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Do we really need to worry about getting addicted to coffee?

An expert analyses the general belief that coffee is addictive to prove why it's just another myth

Studies suggest that moderate coffee consumption of 3-4 cups per day can help reduce risk of various health issues, including type 2 diabetes.
Studies suggest that moderate coffee consumption of 3-4 cups per day can help reduce risk of various health issues, including type 2 diabetes. (Unsplash/Justin Bhalla)

Coffee has become an integral part of many people's routines. It fuels our mornings and ignites our productivity. But is there a fine line between enjoying a cup of joe and falling into the abyss of addiction? As the debate around its addictive nature rages on, is coffee addiction a genuine concern or another myth to ponder over? 

The myth of the caffeine hook
Let's start by debunking the myth that coffee addiction is some sort of siren's call luring us into a web of dependency. The reality is that coffee's caffeine content – the primary suspect in the addiction case – isn't as potent as some might think.

On an average, an 8-ounce coffee contains around 80-100 milligrams of caffeine. To put this into perspective, an average cup of black tea boasts about 40-70 milligrams of caffeine, while energy drinks can pack a staggering 80-160 milligrams per serving. So, while coffee may have the spotlight, it's not the caffeine kingpin many assume it to be.

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The dosage dilemma
The concept of addiction revolves around doses, and the same holds true for coffee. Moderate coffee consumption is generally considered safe and unlikely to lead to addiction. Studies suggest that moderate coffee consumption (3-4 cups per day) is associated with a reduced risk of various health issues, including type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and certain types of cancer.

It's the excessive doses that raise red flags. Drinking copious amounts of coffee can lead to caffeine dependency, characterized by withdrawal symptoms like headaches and irritability when caffeine intake is suddenly reduced. But let's be honest, moderation is essential in most things – whether its chocolates, Netflix binges or coffee.

The Indian coffee odyssey
In India, where tea culture runs deep, and coffee is still finding its place in the sun, moderation seems to be the name of the game. According to a survey by the Indian Coffee House chain, the average Indian consumes around 29 grams of coffee daily. That's roughly equivalent to 2 cups of brewed coffee, which falls within the range of moderate consumption.

While India's coffee consumption is rising, it's relatively modest compared to some coffee-loving nations. For instance, Finland holds the crown for the highest coffee consumption per capita, with an average of 12 kilograms per person annually. India's journey into the coffee realm seems more to be a flavourful exploration rather than a caffeine-driven frenzy.

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Coffee vs other culprits 
The fear of coffee addiction often overshadows the reality of other substances we regularly consume. Take sugar, for instance. A notorious ingredient that has crept into everything from our morning cereals to evening desserts. Sugar's addictive potential is backed by science, with studies comparing its effects to those of drugs of abuse.

Alcohol and tobacco are the other usual suspects with much higher addiction risks than coffee. Globally, alcohol consumption leads to an estimated 3.3 million deaths yearly, while tobacco use is responsible for nearly 8 million deaths annually. 

The fine line of enjoyment 
In the grand scheme of things, coffee addiction isn't as grave a concern as the claims make it out to be. The key lies in balancing between savouring your daily cup and falling into dependency.

Coffee, when enjoyed mindfully and moderately, can be a source of pleasure and even offer potential health benefits. It's about appreciating the flavours, relishing the aroma, and, yes, getting that gentle caffeine nudge to kickstart your day.

So, is coffee addiction a myth or reality? 
The answer lies in the gray area in between. While coffee's caffeine content has the potential to get you hooked, moderate consumption and mindful enjoyment can keep the notion of addiction at bay.

And yet, if you're genuinely concerned about caffeine addiction or its potential side effects, consider switching to decaffeinated coffee. Decaf coffee provides the same rich flavors and comforting rituals without the caffeine jolt. It's a practical option for those who want to enjoy coffee without the caffeine-related concerns.

Mridhul Prakash is designated partner at Vaishnavi Estate, Bangalore.

Also read: The benefits your cup of coffee holds

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