“The bottom line is that we suggest [coffee] can be a good part of a healthy diet.”
– Robin Poole, University of Southampton
Science continues to suggest that coffee is good for you.
Based on a systematic umbrella review of 201 meta-analyses recently published in the BMJ, researchers from the University of Southampton found that moderate coffee consumption was more often associated with benefit than harm.
Drinking three to four cups of coffee a day showed the greatest benefit in terms of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, and stroke, versus not drinking coffee. (Drinking coffee beyond these amounts was not associated with harm, but the benefits were less pronounced.)
Consumption at this level was associated with a 19% lower risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease, a 16% lower risk of mortality from coronary heart disease, and a 30% lower risk of stroke mortality. Drinking coffee was also associated with lower incidence of cognitive decline, including a 27% reduced risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Additionally, coffee was also linked to lower risk of death from any cause. Regular coffee drinkers demonstrated a reduced risk of prostate cancer, endometrial cancer, melanoma, oral cancer, leukemia, non-melanoma skin cancer, and liver cancer. But liver diseases stood out as having the greatest benefit compared with other conditions, which is consistent with previous research.
“We don’t know entirely why it has these benefits, but the evidence suggests there is a synergy between caffeine and the antioxidants in the coffee,” said Robin Poole, public health specialist at the University of Southampton and the paper’s lead author. “People who are already drinking moderate amounts of coffee aren’t likely to be harmed by coffee drinking,” he added. “The bottom line is that we suggest it can be a good part of a healthy diet.”
However, the study found two areas of concern. High levels of coffee consumption (more than four cups) was associated with increased risks during pregnancy. Coffee may also exacerbate existing risk for women with a higher likelihood of bone fractures.
Further investigation and more rigorous clinical trials are needed to better understand coffee’s impact on health, eliminate confounding factors, and establish a causal relationship. “Coffee drinking is a complex behavior determined by cultural norms and associated with multiple socioeconomic, lifestyle, dietary, and health behaviors,” writes Eliseo Guallar, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in a corresponding editorial published by the BMJ.
Researchers added that these findings should be interpreted with caution, and are not medical recommendations. For best results, coffee drinkers should avoid high-calorie additives and sweeteners. And always consult a doctor if you have specific health concerns or questions about your coffee and caffeine consumption.
Scientists Wake Up to Coffee’s Benefits, BMJ (login required)
3 To 4 Cups Of Coffee Daily Provide Most Health Benefits, American Council of Science and Health
Three or Four Cups of Coffee a Day Does You More Good Than Harm – Our New Study Suggests, The Conversation
Behind the Headlines: Coffee, Health, and Research
Coffee, Caffeine & Health, National Coffee Association USA
See the Full Study
Coffee consumption and health: umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes, BMJ 2017;359:j5024
Compiled by Kyra Auffermann, NCA