How Caffeine Is Good For You (Most Of The Time)

by Eliza Castile
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Following the news that a teen in South Carolina appears to have died from drinking too much caffeine, you might have looked askance at your coffee mug this morning. Maybe you even did the unthinkable and went an entire morning without coffee, in which case I applaud your self-control. The death of high school student Davis Allen Cripe, attributed by Richland County Coroner Gary Watts to a "caffeine-induced cardiac event," isn't just a reminder that caffeine is a psychoactive drug. It's also re-energized the debate over how much of the substance it takes to do lasting harm. Fortunately, as long as you drink it in moderation, you don't necessarily have to kick your Starbucks addiction (although your wallet might thank you if you did).

According to the Mayo Clinic, research indicates that healthy adults can consume up to 400 milligrams, equivalent to about four cups of coffee, each day without any problem. In fact, caffeine has been associated with numerous benefits, both physical and mental, over the years. Everyone has different limits, so it's probably for the best to figure out how much caffeine you can tolerate before getting to the sweaty, heart-pounding phase (complete with the much-reviled coffee poops). But if you're the type to have a cup or two of joe in the morning and afternoon, you might actually be doing yourself a favor — here's how.

Lowering Risk For Diabetes

According to research, coffee consumption may reduce your risk for type II diabetes. In a 2014 study from the Harvard School of Public Health, people who increased their coffee intake over the course of four years were at an 11 percent lower risk for the disease than those who had cut their consumption in the same period of time. Their findings added to a substantial number of studies with similar conclusions.

Fighting Inflammation

With age comes inflammation, and with inflammation comes less-than-fun diseases. Earlier this year, however, Stanford researchers found that caffeine may mitigate the biological processes that lead to age-related inflammation. In turn, this might protect against cardiovascular diseases and other consequences of chronic inflammation.

Making You Smarter

Have you ever noticed that your thinking feels clearer after a few cups of tea? That's not only because you've had time to wake up. As a stimulant, caffeine increases neural activity while it's in your system. Numerous studies have shown that even habitual consumers see an improvement in their visual attention after caffeine, and they perform better on tasks. It even helps you focus and ignore distractions.

Helping Parkinson's Symptoms

Medical research has shown that caffeine may reduce your risk for developing Parkinson's disease. In people who already have it, caffeine even appears to diminish certain motor-related symptoms.

Reducing Depression

The link between caffeine consumption and risk for depression is widely debated. So far, though, there's a significant amount of evidence indicating that people who drink coffee are less likely to develop depression, especially among women.

Improving Your Workout

If you've ever chugged a cup of coffee before heading to the gym, you probably felt like a total badass during your workout that day — and for good reason. A towering pile of research has shown that caffeine increases physical endurance, improves overall performance, and may even reduce muscle soreness afterward. So instead of forking over $5 for a cappuccino as a reward for making it through Pilates, do it beforehand. Your body will thank you.