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This One Thing May Determine How Much Coffee You Crave, New Study Says

Our ancestors may have given us the wisdom to feel how much caffeine we really need.
FACT CHECKED BY Faye Brennan

For years, popular opinion believed that drinking caffeine can be harsh on the body, causing conditions like high blood pressure, heart issues, and that uneasy, "wired" feeling. So maybe all that hasn't stopped your coffee habit, and today, we've learned that maybe that's not so bad. This is because a recent study has looked at the relationship between coffee and our heart health in a new way to find that, when it comes to caffeine, it seems biological wisdom empowers your body to regulate when you've had enough.

How much caffeine is too much for you? Of course, this varies from person to person—and some studies have found this can change depending on how well you feel each day. Elina Hyppönen, Ph.D., is a researcher in nutrition and epidemiological health as well as director of the Australian Centre for Precision Health at the University of South Australia. Hyppönen recently completed a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that looks at coffee and cardiovascular health in a new way. Instead of counting caffeine as a contributing factor to heart problems, Hyppönen and her team examined whether an individual's cardiovascular health can dictate the amount of coffee they consume.

In other words: If your cardiovascular health is off, will your body slow down the amount of coffee you drink as a natural way to help you avoid additional health problems that consuming too much caffeine can lead to?

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From what they found, it does. The researchers relied on data from almost 400,000 individuals between the ages of 39 and 73 who reported on their caffeine consumption, while stats were also taken on their blood pressure and heart rate. The results indicated that participants with high blood pressure or heart arrhythmia were less likely to drink coffee habitually and more likely to drink decaf when they did, compared with participants who did not report these cardiovascular symptoms. This suggests that your body craves an amount of caffeine that's safe for you to consume.

To what do the experts attribute this innate physiological wisdom? Hyppönen points to genetics, as she's quoted saying: "Whether we drink a lot of coffee, a little, or avoid caffeine altogether, this study shows that genetics are guiding our decisions to protect our cardio health. If your body is telling you not to drink that extra cup of coffee, there's likely a reason why. Listen to your body, it's more in tune with your health than you may think."

However, some medical professionals are qualifying these findings with a warning—in fact, earlier this year, Hyppönen herself published another study that found that more than six cups of coffee per day can result in lipid levels in the blood that lead to cardiovascular disease. Maybe there is too much of a good thing… but if you just need coffee for that wake-up call, that morning brew might not be so bad.

If you've got a beat on your heart health, check out the foods proven to lead to high blood pressure, according to dietitians.

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Krissy Gasbarre
Krissy is a senior news editor at Eat This, Not That!, managing morning and weekend news related to nutrition, wellness, restaurants, groceries, and more. Read more
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