Is Coffee Healthy?

by Natalie on September 26, 2012

A good friend of mine recently asked my opinion about coffee. I realized that I have never addressed this topic before and thought it was a good opportunity to do so now.

I am not a huge coffee drinker, but I have been following the research because its always been a controversial topic.

In the media, coffee has been treated much like red wine – one day it’s good and the next day it’s bad. So what’s the real story?

Early studies – about 40 years ago – indicated that coffee might have some negative health effects, but later studies among larger groups of people failed to find the same associations. Current research indicates that coffee consumption may not be so bad after all.


Recent studies have shown that coffee consumption does not have any association with pancreatic, kidney, breast, ovarian, prostate, stomach, or colon cancer risk.

Other Diseases

Interestingly, coffee consumption may offer some protection from a very common chronic disease here in the U.S – type 2 diabetes. Studies from the U.S and abroad have shown a possible lower risk of type 2 diabetes among long-term coffee drinkers.

As for heart disease, the most recent research shows that coffee drinking does not have a harmful effect and may even be somewhat protective against stroke.

Negative Effects?

Research on coffee consumption among the general population does not seem to show much harm, but there are some special considerations for women.

* Pregnant women who consume high amounts of caffeine have an increased chance of late miscarriage and stillbirth.

* High amounts of caffeine can weaken bones. This is of great concern as women are at an increased risk of osteoporosis later in life. (80% of people who have osteoporosis are women).

*Coffee is frequently consumed with sugar, cream, and other goodies. If you are not careful, the hidden calories in sweetened coffee drinks can lead to unwanted weight gain.

*A study done earlier this year suggested that caffeine may affect estrogen levels in younger women. The researchers didn’t make any other conclusions about how it can affect estrogen levels, just that there may be an association. This is something I will continue to watch.

My Take

If you are a coffee drinker, I don’t see any harm in having a daily cup – just don’t use the word “cup” too loosely. When I say “cup”, I am talking about the standard coffee mug. Not some of the gigantic coffee mugs you see in stores.

The reason I don’t advocate more than one cup of coffee per day is because too much has negative effects on your bones, and may disrupt normal estrogen levels. I am also a big proponent of healthy sleep patterns, which are disrupted by excess caffeine.

I am also not a fan of fancy, flavored coffee drinks you find in coffee shops. The calorie level and sugar content of these drinks make them more like desserts, and they should be treated as such.

If you don’t drink coffee, there is no need to start. By no means is coffee considered a “health tonic” at this time.

For those of you who do enjoy a warm drink in the morning, consider alternating your coffee routine with green tea. Green tea is considered a healthy drink and is even labeled by the American Institute for Cancer Research as a cancer-fighting food. It is lower in caffeine than coffee too.

I am definitely one of those people that enjoy a warm drink in the morning. I have a cup of decaf coffee about 3 to 4 times per week. I choose coffee because I really enjoy the taste. Caffeine makes me feel sick and jittery, so that’s why I drink decaf. I also enjoy green tea, and warm apple cider in the fall/winter.

FYI: Starbucks coffee contains higher amounts of caffeine than other coffee brands and drinks. Check out this  interesting graphic from Harvard Health.

Question for you: Is coffee apart of your morning routine? What other things do you do in the morning to get yourself going? Leave a comment in the comments box below!


photo by: Phil M via Flickr

Terry D. Kennedy September 26, 2012 at 9:11 am

Thx for the great info…

Natalie September 26, 2012 at 2:25 pm

Your welcome!

Heather September 27, 2012 at 8:47 am

Wonderful information, thanks so much for covering this topic!

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