Water, Coffee, Sugar…. Fatal Doses Of The Most Common Products

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How much coffee does it take to kill you? You might be surprised.  Most people would agree that too much of anything is probably not a good idea, but at what point would a simple activity like drinking coffee or consuming sugar become deadly? While everyone’s body and tolerance levels are different, science has been able to determine the average lethal doses of common ingredients you might be consuming right now.


What Does “Toxic” Mean, Anyway?

One thing that should be clarified before going into topics like alcohol toxicity is to define what  we mean when using words like “toxic.” There is an assumption among most of the general public that things are either toxic or non-toxic. Safe, or unsafe. But the reality is that there is more of a spectrum of toxicity and what the dose of a given chemical that a person is exposed to is the most important factor.

Chemicals that we normally think of as toxic are dangerous at low doses, and for this reason it is wise to avoid exposure to them. Some chemicals are perfectly fine at low doses, but toxic at high doses. Many people would be stunned to learn that items in their kitchen which are completely fine in moderation become toxic and deadly when consumed in excess.

But how much of a given chemical can you consume before it becomes deadly? One of the terms used to define this is LD-50, which stands for “Lethal Dose 50%”. What this means is that this dose was the amount required to kill half the population within a test group.  For example, scientists might be running an experiment on rats to determine their tolerance for a drug. If they notice that 50 percent of the rats die past a certain dose, that dosage will be designated the LD-50 for that drug. LD-50 is also referred to as the median lethal dose.

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