Coffee is undoubtedly one of the most popular and preferred beverages across the globe. It’s often considered as energizing as it sharpens mental focus, while others claim it’s addictive due to its caffeine content and potentially harmful when consumed in excess. Loaded with powerful antioxidants coffee is the perfect beverage that improves your mood, your productivity levels as it helps brain work better as well as your performance during exercise.

What’s the latest scoop on the benefits of coffee though? When you look at the evidence, drinking coffee can potentially have way more benefits that we thought it had, as it has been associated with lower risk of heart disease, T2D and conditions affecting the nervous system such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s. It is likely that consuming a few cups of black coffee can be part of a healthy diet; however the fact only refers to black plain coffee. As a matter of fact, a recent umbrella review of meta-analyses published in 2017 included 201 observational as well as 17 interventional meta-analyses with 67 and 9 unique outcomes, respectively. In brief, these outcomes concluded that coffee consumption

  • was associated more often with health benefits than harm for a number of health outcomes for every extra cup a day
  • reduced risked for CVD, cardiovascular mortality and all cause mortality the most at intake of three to four cups/ day as opposed to none
  • reduced risk of incident cancer by 18% when higher rather than when lower and was associated with lower risk of neurological, metabolic and liver conditions
  • associated with low birth weight, preterm birth in the first and second trimester, and pregnancy loss when high as opposed to low or no consumption
  • associated with risk of fracture in women – not in men

Most of the focus on coffee is mainly about the caffeine it contains. On average one cup of coffee, such as espresso, contains 90-100 mg of caffeine.
Caffeine’s – not coffee drink’s – recommended intake was set to up to 300mg/day (on average 3-4 ups) for the general public and up to 200 mg (on average 2 cups) for pregnant women by globally recognized health organizations. Excessive amounts of caffeine (>600 mg/day) may lead to nervousness, insomnia, stomach aches, high blood pressure as well as low birth weight in newborns.

BDA collected the latest evidence on health effects of coffee which show that:

  • the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) have approved the scientific evidence supporting the health claim that caffeine in particular can cause alertness, increased attention and increased performance in short- term high intensity and endurance exercise
  • Coffee has been consistently reported reduced risk of developing T2D, heart disease, liver cancer as well as other type of cancers in a large number of studies following up people who drink coffee for at least
    5-10 years. However, the specific coffee components responsible for these are yet unknown.

Coffee also contains potassium linked to low blood pressure and is loaded with phenolics which are powerful antioxidants and could potentially protect cells from damage; however they are often poorly absorbed, but still can be quite useful probiotics for our gut bacteria.

Sugar, milk, cream and sprinkles added in coffee are major reasons why few cups a day could lead to health implications, as sugar, fat and thus calorie intake significantly increase for each cup especially when consumed multiple times during the day. As a result, a cappuccino or caramel macchiato which could possible make up a 400-550 calorie drink are a complete different type of what we call “coffee” in comparison to the 2-calorie black Americano or filtered one.

In conclusion, coffee – black plain or filtered – seems to be safe and even beneficial for the general population when consumed within moderate levels per day, as three to four cups are likely to benefit health than harm. However, pregnant women and women at increased risk of fracture should consume coffee with caution.

So let’s just enjoy our favorite beverage wisely and in moderation.

REFERENCES

American Heart Association. Caffeine and Heart Disease. 28 September 2018. [Accessed 25 April 2020] https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/caffeine-and-heart-disease

American Heart Association. Is coffee good for you or not? 28 September 2018. [Accessed 25 April 2020] https://www.heart.org/en/news/2018/09/28/is-coffee-good-for-you-or-not

British Dietetic Association (BDA). Coffee and Health; it’s not just about the caffeine. 1 December 2019. [Accessed 25 April 2020] https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/coffee-and-health-it-s-not-just-about-the-caffeine.html

National Health System (NHS). Drinking 3-4 cups of coffee a day may have some health benefits. 23 November 2017. [Accessed 25 April 2020)h ttps://www.nhs.uk/news/food-and-diet/drinking-3-4-cups-coffee-day-may-have-some-health-benefits/

Poole, R, Kennedy, OJ, Roderick P, Fallowfield, JA, Hayes, PC, Parkes, J (2017). Coffee consumption and health: umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes. BMJ. 5024 (359), 1-10.

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