Three cups of coffee a day offers ‘greatest benefit’ to health

Umbrella review finds coffee ‘more likely to benefit health than to harm it’

Coffee is ‘more likely to benefit health than harm,’ a new review has found. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

Coffee is ‘more likely to benefit health than harm,’ a new review has found. Photograph: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

 

Early risers will be happy to hear that drinking more coffee isn’t necessarily a bad thing, following research which has found that three to four cups a day offers “the greatest benefit” to caffeine lovers.

November is Food Month in The Irish Times. You will find food-related content in all of our sections, plus reader events, competitions and lots of exclusive content at irishtimes.com/food
November is Food Month in The Irish Times. You will find food-related content in all of our sections, plus reader events, competitions and lots of exclusive content at irishtimes.com/food

Despite years of fears that coffee is detrimental to health, researchers at the British Medical Journal (BMJ) have found that coffee is “more likely to benefit health than to harm it”.

Regular consumption of americanos, lattes or frothy cappucinos is associated with a lower risk of death and heart disease compared to not drinking the black stuff at all.

Roasting coffee beans and drinking the ground results dates back to the 15th century, a practice that has become increasingly popular in modern Ireland but that often raises concerns for potential health implications.

It is not all good news however - for some people caffeine is linked to headaches and an increased urge to visit the bathroom.

It can increase blood pressure and patients with abnormal heart rhythms are advised to stick to decaf.

However, the BMJ research, which drew on over 200 studies, found coffee to be associated with lower risk of some cancers, diabetes, liver disease and dementia.

While its consumption is still linked to harm in pregnancy, it has shown “beneficial associations” with rates of Parkinson’s disease and depression.

A team led by Dr Robin Poole, specialist registrar in public health at the University of Southampton, with collaboration from the University of Edinburgh, carried out an umbrella review of 201 studies.

Umbrella reviews look at previous meta-analyses and provide a high-level summary of the combined research.

Pregnancy

The authors conclude that coffee drinking “seems safe within usual patterns of consumption, except during pregnancy”.

In a linked editorial, Eliseo Guallar at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health said while we can be assured coffee is generally safe, doctors should not recommend drinking it to prevent disease and people should not start for perceived health benefits.

The research also contains some detail on the difference in coffee preparation. Filtered was shown to have no effect on blood cholesterol levels while unfiltered coffee does.

As the paper points to health benefits “associated” with coffee consumption, but not proved to be causal, researchers believe further studies would be beneficial.

“Is coffee good for you? That may be a simple question, but as with most things dietary related, there isn’t a simple answer,” said Dr Amelia Lake of Teesside University.

“This paper should not be interpreted as meaning we should all drink coffee for good health, because it is not possible to directly make the link with this kind of study, and because there are too many lifestyle and other confounding factors.”

Dr Chris Alford, associate professor in applied psychology at the University of the West of England, also highlighted the caveat for pregnant women, pointing out “potential adverse effects observed in pregnancy were far higher compared to lower coffee consumption”.

“Mothers-to-be need not panic but might want to limit their coffee consumption to two cups per day in line with the recent European guidelines on caffeine.”