Coffee is the most popular drink in the world, enjoyed by millions every day.
However, the health properties of coffee are often disputed.
In this article, I’ll examine whether drinking coffee every day is good or bad for you.
What’s in Coffee?
Firstly, there are a minimal amount of calories in coffee, only about one calorie per average cup (1).
Coffee also contains a tiny amount of fat and protein.
The chemistry of coffee is unique and complex. In fact, there are thousands of active chemical compounds in coffee. Many of these are also believed to play a prominent role in disease prevention (2, 3).
Does Coffee Have Antioxidants?
While there are not any significant macronutrients, there are many antioxidants and flavonoids in coffee.
You may have heard that red wine is very high in these compounds. However, a study that examined 283 beverages found coffee to be the richest source of antioxidants (4).
Recent research also says coffee is the most significant source of antioxidants in the American diet (5).
Coffee provides a far higher number of beneficial flavanoids than anything else in the American diet.
Is Coffee Acidic?
The acidity of coffee is a concern for many people. The truth is that coffee is quite acidic, but not overly so at about 5.0 on the PH scale.
For most people, this acidity isn’t a problem. But it’s important to realize that we are all biologically unique and have different tolerances to different foods/drinks.
Coffee is no different in this regard. Therefore it may cause problems in coffee-sensitive people, especially if they are drinking coffee every day.
Key Point: Coffee contains a wide variety of beneficial polyphenols and antioxidants.
Why Do People Drink Coffee?
Do you remember the first time you drank coffee? If it was anything like my first time, you probably didn’t enjoy the deep bitter taste.
However, coffee is a big part of our society, and many people learn to love it. If we look at the history of coffee, it has been popular for over a thousand years.
According to Go Coffee Go, 850 AD marked the date of coffee’s discovery in ancient Ethiopia.
Finally arriving in 1570 in Europe and 1607 in the Americas, coffee’s popularity spread throughout the world.
Coffee has many compounds that make us feel good when we drink it. One of the reasons for this is that coffee ingestion stimulates dopamine release in the brain (6).
As a result of the caffeine content, coffee makes us feel alert and improves performance (7).
Since coffee has this beneficial boost on our mental state, people often drink coffee early in the morning before work. Out of these people, some even claim they can’t function without drinking their morning coffee each day.
Other people enjoy drinking coffee socially to stimulate conversation.
Finally, as a result of the energy-boosting properties of coffee, some people like to drink a cup of coffee before working out. Regarding exercise, studies show coffee consumption helps improve performance (8, 9, 10).
Key Point: Many people enjoy drinking coffee every day. Also, coffee is often used for boosting productivity, tiredness, or on social occasions.
Is Drinking Coffee Good or Bad For You?
As previously mentioned, coffee contains a wealth of antioxidants. In the body, these antioxidants play a significant role in helping protect against oxidative stress.
When we ask if drinking coffee is good or bad, these antioxidants are one of the first topics on the agenda. And it is because of these disease-fighting protectors of the body that coffee consumption has a wide variety of benefits:
- Large population studies show coffee consumption is protective against melanoma skin cancer. This is especially the case for people drinking more than four cups of coffee per day (11).
- Older adults who drink coffee have a lower risk of death from those who don’t (12).
- The risk of depression reduces as coffee consumption rises, and several studies show coffee significantly decreases depression (13, 14, 15).
- A lower risk of suicide is associated with greater caffeine consumption in three large cohort studies (16).
Aside from these benefits, coffee has interactions with many different medical conditions in the human body. Over the next few sections, we’ll take a look at these in more detail.
Key Point: As coffee contains a wide range of protective antioxidants, it has many health-enhancing benefits.
Caffeine and Exercise: Is Pre Work Out Coffee Bad For You?
As a result of the stimulatory properties of coffee, it is often used as a cheap boost to improve physical performance and endurance. But is pre work out coffee bad for you?
Coffee has always been popular pre-workout, but a 2006 study made people question whether it’s good or bad for you.
The study in question showed that just two cups of coffee restricts blood flow to the heart. To be exact, the study demonstrated that myocardial blood flow reduced by 22% (17).
Understandably, this could be a concern for some – especially people with cardiac disorders, and those living at high altitudes.
However, when we look at the totality of the evidence, it’s clear that pre-workout consumption of coffee has many advantages.
Studies show the following effects of caffeine pre workout:
- Statistically significant reduction in muscle pain intensity during exercise (18).
- Coffee boosts metabolism, increasing the number of calories burned during exercise (19).
- Coffee “significantly improves exercise endurance” (20).
On the topic of caffeine, there is a great resource here which tells you the caffeine content of popular food and drinks.
Key Point: The use of coffee as a pre-workout drink is generally beneficial. However, people with cardiac issues should of course consult their doctor before using it in this way.
Coffee and Heart Disease
It’s well known that coffee can raise blood pressure, and many concerns have come as a result of this. But how much does coffee raise blood pressure? And is there any link between coffee and heart disease?
How Much Does Coffee Raise Blood Pressure?
It’s clear that a definite link exists between coffee and hypertension, but does this mean coffee is bad for you? Fortunately, there are a wealth of studies on this area for us to examine.
- Study 1: In a meta-analysis, 5 trials produced a small increase in blood pressure one hour after caffeine intake. This increased blood pressure lasted for 3 hours. However, after drinking coffee every day for 2 weeks, this increase in blood pressure was no longer observed (21).
- Study 2: Analyzing data from 16 randomized controlled trials, results showed that caffeine supplementation increases blood pressure significantly. However, caffeine ingested through coffee had only small effects on blood pressure (22).
- Study 3: A review of the literature found that there is no clear evidence of caffeinated coffee causing hypertension. The author stated that although coffee intake appears to influence blood pressure in the short term, it reduces with habitual intake (23).
- Study 4: This study confirms that there may be a link between coffee and heart attack. But this is only in individuals who carry a particular gene that makes them slow caffeine metabolizers. In this group of people, intake of coffee had an association with increased heart attack risk (24).
Although it appears that coffee may increase risk in certain groups of people, the long-term data is positive.
Many people also complain about caffeine causing heart palpitations, but research suggests this may not be true.
Key Point: Coffee consumption appears to initially raise blood pressure. However, it seems that drinking coffee every day for a longer period leads to some kind of adaption and normalized blood pressure.
Is Coffee Good or Bad For Your Liver?
Drinking coffee every day can be good for you – apparently, it can even reduce the risk of liver damage caused by alcohol.
Coffee and Liver Damage
Daily coffee consumption seems protective of the liver.
Regarding hepatitis C liver disease, regular coffee intake has a close link to decreased rates of disease progression (29).
This relationship was also linear, and the more coffee consumption increased, the further the rate of hepatitis C progression fell.
Additionally, coffee intake has an association with decreased fatty liver disease (30).
Coffee and Cirrhosis
Cirrhosis is a hugely problematic medical condition in recent times, accounting for more than 36,000 deaths per year in the United States (31).
Cirrhosis is extreme liver damage, otherwise referred to as ‘late stage scarring of the liver.’ Cirrhosis usually results from excessive alcohol, viral hepatitis B, and C, as well as excessive carbohydrate consumption.
Surprisingly, coffee intake studies have revealed that drinking coffee every day has beneficial impacts on cirrhosis:
- A daily increase of coffee consumption by two cups substantially reduces the risk of cirrhosis (32).
- High coffee consumption significantly reduces the risk of cirrhosis compared to no coffee consumption. Additionally, low or moderate coffee consumption reduces the risk more than no coffee (33).
Key Point: Coffee has a wealth of benefits on liver health. Drinking coffee every day helps reduce the risk/damage of cirrhosis.
Coffee and Dementia: Can Coffee Prevent Alzheimer’s?
In recent times, Alzheimer’s disease is another increasingly prevalent chronic condition. Unfortunately, the incidence rate of this destructive disease is rapidly increasing.
For example, there were an estimated 454,000 new cases of Alzheimer’s disease in 2010, but this figure is expected to reach 959,000 by 2050 (34).
As further research has come in on coffee and caffeine, people have asked whether there’s any link between caffeine and dementia. You can even come across websites claiming coffee can prevent or cure Alzheimer’s.
Although several studies show beneficial impacts on dementia, it’s a bit misleading to say “coffee prevents Alzheimer’s.”
Let’s take a look at some of the research on coffee and dementia:
- Study 1: Mice ingested the human equivalent caffeine of 5 cups of coffee per day. This caffeine directly reduced amyloid-beta production in the mice (35).
- Study 2: In an Italian longitudinal study, older people with a consistent moderate coffee intake had a reduced risk of cognitive impairment (36).
- Study 3: Compared with non-coffee drinkers, people who drink coffee have a lower risk of multiple sclerosis. Additionally, the risk further reduces as coffee consumption increases (37).
Key Point: Coffee cannot claim to prevent dementia, but it appears to provide impressive benefits and health improvements in this area. Based on studies, drinking coffee every day may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.
Coffee and Blood Sugar
Despite having no carbohydrate or sugar content, you might be surprised to hear that coffee does impact blood sugar (38).
Some common questions I get about coffee are related to blood sugar, and whether coffee is good or bad for you if you have diabetes.
Can Coffee Raise Blood Sugar?
However, most of this research is only very preliminary and based on short-term studies.
It could be that the participant’s sudden conversion to drinking high amounts of coffee caused raised blood sugars. This case would also be the same as the blood pressure issue.
If the participants had a chance to get accustomed to increased coffee intake habitually, perhaps the blood sugar issue would resolve?
Is Coffee Good or Bad For You If You have diabetes?
If coffee consumption affects blood sugar levels, the next logical question to ask is whether diabetics can drink coffee.
And the answer to this issue appears to be yes.
An earlier study noted the wide variety of coffee’s health benefits but worried over the effect on blood sugar. Specifically, the authors had concern over a lack of long-term answers on glucose impairment/enhancement (41).
In a large study published in March 2016, drinking coffee every day vastly improved the health markers of type 2 diabetics.
This study was definitely long-term; 200 participants drank 3-4 cups of coffee every day for 16 years (42).
And the results?
Average uric acid levels: -15%
Average blood sugar levels: -20%
Average uric acid levels: -5%
Average blood sugar levels: -10%
Key Point: While short-term coffee consumption may impair blood glucose levels, it appears that drinking coffee every day provides benefit over a longer period.
Does Drinking Coffee Cause Any Other Problems?
It’s not uncommon to hear complaints regarding gut health and coffee. For many people, coffee can cause digestive problems, bloating, and pain – especially on an empty stomach.
But why is this?
According to the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee, there is no direct link between coffee and digestive upset.
Just for disclosure, the Institute has 6 members who are some of the world’s biggest coffee companies.
Offering an alternate view, a researched article takes a look at the seven digestive problems with coffee.
Overall there doesn’t appear to be any clear cause and effect of why coffee causes problems in some people. There’s little research in the area, but a review paper found that coffee promotes gastro-oesophageal reflux (acid reflux).
The paper also stated that caffeine cannot account for these effects and that it must be a pharmacological effect (43).
Key Point: Unfortunately, in some people coffee leads to digestive distress. The cause of this appears to depend on individual circumstances.
Drinking Coffee Every Day: Good or Bad For You?
At the end of the day, there are two sides to the coffee story.
Some will claim coffee is the world’s healthiest drink, while others will warn against it.
On balance, the benefits of coffee seem more pronounced than the negatives, but that’s assuming you tolerate coffee well. As discussed earlier, the positive effects of coffee can be lost if you are a slow caffeine metabolizer.
As discussed earlier, the positive effects of coffee can be lost if you are a slow caffeine metabolizer.
Overall, the best thing to do is to listen to your body. After you drink coffee, how do you feel?
If you tolerate coffee well, then keep drinking it. The bulk of the science says that drinking coffee every day is extremely good for you.