More people are drinking coffee than ever before. In the UK we now drink approximately 95 million cups of coffee per day. With an increase of 25 million over the last 10 years, many are probably asking themselves: is coffee healthy for us?
The active substance in coffee is caffeine. It is a natural stimulant found in the seeds and leaves of many plants such as tea, coffee and cacao plants. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system increasing alertness, giving a temporary energy boost and alleviating mood.
The effects of coffee and caffeine on health have been covered by numerous studies and this article will try to reveal some of the main potential health benefits and health risks.
Potential health benefits
Lowering the risk of diabetes – Coffee contains polyphenols, which are molecules that contain anti-oxidant properties and are thought to help in the prevention of inflammatory illnesses such as type 2 diabetes.
Increase energy and performance – Coffee may help some people to feel less tired and increase energy levels due to the caffeine content. If consumed in moderation, coffee may lead to improved memory, mood, energy and cognitive function.
Reducing the risk of liver disease – A report by British Liver Trust provides evidence that drinking moderate amounts of coffee may lower the risk of liver cancer, fibrosis and cirrhosis. However, good liver health is also linked to our alcohol consumption and diet.
The Mayo Clinic advises against consuming over 400mg of caffeine which is safe for most healthy adults; that’s roughly 4 cups of coffee. Although the NHS doesn’t have a set advisory figure for general coffee consumption, it recommends having no more than 200mg if you’re a pregnant adult. We must be careful when drinking coffee, as consuming too much caffeine could lead to anxiety and problems sleeping according to a European Food Safety Authority study. Apart from coffee and tea, caffeine is also found in chocolate and some soft drinks.
The recommended intake of caffeine per day should be taken only as a guide because coffee affects everyone differently, partly due to how sensitive you are to the effects of caffeine and also due to how much and how often you consume coffee. If you experience palpitations, it’s sensible to avoid caffeine.
The NHS also recommends cutting down on caffeine if you’re drinking more than four cups of coffee a day, as it may increase your blood pressure, even if you don’t generally have high blood pressure.
Some research suggests that coffee could potentially provide some health benefits when paired with a healthy diet and lifestyle, however, we need to be aware of the potential health risks of an increased consumption of coffee and caffeine in general. If you have concerns about your caffeine drinking, you should talk to your GP.
Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for informational purposes only and does not substitute the medical advice from a healthcare professional.