Three quarters of Australians drink a cup of coffee every day; 28% drink 3 or more. Fair to say we love our coffee, and the Aussie flat white is now taking on the world since its popularity in the UK and the US. So what’s the verdict from a health perspective – turns out it’s a good thing. Here’s the evidence from a meta-review of over 19,000 studies:
- Protects against liver cirrhosis (hardening), diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, cognitive (brain) decline, dementia, gallstones, tooth decay and some cancers (prostate, colon, endometrial, skin)
- You live longer: 10 – 15% lower mortality rate if you drink 2-6 cups of coffee per day
As doctor, I find this evidence astonishing – in our epidemic of diabetes, 6 cups of coffee per day (regular or decaf) can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 40% (by increasing sensitivity to insulin). In heavy alcohol consumption, coffee can reduce liver cirrhosis by 40% (2 cups/day) to 80% (4 cups/day), which can then reduce the risk of subsequent liver cancer (this is not a waiver to drink heavily as there are other ill consequences). And five or more cups – 44% lower mortality from heart disease, or 4 or more cups – 43% lower incidence of stroke!
The highest consumption I’ve seen was a German friend who drank 20 espressos a day – I thought he was nuts. But since, I heard Voltaire the philosopher drank up to 72 a day and lived to the age of 83, so now I’m not so sure. Of course, if coffee impacts you in an adverse way then please moderate your intake, and consider that added sugar or milk may have other health consequences if it is excessive. Unfortunately these results haven’t been replicated in caffeinated tea or soft drinks. So if you’re impartial to coffee, a few a day on balance is healthy.
- New England Journal of Medicine, 2012. Mortality effects of coffee n = 400,000
- John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, review of coffee studies, n = 1,000,000
- Annals of Internal Medicine, 2008 Nurse’s Health Study, n = 40,000
- The big 5 – Dr Sanjiv Chopra, Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School. 2016