Is Drinking Coffee Really Bad for Your Health?

Dr.Handicap - coffee

It seems like there are new studies coming out all the time about the effects of drinking coffee – but the results can be confusing. Some studies tout coffee as a cure-all, while others say you should steer clear. A California judge recently ruled that coffee must come with a warning label alerting consumers to cancer risks associated with the beverage. So, which studies should we be listening to?

As more research is done on consuming coffee, it’s becoming evident that there are both benefits and risks associated with java. Doctors used to tell their patients to avoid coffee, fearing it increased heart disease risks, stunted growth, and caused damage to the digestive tract. However, researchers learned that those early studies didn’t account for the fact that people who drink large amounts of coffee are also more likely to engage in other unhealthy habits (smoking, drinking, etc.).

Since more than 64% of Americans drink at least one cup of coffee a day, it would be helpful to know more about whether you should avoid drinking it or not. Here’s a look at both the advantages and disadvantages to drinking your cup of joe.


Dr. Handicap - coffee happy face

Why it’s good for you:

Lowers your risk of diabetes

Regular coffee drinkers have an 11% lower risk of developing  Type 2 diabetes, due to the ingredients in coffee that affect levels of hormones related to metabolism.

Gives you a healthier liver

Researchers aren’t completely sure why, but some studies have shown a correlation between drinking coffee and a healthier liver. Coffee does have lots of compounds that protect tissue, and because the liver is the body’s central filtration system, it can benefit from these types of compounds going through the bloodstream. Additionally, the antioxidants found in coffee can fight oxidative damage that causes cancer – which is why there seems to be a lower risk of liver cancer with coffee consumers.

Lowers risk of stroke

People who drank somewhere between two and four cups of coffee a day were actually shown to have a lower risk of stroke. Experts think it’s because coffee can help keep blood vessels flexible and healthy.

Prevents dementia

Some research has shown that three or more cups of joe a day can actually deter cognitive decline related to dementia. Coffee may even be able to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s, probably due to coffee’s ability to stop the accumulation of toxic proteins (similar to why it helps stave off diabetes). Drinking coffee can even improve your memory, because caffeine works to enhance mental acuity.

Helps you live longer

A study of more than 208,000 individuals determined that those who drank coffee were less likely to die at an early age. Researchers think this is because ingredients in coffee can help reduce inflammation (which impacts many age-related health issues). Experts even believe drinking coffee can actually slow down metabolic processes involved with ageing.

Dr.Handicap - coffee beans

Why it’s not so good for you:

Makes you addicted

Any regular coffee drinker will tell you that it’s easy to become reliant on caffeine to get you through the day. If you’re dependent on your cup of coffee, you’ll likely experience headaches, fatigue, and irritability if you try to skip it. Although it’s not as severe an addiction as individuals using alcohol or drugs, these withdrawal-like symptoms are similar to other addictive substances. (The bright side: if you decide to wean yourself off, the symptoms should go away within a few days.)

Gives you high cholesterol

If you’re drinking a lot of unfiltered coffee (like espresso), you might experience a elevation in your cholesterol, which can lead to a host of other health problems.

Causes insomnia

You’re probably already aware that drinking caffeine late in the day can keep you up at night. Studies have backed up this fact by showing that drinking caffeine later in the day can do more than just make it harder to fall asleep – it can actually lead to prolonged insomnia. So, try to skip drinking coffee after around 2pm; you’ll need at least six hours to get the caffeine fully out of your system by the time you hit the hay.

Worsens anxiety

While drinking a major dose of caffeine can make some people a little jittery, there can also be some more long-term effects of drinking coffee. Caffeine lowers levels of GABA (a neurotransmitter that regulates anxiety) and increases effects of cortisol and epinephrine (two stress hormones). So if you’re someone who experiences anxiety regularly or has an anxiety disorder, indulging in your coffee habit will only make these symptoms worse.

Makes you crave sweets

Some research has shown that caffeine can actually alter our taste perception, so sweet things seem a little less sweet to us. This actually ends up making us crave sweets even more! Plus, an increase in sugar intake can lead to many other issues (like weight gain).

Increases GERD symptoms

If you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or acid reflux, your symptoms of heartburn or indigestion can be much worse if you’re a coffee drinker. Coffee actually increases your secretion of gastric acid, so you’re better off skipping the java if you want your stomach to be happy.

Basically, if you drink coffee in moderation, you’re likely to skip most of the serious disadvantages while still benefiting from the positive aspects. Most experts say drinking up to four 8-ounce cups of coffee every day is safe (which is most likely more than the average person drinks in 24 hours). So sit back and enjoy your coffee if you want to!