If you are one of the many Australians who enjoys a daily coffee (or a few) you may wonder about the impact of this on your health. The good news is that for most adults, regular moderate coffee consumption has several health benefits that appear to outweigh any potential risks.
Two review papers published in 2016 and 2017 combined the findings of hundreds of studies looking at the impact of coffee drinking on multiple health outcomes. Both concluded that moderate coffee consumption (around 3-4 cups per day) is more likely to benefit your health than cause harm.
Drinking coffee has been associated with a lower risk of:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
- Cardiovascular mortality
- Neurological conditions, including Parkinson’s disease and cognitive decline
- Liver conditions including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, liver fibrosis, liver cirrhosis and liver cancer
- Dying from all causes
The health benefits of coffee have been attributed to many of the different bioactive compounds found in coffee, including caffeine, the polyphenol (beneficial plant compound) chlorogenic acid and the diterpenes, cafestil and kahweol. There is some evidence that these compounds may have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory or anti-cancer effects that could explain the association seen in research between coffee drinking and health outcomes. However, most studies investigating coffee drinking and health are observational, so further research, including randomised control trials, is needed.
It’s also not all good news. Coffee drinking during pregnancy has been associated with low birth weight, preterm birth in the first and second trimester, and pregnancy loss. For this reason, Food Standards Australia & New Zealand (FSANZ) recommend that pregnant women limit their caffeine consumption to no more than 200 mg/day from all sources, including coffee.
While more research is needed, some studies also suggest an association between coffee consumption and bone health, including fracture risk, particularly in women.
Some people also experience negative symptoms when they drink coffee, particularly in large amounts. This can include feeling agitated or anxious, increased heart rate, difficulty sleeping, and heartburn. Caffeine is also addictive, so some people may experience withdrawal symptoms when cutting down on their coffee intake, including headaches, tiredness, irritability and difficulties concentrating. So if you are a big coffee drinker and plan to cut down, it is best to do this gradually.
However, if you are not pregnant and don’t experience any negative effects from drinking coffee, there appears to be no reason not to enjoy a daily coffee, or three.
Pourshahidi LK, Navarini L, Petracco M, Strain JJ. A Comprehensive Overview of the Risks and Benefits of Coffee Consumption. Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf. 2016; 15(4):671-684. doi:10.1111/1541-4337.12206
Poole R, Kennedy OJ, Roderick P, Fallowfield JA, Hayes PC, Parkes J. Coffee consumption and health: umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes [published correction appears in BMJ. 2018 Jan 12; 360:k194]. BMJ. 2017;359:j5024. Published 2017 Nov 22. doi:10.1136/bmj.j5024