Every week there seems to be a news story about a research study that discovers a fresh factoid about coffee. Headlines range from “Coffee Causes Physical Illness,” to “Coffee Prevents Disease and Prolongs Life.” There’s rarely a middle ground on the topic, probably because billions of human beings drink the stuff every day. What’s the truth about coffee?
Reliable research has produced evidence that coffee, like so many other foods and beverages, has its good and bad points. Heartburn is probably the most commonly cited disadvantage, while protection against certain kinds of cancer and even diabetes are in the plus column.
The Truth about Coffee
- Second in popularity only to water, coffee is gulped down by about 400 million adults every day. Good or bad, it is one of the most beloved beverages on the planet.
- Studies have shown that one cup of coffee each day, for people who are otherwise healthy, can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, type 2 diabetes and related diseases.
- In the U.S., adults get more of their daily antioxidants from coffee than anything else they ingest.
- The key to making coffee “healthy” is to consume no more than two cups per day. Even though coffee itself has almost no calories, going easy on cream and sugar is also a good idea for java enthusiasts because it keeps the calories and fats in check.
- Too much coffee, 3 or more cups per day, can lead to blood pressure problems in even the healthiest of adults.
- The 100-150 milligrams of caffeine in an average cup of coffee can help temporarily enhance alertness, especially in the morning. Unfortunately, many people can become addicted to the caffeine rush, which means that holding the daily limit at two cups can become very difficult.
- Caffeine in amounts greater than about 300 milligrams per day can lead to sleep disruption, irritability, brittle bones and high blood pressure.
- Because everyone has a different tolerance for caffeine, coffee drinkers should gauge the amount they can consume before it becomes a problem.
- Children, the elderly, pregnant women, people who have ulcers or heart disease usually need to restrict their caffeine intake. Note that even decaf coffees have small amounts of caffeine and should be avoided by those who are physically sensitive to the substance.
- Caffeine withdrawal is for real. Studies have shown that missing a daily cup of coffee can lead to sleepiness, headaches and even depression. Fortunately, those symptoms typically vanish within a day or two on their own. Or, they disappear when the sufferer drinks another cup.
- Literally hundreds of medications have the potential to interact badly with caffeine. Coffee drinkers should always check with their doctors or pharmacists when taking prescription medication.
- Coffee is one of the most studied substances in the scientific research community. Huge amounts of money are at stake in the global coffee markets, to the tune of at least $20 billion every year.
The consensus view on coffee in the medical community seems to be that the drink is safe for most people and does not lead to physical problems as long as consumption is kept at just one or two cups per day. At that level, there are several key benefits for overall health. Higher than that, problems like caffeine addiction and related maladies begin to appear.