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Water, Coffee, Sugar…. Fatal Doses Of The Most Common Products
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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Let’s start with a caffeine
It’s how so many people start their day. Many feel like that they can’t function without it. If people drink too much caffeine, they can feel anxious, irritable, nervous, and might experience twitching or other small muscle spasms. But such side effects can occur after only a few cups of coffee, and will subside over time. How much caffeine is actually dangerous?
The short answer: A LOT. A typical eight-ounce cup of coffee contains about 100 milligrams of caffeine. In an interview with USA Today, 400-500 mg was designated was the safe upper limit of what an adult can consume in a 24-hour period, which translates to four to five cups of coffee a day.
A big factor in determining a safe amount of caffeine to consume is a person’s bodyweight. The more body mass someone has, the more caffeine they can tolerate. One calculator tool on the website caffeineinformer.com allows users to enter their bodyweight and type in the name of their favorite caffeinated beverage. The website will then calculate how much of that beverage it would take to kill the user based on their weight.
The tool follows a criterion of 6 grams of caffeine per 100 pounds of bodyweight to estimate the dosage. However, it must be noted that the website includes a disclaimer which states that this is not medical advice and should not serve as a substitute for a professional medical opinion. According to the Journal of Caffeine Research, a lethal dose would be around 10 grams, and in terms of servings, compound chemical puts the number at 50-100 cups of coffee to kill an adult based on their weight.
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The truth is that you would die of water toxicity from all those cups long before the caffeine got you
While water is absolutely necessary to keep you alive, too much can have the opposite effect overworking your kidneys and bladder, and even causing swelling in the brain. According to a video produced by the American Chemistry Society, the LD-50 of water is around 6 liters of water for someone weighing 165 pounds.
But what about everyone’s favorite vice, sugar?
Once again, the American Chemistry Society has the answer. According to their research, the LD-50 for sugar is 13.5 grams per pound of bodyweight. The average American weighs 180 pounds, which would require eating 5.4 pounds of sugar in one sitting to reach the medical lethal dose. While this is probably not physically possible, there is no doubt that sugar consumption in general is quite unhealthy and over time will have deleterious effects on health. Try to limit your consumption as much as possible.