Is Coffee Good For Your Health? In Short, Yes

Written by:
John Paradiso
Photography By:
Mike Kenneally

The staff of Bean Culture are not licensed medical professionals and this article doesn’t constitute medical advice. Consult your doctor before making any medical decisions.

You’ve likely seen plenty of article headlines purporting the health benefits of your favorite beverage. Stuff like, “Red Wine Is Good For Your Heart,” or “Seven Surprising Benefits of Beer!” One beverage under constant scrutiny is coffee. As one of the world’s most consumed drinks — with many imbibing on a daily basis — coffee is omnipresent in a variety of cultures. But is coffee good for your health?

With competing claims regarding the health benefits and risks associated with coffee, we decided to dig into the effects of this mighty little bean.

Is Coffee Good For Your Health?

According to a study published in Circulation in 2015, higher consumption of coffee — caffeinated or decaf — was linked to a “lower risk of total mortality.”

Additionally, in 2017, the British Medical Journal published a study that found that, at three to four cups a day, coffee consumption is not only safe but also “more likely to benefit health than harm.”

Some of the potential health benefits found in this study include lower risk in cardiovascular disease and a lower risk of cancer. The exceptions to these benefits were in pregnant women.

Many other health benefits have been associated with coffee like increased alertness and energy, a lower risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons, and a potential decreased risk in type 2 diabetes.

So for many people — and in moderation — coffee appears to provide some health benefits.

What Are The Health Risks of Coffee?

For a long time, coffee was considered a possible carcinogen. That’s because very hot drinks (above 149 degrees Fahrenheit) are carcinogenic and can lead to esophageal cancer. However, coffee is commonly drunk well below that temperature, especially in the US.

So, in 2016 the WHO removed it from a list of potentially carcinogenic foods. Similarly, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee published information that linked moderate coffee consumption to a healthy lifestyle.

That being said, several studies have found high coffee consumption (more than four cups) to lead to irregular heartbeats and elevations in blood pressure.

Additionally, the effects of coffee consumption on pregnant women are not completely clear. Many researches suggest that pregnant women avoid high consumption of coffee.

How Does Caffeine Affect The Body?

Caffeine is a psychoactive drug, and studies suggest it can be highly addictive. Habitual coffee drinkers who skip their daily drink may experience withdrawal symptoms that include headaches, fatigue, irritability, and depressed mood.

That said, caffeine is a natural stimulant. In proper doses (about 400 milligrams a day), it has been found to improve energy levels, alertness, and your mood.

Of course, caffeine in sugary beverages like energy drinks or even coffee with lots of added sugar can have extremely negative effects. A 2017 study in JAMA found that energy drinks can cause abnormal EKGs and elevated blood pressure.

If you happen to be particularly sensitive to caffeine, we’d recommend limiting your coffee intake. Also, it’s worth investigating the amount of caffeine in your cup. For instance, espresso has a higher concentration of caffeine, though in a smaller quantity. Cold brew can also contain more concentrated caffeine than iced or drip coffee.

Not to mention that different people can metabolize caffeine at different rates. So, you might be wide awake after a nighttime cup of coffee while your friend can head right to bed.

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Should I Add Sugar to My Coffee?

Most research shows that a small spot of cream and sugar in your coffee doesn’t have much of an effect on its properties.

However, today’s coffee market shows an increase in sugary sweet coffee drinks, like the confectionary beverages at Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts, which contain significantly more sugar than is recommended by U.S. Dietary Guidelines.

So, the addition of sugar to a cup of coffee can negate some of the purported health benefits, with premade, sugar-laden drinks being the worst. According to a USDA survey from 2019, which the New York Times reported on this year, sweetened coffee is the fourth largest source of sugar for Americans.

As we mentioned in the beginning, everything in moderation. We tend to prefer our coffees black or with a splash of cream, but keep in mind how much sugar goes into your morning drinks.

Is Coffee Dehydrating?

Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it can cause frequent urination. But, coffee (the beverage, not the bean) mostly consists of water.

With this in mind, coffee and tea can actually hydrate the body. In most normally functioning adults, the body will absorb the fluid it needs and expel the rest.

Although we wouldn’t recommend replacing your daily water intake with coffee, for most normally functioning adults, a morning cup won’t make you dehydrated.

Is Coffee Recommended For Children?

Though coffee is not necessarily harmful for children, we wouldn’t recommend 12-year-olds start pounding espressos.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests children ages 12 to 18 shouldn’t consume more than 100mg of caffeine per day. That’s about one cup of coffee.

Additionally, the real danger to children is the sugar found in those aforementioned dessert-like coffee drinks.

And no, coffee won’t stunt your growth. For whatever reason, early research associated caffeine with reduced calcium intake. However, it would take an obscene amount of caffeine to have a significant effect.

The Bottom Line

Everything in moderation! As the old adage goes, a healthy, enjoyable lifestyle requires balance.

So, pair your coffee with exercise, a balanced diet, and rest.

Cultivate mindfulness. Know how your body responds to caffeine, keep an eye on the type of coffee you consume, and stay cautious with your intake.

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