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With so much nutrition information available through social media, magazine articles and our own google searches of the internet, it is easy to become bombarded and confused with conflicting information about what we should and shouldn’t consume when it comes to our health. Coffee is one such beverage which has been heavily debated in the past few years as to whether it is beneficial for our health or not. We’ve summarized the most up to date research on the topic to give you the lowdown on your cup of coffee!

Benefits

There are numerous studies which suggest that coffee is beneficial for our health, but which of these health claims have strong supporting evidence?

A comprehensive review of 1200 research papers found evidence to support the following health claims:

  • Cardiovascular disease: Decrease risk of cardiovascular disease. Strong evidence to support that coffee consumption at a rate of 3-5 cups per day may decrease risk
  • Diabetes: Coffee consumption has been shown to improve insulin sensitity and reduce the risk of developing T2DM
  • Weight management: may assist with reducing energy intake by improving satiety hormones (the hormones that tell us we are full after eating)
  • Alzheimers/Parkinsons and Neurological disorders: Coffee appears to have a protective effect on cognitive decline
  • Gut health/Constipation: emerging evidence that coffee consumption increases the variety of gut microbiota, however further research is warranted in this area. Coffee has also been shown to be beneficial at improving bowel movements in some people experiencing constipation
  • Cancer: Antioxidants in coffee may provide reduced risk of developing some cancer
  • Performance: caffeine has been shown to reduce the perception of fatigue in athletes, which enhanced performance

Amongst these many health benefits, moderate coffee consumption of 3-5 cups per day was also associated with a decrease risk of mortality from all causes of death.

Potential harm

While there are many health benefits to including coffee in your diet, there are also some risks to certain population groups which should be considered.

Pregnancy: higher coffee consumption has been associated with adverse outcomes such as complications during pregnancy, increased risk of miscarriage and pre-term delivery when 300mg or more of caffeine was consumed per day.

– Mental Health: numerous mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression are associated with higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Caffeine consumption also increases cortisol production which therefore may exacerbate anxiety/depression symptoms in some people.

Our advice

For most individuals, including moderate amounts of coffee (3-5 cups/day) outweighs any potential adverse risks. However, how you take your coffee also plays an important role in ensuring you reap the health benefits of coffee.

– Type of brew is important: both decaf and caffeinated coffee have been shown to provide similar health benefits. However filtered coffee may be superior when it comes to cardiovascular benefits. Paper filters remove a compound known as cafestol which may increase LDL cholesterol (‘bad’ cholesterol).

– Milk and sugar: Adding sugar to your coffee may negate the potential health benefits of coffee if you are consuming high amounts of sugar across the day. So, limit the amount of sugar you add or swap to an artificial sweetener. Similarly, if you are trying to maintain or reduce your weight, be mindful of the amount of milk you add to each cup, as having large quantities of milk may result in energy excess and weight gain.

If you are pregnant or have a mental health condition then it is important that you are mindful of your coffee consumption and any potential negative health implications this may have. If you’d like to know more or want individual advice, head to the link to speak with one of our dietitians.