For every one person who says coffee is good for you, there’s another person who say it’s not. Parents often hesitate to introduce coffee to teens, under the impression that it should remain an adult beverage. They may have heard that coffee can reduce bone density or stunt growth and the caffeine content concerns them. Science seems to indicate that coffee is mostly good for you, as long as you don’t drink too much daily. Here is the current science on the mostly benefits of a coffee habit.
Heart disease and coffee
A review in 2014 of a number of studies found that individuals who drank up to five cups of coffee daily had no greater risk of heart disease when compared to individuals who don’t drink coffee. A total of 36 studies, involving 1,270,000 participants actually found that individuals, who consumed between three to five cups of coffee daily, were at lowest risk for heart disease. It is very important to note that the studies involved black coffee. Once you start adding creamers and sugar or sugar substitutes, the health benefits can deteriorate rapidly and your waistline can grow substantially!
Heart failure and coffee
Experts have pondered the possibility that too much of a coffee habit may predispose someone to heart failure. A meta-analysis suggests that moderate consumption is not associated with additional risk of heart failure. The sweet spot seems to be four cups of coffee daily. Apparently ten or more cups of coffee daily was the tipping point for seeing negative outcomes from a coffee habit. If you are drinking ten or more cups of coffee a day, you may have other troubles like jitters or difficulty falling asleep, because of caffeine.
Stroke risk and coffee
Eleven studies that were examined in a meta-analysis, suggests that two to six cups of coffee a day is associated with a lower risk of stroke. The eleven studies involved 480,000 subjects and the findings of this meta-analysis were confirmed by a separate meta-analysis . No one is suggesting that you intentionally drink more coffee. But if you’re regular habit is to drink a few cups a day, current research does not appear to show a significant downside.
Coffee and cancer
The notion that coffee and cancer are connected has been percolating for quite some time—decades, in fact. Single studies have been highlighted to suggest that consumption of coffee is linked to cancer. But a meta-analysis published in 2007 found a link between drinking two cups of coffee daily, and lowered risk of liver cancer. This was confirmed by two more recent studies. Similar outcomes were found with regards to coffee and prostate cancer. Breast cancer also does not appear to be linked in any significant way to coffee drinking.
Lung cancer is a bit more interesting. Smokers only, appear to have an increased risk of developing lung cancer (already associated with smoking independently) with the more coffee consumed. As with other substances like certain vitamins, under certain health circumstances, there can be a benefit or a potentiated risk. In the scenario where you have a smoking situation ongoing, coffee may not be a beneficial habit and may (not conclusive) increase risk of lung cancer.
Overall, when all cancer risks are considered, drinking coffee appears to offer a slight edge when it comes to reducing risk.
Coffee and liver disease
If you already have cirrhosis of the liver, coffee may help to limit progression, lower risk of liver cancer, and lower mortality from this disease. If you have Hepatitis C and are taking antiviral drugs, coffee may improve your response to the antiviral medications. If you have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease then drinking coffee may improve your overall outcome with this disease.
Coffee and other health issues
Regular consumption may lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, reduce cognitive decline, and it may (no conclusive evidence yet) have a protective effect against Alzheimer’s disease. In many of the studies that looked at these conditions, drinking more coffee had a more positive impact.
Coffee and bone health
If you are exclusively concerned with bone health and bone density, then according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation you should limit coffee (and tea) consumption to a maximum of three cups daily (total). That’s because caffeine can interfere with calcium absorption and contribute to bone loss. Far more importantly, limit alcohol and focus on foods that help to build bone density. You should also be aware of foods or food combinations that can limit calcium absorption.
Coffee and you
Should you start to drink coffee if you are not already doing so? That’s a personal decision but it does seem like it’s a healthy habit if done in moderation and if you use a small amount of a healthy “creamer” like skim milk, soy milk or nut-based milk—or just drink it black! Definitely steer clear of sweeteners. If you are already a coffee drinker and have been concerned about possible negative side effects, you can probably assume it is part of a healthy, balanced diet. Black coffee is certainly preferable to soda, sugary drinks, a juice habit or drinking other high calorie beverages.
My personal recommendation is to use water, unsweetened tea and coffee as your go-to beverages, keeping in mind that it is probably prudent to decide on an upper limit for your coffee habit. Caffeine should not be mixed with energy drinks or alcohol, and coffee should be consumed by or before mid to late afternoon so it doesn’t interfere with your sleep habit. It’s also important to know that decaffeinated coffee still has some caffeine levels. You need to look for “caffeine free” brands if you are trying to avoid caffeine in coffee.
Sources: NY Times
National Osteoporosis Foundation
American Heart Association