Do you ever wonder if your morning caffeine habit could be
harming your health? Maybe it’s time to discover the truth about the popular
Many of us love coffee. Its caffeine is a stimulant that helps
us feel less tired and more alert, even improving mood, reaction times and
general brain function.
For a long time, coffee has been the victim of mixed
messages. “One day coffee is reported as being good for us, and the next day,
it is harmful,” says nutrition research scientist Dr Tim Crowe on his blog Thinking
But in the last few years a number of large studies have
reassured us that moderate coffee drinking is not only safe, but might actually
Coffee lowers disease risk
In 2016, a large scientific review looked at over 1200
studies on coffee and disease, including cancer, heart disease, type 2
diabetes, liver disease, neurological disorders and longevity. For most of the
health outcomes, the benefits of three to four cups of coffee a day (moderate
consumption) outweighed the risks.
For anyone at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, one of the
world’s fastest growing chronic conditions, the news about coffee is good.
“Regular coffee drinkers have up to a two-thirds reduced risk of developing
this condition,” says Dr Crowe.
Are you concerned about coffee’s supposed links with cancer?
In a June 2016 report, the World Health Organisation officially lifted coffee
from the list of potentially carcinogenic foods, while the World Cancer
Research Fund International concluded that coffee consumption was linked with a
lower risk of several types of cancer, including liver and endometrial.
Coffee drinkers live longer
A 2018 study that tracked half a million UK residents,
published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, found those who drank
coffee had a lower risk of dying of any cause. Because this is a correlational
study, we can’t say for certain that coffee was the cause of the lower risk of
death, but other large studies have similar findings.
What’s the good stuff in coffee?
While some of its health effects are related to caffeine,
coffee is more than simply a stimulant. Both decaf and regular coffee contain a
host of antioxidants including plant compounds called phytochemicals, many of
which are likely to have health benefits. In fact, one estimate has found that
the typical United States diet provides more antioxidants from coffee than from
fruit and vegetables combined. Coffee also contains several nutrients including
riboflavin, niacin, magnesium and potassium.
These aren’t all reasons to start drinking coffee if you
don’t already, but they do suggest that you can safely enjoy, and benefit from,
three to four cups a day.
When to be cautious with coffee
- If you’re pregnant: It is recommended by health
organisations in most countries that you have no more than 200mg caffeine (a
maximum of two cups of coffee) a day because of a potential higher risk of
miscarriage in women who consume too much caffeine.
- If you have high blood pressure: don’t overdo your coffee
habit as caffeine can temporarily increase blood pressure, although the
long-term effects are not known.
- If you have trouble sleeping: limit coffee drinking to
before lunch. The half-life of caffeine – the time it takes your body to
eliminate 50 per cent of what’s consumed – can vary between people and may last
anywhere from two to 10 hours. This means it can still affect you long after
you’ve finished your last cup.