Is Coffee Good or Bad for your Health?

Coffee has been subject to a long history of debate, is it good or bad for health? In 1991 it was included in a list of possible carcinogens by the World Health Organization. However, in 2016 it was revoked as research found that coffee was not associated with an increased risk of cancer. 


Numerous research suggests that when consumed in moderation, coffee can be considered a healthy beverage. A moderate amount is generally defined as 3-5 cups a day, or on average 400 mg of caffeine. Some benefits include lower blood pressure, reduced risk of many diseases, including type 2 diabetes, liver disease, cardiovascular disease, several degenerative neurological diseases (like Parkinson’s disease), and cancer. Low to moderate doses of caffeine (50–300 mg) may cause increased energy, alertness and, energy, and improved concentration.  


Higher doses of caffeine may have negative effects such as insomnia, anxiety and increased heart rate. Therefore, those who have difficulty controlling their blood pressure may want to moderate their coffee intake. It is also advised to be consumed in moderation for pregnant women, aiming for less than 200 mg of caffeine daily. Caffeine passes through the placenta into the fetus and has been associated with pregnancy loss and low birth weight.


Coffee contains a substance called cafestol, found in the oily fraction of coffee. It is also a strong stimulator of LDL-cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”) levels. When coffee is brewed with a paper filter, the cafestol is left behind in the filter. Other preparation methods, such as French press are much higher in cafestol. Therefore, for anyone who has high cholesterol levels or who want to prevent having high cholesterol levels, it is best to opt paper filtered coffee. Espresso is somewhere in the middle; it has less cafestol than boiled or French press coffee, but more than paper filtered coffee.


Acrylamide is a chemical formed when the coffee beans are roasted. It is also found in some starchy foods that are processed with high temperatures such as French fries, cookies, potato chips, etc. It was classified in the National Toxicology Program’s 2014 Report on Carcinogens, as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” based on studies in lab animals. However, evidence is scarce of a health effect in humans from eating acrylamide in food. Nevertheless, in March 2018 a California judge ruled that all California coffee sellers must warn consumers about the “potential cancer risk” from drinking coffee given coffee-selling companies failed to demonstrate that acrylamide did not pose a significant health risk. 


The proposed health benefits only refer to black coffee. Any added sugar and saturated fat originated from added creamer, whipped cream and syrup offset any health benefits. Also, be mindful that the studies were all observational studies, not randomized controlled trials — the gold standard of research.


Grosso G, Godos J, Galvano F, Giovannucci EL. Coffee, Caffeine, and Health Outcomes: An Umbrella Review. Annu Rev Nutr. 2017 Aug 21;37:131-156

Ding M, Satija A, Bhupathiraju SN, Hu Y, Sun Q, Han J, Lopez-Garcia E, Willett W, van Dam RM, Hu FB. Association of Coffee Consumption With Total and Cause-Specific Mortality in 3 Large Prospective Cohorts. Circulation. 2015 Dec 15;132(24):2305-15

Moderate caffeine consumption during pregnancy. Committee Opinion No. 462. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol 2010;116:467–8

Poole Robin, Kennedy Oliver J, Roderick Paul, Fallowfield Jonathan A, Hayes Peter C, Parkes Julie et al. Coffee consumption and health: umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes BMJ 2017; 359 :j5024

Urgert R, Katan MB. The cholesterol-raising factor from coffee beans. Annu Rev Nutr. 1997;17:305-24

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