- Jason Lemon for the AJC
If you drink three to four cups of coffee per day, you're actually among a group that generally experiences lower risks of premature death, heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, dementia and some cancers.
This week, the BMJ – a British medical journal – published a scientific review by researchers from the University of Southampton, which examined 201 observational studies analyzing the health of coffee drinkers. According to the review's findings, while some health issues are associated with coffee, research suggests that the benefits of moderate coffee consumption overshadow potential problems.
"There is a balance of risks in life, and the benefits of moderate consumption of coffee seem to outweigh the risks," Professor Paul Roderick, from Southhampton's faculty of medicine and the co-author of the review, said, according to the BBC.
The research suggests that three to four cups of coffee provide the maximum level of health benefits, except among pregnant women who should avoid consuming more than 200 mg of caffeine daily. Too much caffeine during pregnancy has been linked to an increase risk of miscarriage.
Overall, when coffee drinkers are compared to those who don't drink coffee, regular consumers appear to have a lower risk of death from all causes, including heart disease. If individuals drink more than three to four cups per day, the research doesn't suggest any major health risks, but the benefits are less noticeable.
A reduced risk of several particular cancers is linked to moderate coffee consumption as well, including prostate, endometrial, skin and liver cancer. Type-2 diabetes, gallstones and gout also appear at lower rates among coffee drinkers.
The liver appears to benefit the most from coffee, with moderate consumption appearing to have a positive effect on avoiding conditions such as cirrhosis.
However, although the review examines scientific studies, it's difficult to say that coffee actually provides the health benefits. The studies reviewed were primarily observational, suggesting association between coffee consumption and positive health effects. Other factors could affect an individual's overall well-being.
"Factors such as age, whether people smoked or not and how much exercise they took could all have had an effect," Roderick explained.
At the same time, the review aligns with other studies and reviews that have noted the remarkable link between coffee and various health benefits.
Some scientists still remain skeptical, however. Professor Eliseo Guallar from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg school of public health in Maryland said that while coffee is safe, he wouldn't recommend people begin consuming the beverage specifically for their health.
"Coffee consumption seems generally safe," Guallar said, according to The Guardian. But he goes on to point out that it is "often consumed with products rich in refined sugars and unhealthy fats, and these may independently contribute to adverse health outcomes."
"Does coffee prevent chronic disease and reduce mortality? We simply do not know. Should doctors recommend drinking coffee to prevent disease? Should people start drinking coffee for health reasons? The answer to both questions is 'no'," he added.
Despite some necessary skepticism, the research is good news for regular coffee drinkers. Your morning brew isn't likely to cause harm, while it is also linked to reduced risks of various health issues and diseases.
"Coffee drinking appears safe within usual patterns of consumption," the research team concluded. And with that knowledge, you can carry-on and confidently enjoy your latte.