According to the British Coffee Association, Britons consume more than 98 million cups of coffee every day, but while some people are drawn to the flavor, others crave a caffeine boost.
This chemical – also found in tea and many soft drinks such as cola – may make people more alert by blocking sleep-inducing chemicals in the brain and increasing adrenaline production.
However, while these effects can be helpful when caffeine is consumed in moderation, too much can leave the drinker feeling “wired,” or shaky and anxious.
Here are some of the pros and cons associated with drinking coffee:
Pros: reduce the risk of premature death
A new study has found that moderate coffee consumption can reduce the risk of premature death by up to 31%.
Analysis of 171,000 people from the UK Biobank by a team from Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China, found that those who drink a “moderate” amount, defined as one and a half to three and a half cups of coffee per day, had a lower risk of dying prematurely, whether or not their coffee was sweetened with sugar.
According to Axios, the results are important because “previous studies have observed that coffee is associated with a lower risk of death, but have not distinguished between unsweetened java and coffee consumed with sugar.”
However, the report “is observational and cannot prove cause and effect,” the Times warned.
“While we can’t definitively conclude that drinking coffee reduces your risk of dying, what we can probably say is that drinking coffee with a little sugar probably doesn’t cause much harm,” said the Dr. Christina Wee, associate editor of the Annals of Internal Medicine who published the study.
The overstimulation caused by caffeine can make some people nervous and anxious.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University of Maryland and American University in Washington DC have found that some people suffer from “caffeine use disorder”. Or as Laura M. Juliano, co-author of the study put it: “Although many people can safely consume caffeine, for some it produces negative effects, physical dependence, interferes with functioning daily and may be difficult to let go, which are signs of problematic use.
Caffeine can also temporarily increase heart rate and blood pressure, which means anyone who has had a heart attack or has been diagnosed with heart disease should reduce their intake to no more than 200mg a day, Dr Stephen said. Jurashek of Harvard. This is roughly the amount contained in about two cups of instant coffee.
Pros: reduced disease risk
“For years, coffee was considered a possible carcinogen, but the [United States Department of Agriculture] The 2015 Dietary Guidelines helped change the perception,” the New York Times said. “For the first time, moderate coffee consumption was included in a healthy diet and when researchers added controls for lifestyle factors, such as the number of heavy coffee drinkers who also smoked, the data grew. tilted in favor of coffee.”
Earlier this year, data presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 71st Annual Scientific Session found that drinking two to three cups of coffee a day reduces the risk of heart disease and dangerous heart rhythms.
The UK Biobank study also found that drinking a moderate amount of coffee reduced the risk of dying from cancer or heart disease.
Other diseases for which coffee has been shown to have some of the strongest protective effects include type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and liver conditions such as cirrhosis, liver cancer, and chronic liver disease. liver.
Con: hurt during pregnancy
One group that has long been warned to avoid even moderate coffee consumption are pregnant women, following studies that suggest high levels of caffeine during pregnancy can lead to low birth weight and even lead to a miscarriage.
While the NHS says pregnant women shouldn’t take more than 200mg a day, or two cups of instant coffee, a research paper published in 2020 suggested there were no safe levels for women pregnant.
The article, published in BMJ Evidence-Based Medicine which reviewed 48 studies on the subject, was described as “controversial” by the BBC.
Professor Jack James, a psychologist at Reykjavik University in Iceland, acknowledged the work was observational and therefore could not definitively prove that any caffeine during pregnancy is harmful, but said the analysis, which links the caffeine to damage, suggested avoiding beverages like tea and coffee. entirely would be the best advice for expectant mothers and women trying to get pregnant.
The BBC said other experts “strongly disagreed, saying it was overblown”, citing NHS guidance which, along with the European Food Safety Authority and the US and UK Colleges of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, recommend limiting, but not eliminating, caffeine intake during pregnancy. .