive coffee intake in someone who already tends to have anxiety may trigger other problems. "It may cause palpitations, more anxiety, irritability, then rebound fatigue, depression and sleepiness once the effects of the caffeine wear off in usually three to three and a half hours," notes Zartarian.

Consider this: Caffeine is a mild diuretic, so while many people start their day with a cup of joe, they are already at a deficit as far as the six to eight glasses of water we need to stay hydrated each day. Drinking excess amounts of coffee, which has a laxative effect, can also aggravate irritable bowel syndrome. Plus, Zartarian notes it disrupts the minerals in your body. "Caffeine also promotes potassium depletion; the net effect being that the mineral balance in your body is disrupted."
Adrenal exhaustion

Feeling fatigued lately? It's no surprise: Coffee releases the "stress hormone" cortisol and adrenaline. Together, they help us respond to stress and provide us with energy and vitality throughout the day. "Heavy coffee drinkers secrete more cortisol and adrenaline than those without a coffee habit, which may ultimately result in fatigue of the adrenal gland. Adrenal fatigue is one of the most common culprits for the almost ubiquitous feeling of fatigue and exhaustion present in our friends, colleagues and family," says Zartarian.
Yellow teeth

If you'd like your pearly whites to stay that way, stop drinking coffee, or at least cut back. According to Jennifer Zartarian, N.D., the Wellness and Research Coordinator at Long Island College Hospital of Brooklyn, coffee is not friendly to teeth. "The dark brown color of coffee that develops when it is roasted via a biochemical reaction, called the Maillard reaction, causes a stubborn stain -- which is difficult enough to remove from your clothes or living room rug, so just think of what it is doing to your teeth!"
Got acid?

Zartarian explains that caffeinated beverages like coffee have an acidic and astringent effect on the tissues of the body. "This prevents optimal absorption and assimilation of nutrients and fluids in the digestive tract in particular," she says. In fact, acid interferes with the absorption of magnesium and can cause stomach problems. "Acid can run into the intestine and can cause ulcers, it can burn the tissue, contribute to bowel problems. Increased acidity is a precursor to degenerative diseases," adds Dr. Group.
Overall health issues

According to a University of Scranton study, while coffee is a top antioxidant in the American diet, it's most beneficial when people consume a variety of antioxidants, not just coffee. Although there are positive aspects of drinking java, to prevent the negative health risks people should drink the beverage in moderation. Coffee contains volatile oils (seen as a film at the top of each cup), which disturb the function of the blood vessels. It contains a lot of pesticides, which can cause the body to accumulate too many toxins; it damages the immune system; it may cause osteoporosis as it depletes calcium levels in the body; and there's an overall increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

"Are you drinking toxic or organic coffee?" asks Dr. Group. The organic, eco-friendly processing (i.e., grown without using chemicals in good, clean soil conditions) is the better choice. "Most pesticides are chemicals and cancer-causing agents. The chemicals can be stored in tissues for years." His advice? Moderation in coffee consumption is key, but ultimately he recommends good ol' H2O. "That's what the body wants and needs."


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