Is coffee good for you or not? Over the years there have been numerous studies supporting both positions. An older study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that drinking more than 2 cups of coffee per day might increase your risk of pancreatic cancer by as much as 50%. Another study found that two or more cups of coffee a day can increase the risk of heart disease in people with a specific — and fairly common — genetic mutation that slows the breakdown of caffeine in the body. Heavy caffeine use can also cause problems such as restlessness, anxiety, irritability and sleeplessness in susceptible individuals.
On the other hand, the American Cancer Society found that drinking four or more cups per day could cut the risk of throat and mouth cancer in half. Also, research from Harvard School of Public Health suggests that drinking 2 to 4 cups per day could reduce the risk of suicide in adults by 50%. A more recent study conducted by the National Cancer Institute found that individuals drinking 3 or more cups of coffee per day were 10% less likely to die from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes and infections.
Important New Study
In light of all the confusion and conflicting research, a new study from the Mayo Clinic is significant. This was a large study which tracked 45,000 people between the ages of 20 and 87 for a period of 17 years. The data showed that those who drank more than 4 cups of coffee per day had a 21% higher risk of mortality as a result of death from all causes, compared with participants who drank fewer than 4 cups per day.
But age was a significant factor. For those under the age of 55, there was a 50% higher mortality risk. Younger women who consumed more than 4 cups of coffee per day had twice the risk of mortality of women who drank less.
Steven Blair of the department of biostatistics and epidemiology at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina, further explained, “Significantly, the results did not demonstrate any association between coffee consumption and all-cause mortality among older men and women.” This was in line with a 2012 study by the National Institutes of Health which found older adults who drank more coffee had a lower risk of death overall.
So what’s the answer? In light of the new findings, researchers warn that young people should probably avoid coffee consumption of more than four cups per day.
On a broader scale, co-author of the study, Carl J. Lavie, a cardiology researcher at the Ochsner Medical Center in New Orleans added, “There continues to be considerable debate about the health effects of caffeine, and coffee specifically, with some reports suggesting toxicity and some even suggesting beneficial effects. I personally feel one to two, probably even two to three, cups of coffee per day are safe. If you drink more than that, it’s probably a good idea to try to cut back.”
The best answer seems to be that, for most people, the health benefits of 1 to 3 cups of coffee per day may outweigh the risks. Like most things in life, moderation is the key.
Sign up for Dr. Colbert's Newsletter
Receive the latest news on preventative medicine, supplements, promotions, and much more.