Is Coffee Healthy or Unhealthy?

Reviewed on 2/9/2022

Young woman taking  a selfie with a latte cup in hand
When consumed in moderation, coffee can have many health benefits. Consuming too much caffeine from coffee, however, is associated with negative side effects.

According to the National Coffee Data Trends (NCDT), 63% of American adults drink coffee daily. Once suspected to be a cancer-causing agent, the World Health Organization (WHO) has removed coffee from its possible carcinogen list. 

But is coffee healthy or unhealthy? The answer is that it can be both. 

Regular coffee consumption can have numerous health benefits, including reduction in the overall risk of death, reduced incidence of cardiovascular disease, and improved endurance. The unhealthy aspect of coffee has to do mostly with the caffeine it contains.

What Are the Health Benefits of Coffee?

Reported health benefits of moderate coffee consumption include: 

  • Reduction in the overall risk of death
  • Improved alertness and performance
  • Improved physical endurance
  • Beneficial for cardiovascular conditions including coronary artery disease, heart failure, and arrhythmias
  • Lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease 
  • Reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s disease
  • Lower risk of certain cancers, including head and neck, colorectal, breast, uterine endometrium, and liver cancers
  • Inhibition of the onset of alcoholic and nonalcoholic liver cirrhosis
  • Decreased risk for depression (more study is needed)
  • Contains micronutrients, including potassium, magnesium and niacin

How Is Coffee Unhealthy?

The caffeine in coffee is the main culprit. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says healthy adults can consume up to 400 milligrams a day of caffeine (about four or five cups of coffee) without dangerous, negative effects. 

But not everyone can drink even that much. People who should limit or avoid caffeine intake include: 

  • People who are naturally more susceptible to the effects of caffeine
  • Those taking certain medications that can make them more sensitive to caffeine
  • People who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
  • People who are breastfeeding 
  • People who have anxiety or panic disorders
    • Caffeine may cause or worsen symptoms of these disorders
  • Children
    • The FDA has not a set level of caffeine consumption considered safe for children
    • The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the consumption of caffeine and other stimulants by children and adolescents

Talk to your doctor if you have concerns about whether to limit caffeine intake. 

In addition, unfiltered coffee is associated with higher rates of early death. Unfiltered coffee may raise blood levels of a compound called homocysteine, which can raise levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Many people also add lots of sugar or creamer to coffee, which can add fat and empty calories. 

When consumed in excess, the caffeine in coffee can cause side effects of such as:  

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Reviewed on 2/9/2022
References
Image Source: iStock Images

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-latest-scoop-on-the-health-benefits-of-coffee-2017092512429

https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.115.017341

https://www.coffeeandhealth.org/

https://www.cancer.org/latest-news/coffee-and-cancer-what-the-research-really-shows.html

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11557177/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8232842/

https://efsa.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.2903/j.efsa.2011.2054

https://nationalcoffee.blog/2019/03/09/national-coffee-drinking-trends-2019/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21949167/

https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/spilling-beans-how-much-caffeine-too-much

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10648261/