Is coffee boon or bane? In celebration of the International Coffee Day on October 1, we look at the benefits and risks

Even before the deluge of multinational coffee chains, the world was already a big fan of the beverage. Whether you call it coffee, kaffe, qahwah, kopi or kohi, the hot fragrant brew evokes a familiar sense of comfort everywhere in the world. Served with everything from cake and biscuits to dough fritters and cheese curds, coffee is universally loved across many cultures and societies. But is that love reciprocated? Is coffee doing us more harm than good? Let’s take a look at the benefits and risks of coffee consumption and work out how much you should really be drinking in a day.

Benefits of caffeineBenefits

As approximately 80% of caffeine consumption is in the form of coffee, it should come as no surprise to learn that coffee has been the subject of much academic and medical research. This research has demonstrated coffee to have the potential to reduce a number of health risks. These include, but are not limited to, reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, cancers (such as liver, colon and prostate), liver disease, heart disease and heart failure.

Aside from risk reduction, there have been many studies into the improvements that coffee can make to one’s cognitive function and mental health. The former is perhaps the best-known benefit of coffee due to it commonly being used to stave off sleep. In terms of the latter, research published in 2017 from the Harvard School of Public Health studied over 50,000 women free of depressive symptoms in the US between 1996 and 2006. They found that the women’s risk of depression went down as their coffee consumption went up. Other US-based studies have shown that there was a lower risk of suicide with higher coffee consumption. However, while one Finnish study agreed that the risk of suicide was lowered in those having up to 7 cups of coffee per day, they did note that the risk of suicide dramatically increased once an individual reached 8 cups of coffee a day.

Females drinking coffeeRisks

Despite the amount of positive reportage of coffee’s health benefits, it should be noted that there are risks and drawbacks to coffee consumption. Caffeine-based drinks such as coffee are known to be common triggers of heart palpitations. Contrary to the aforementioned benefits, coffee is also a recognised trigger of anxiety, and some studies show it to worsen depression. However, these studies and claims do appear to be more in reference to those who are already predisposed to suffering from bouts of anxiety and depression.

Additionally, coffee has been found to disrupt our circadian rhythm (or body clock) which can seriously affect our sleep cycles, while animal studies have shown that regular caffeine intake can reduce the chances of pregnancy.

Risks of caffeineHow much coffee can you safely drink in one day?

For a period of time coffee was viewed as detrimental to health. It now appears that many health experts believe moderate coffee consumption to do more good than harm to our physical well-being.

Based on what many studies echo, coffee lovers should be aiming to consume somewhere from two to four cups of ground roasted coffee per day, or up to five cups of instant coffee. This equates to roughly 300mg of caffeine a day. Those who are pregnant should try to cut this number down to below 200mg per day. It’s worth noting that caffeine can be found in other sources within our daily life – such as chocolate bars, carbonated drinks and even some painkillers – so coffee consumption should be reduced if you consume such products.

As with many things in life, moderation is the key and studies do appear to support this notion in regards to coffee consumption.

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