Health Benefits Of Coffee

Dec. 28, 2017

Evidence on the health effects of coffee is explored by Harvard Health Publishing, which discusses both the possible benefits and risks of coffee. The World Health Organization (WHO) removed coffee from the list of potentially carcinogenic foods, and went on to designate coffee as potentially protective against cancer of the uterus and liver. Coffee has been one of the most heavily studied dietary components over the last several decades, and the news is mostly good.  

Possible Benefits  

Moderate coffee consumption (three to four cups per day) has been linked with longer lifespan. Other studies have found that coffee may be associated with a reduced risk of:  

  • Cardiovascular disease 
  • Type 2 diabetes 
  • Parkinson's disease 
  • Uterine and liver cancer 
  • Cirrhosis 
  • Gout 

The reason that coffee is beneficial is unknown. It could be the caffeine, but that's difficult to determine from the research because many studies don't distinguish whether the coffee is caffeinated or decaffeinated.  

Possible Risks 

Studies have also been done that have linked coffee consumption to health problems, including: 

  • Bladder and pancreatic cancer. There were studies performed more than 30 years ago that suggested a link between coffee consumption and cancers of the bladder, pancreas, and possibly others. However, since then there's been better research that has largely refuted these concerns. 
  • Esophageal cancer. In its recently released report, the WHO raised concerns that drinking coffee (or other beverages) at temperatures higher than 149 degrees Fahrenheit may increase the risk of esophageal cancer. This is not unique to coffee. Also, drinking coffee at such high temperatures is unusual among most coffee drinkers in the US.  
  • Cardiovascular disease.  There have been studies linking coffee consumption to cardio vascular disease, mostly observed with higher consumption (well above four cups per day), and some of these studies did not account for smoking, which often accompanies coffee consumption and is an important cardiovascular disease risk factor individually.  
  • Bothersome, but mostly minor, side effects. The caffeine in coffee can impair sleep, cause a jittery feeling, and even cause anxiety. Heartburn, frequent urination (because caffeine is a diuretic), and palpitations are problematic for some coffee drinkers.  

It is unusual that a food (or beverage, in this case) on the "cancer list" comes off of it – and even more unusual for that food to then be considered a healthy choice.