When it comes to vices like sex, chocolate, wine, and coffee the media loves to do a little tugofwar with our hearts. For every popular science article telling us that these things are great for us, there’s one telling us we have to quit now lest our hearts explode. But what does the science really say about caffeine consumption in adults?
The first thing to clear up is when we’re talking about caffeine and coffee consumption in adults, we’re talking about plain, black coffee or teas. The extra added fat, sugar, and calories in specialty drinks add a whole other dimension to the typical Starbucks’ and McDonald’s frappe-fare that we just don’t have time to discuss here. Your typical black coffee has less than five calories, no fat, and no carbs.
Stroke is the first medical complication where the coffee drinkers are checking out in first place. Those who were moderate consumers (drinking 2-6 cups of black coffee a day) saw a lowered risk of the disease than individuals who drank no coffee at all.
Heart Failure is often the butt of many caffeine related jokes for teachers and other professionals prone to consuming their fair share of coffee. But like stroke, moderate coffee drinks did well. The coffee drinkers who downed 4 cups of joe a day did the best, but moderate drinkers in general saw a lowered risk of heart failure than those who drank no coffee. It wasn’t until caffeine junkies were hitting 10 or more cups a day that they saw any negative outcomes.
Cancer includes a wide variety of hundreds of different diseases that can be found in every inch of the body. There’s been some news about how coffee drinkers might have an increased risk for certain cancers, but the meta-analysis done over the last decade have, for the most part, showed differently. It was found that increasing your coffee consumption by 2 cups a day was actually associated with a lower relative risk for liver cancer.
The news isn’t all good though. In smokers, the data has shown that drinking coffee may further increase the risk for lung cancer — though these results are not seen in non-smoking demographics.
Overall though, the average coffee drinker seems to see a decrease in their overall risk for cancer, and the more coffee they drink, the more they were protected.
Liver Disease probably holds the record for the most phenomenal results for coffee drinkers though. Not only did drinking coffee appear to lower the drinker’s risk for liver disease, but in people who already had liver disease, consuming coffee also lowered their risk of it progressing into cirrhosis. In individuals who already had cirrhosis, drinking coffee was then associated with a lower risk of developing liver cancer and death. With these sorts of correlations being seen, it would be foolish for patients with liver disease not to at least try to drink a little more coffee. It’s certainly not doing any harm!
These are all big ticket health items, but coffee’s protective properties didn’t end there. Coffee has also been associated with lower risks of Parkinson’s disease and lower cognitive decline. Individuals who consumed a moderately high dosage of coffee, or 6-7 cups a day, even had a lowered risk for type-2 diabetes! This protection was even found in coffee drinkers who chose decaffeinated varieties.
It’s worth noting that very few of these results came from controlled, randomized trials. That means rather than being a causation (the coffee is absolutely responsible for this protection), we’re offering a correlation (for some reason coffee drinkers have this protection). We can’t be positive that coffee is the determining factor until more research is done. But here at Health Risk, we’re willing to bet most of you aren’t reading this blog looking for a miracle serum. You just want to know if your coffee-habit is killing you, and we can confidently tell you that there is nearly no evidence for that.