The pendulum of scientific opinion swings pretty dramatically when it comes to the effect (if any) coffee has on our health.
But now a review of 200 separate studies has shown even three or four cups a day is still more likely to benefit your health than harm it. Woohoo!
The researchers concluded that drinking coffee regularly resulted in a lower risk of heart disease and even death compared with drinking no coffee at all. They also found that drinking coffee lowered the risk of some cancers (including prostate, endometrial, skin and liver cancer), type 2 diabetes, gallstones, gout, liver disease and dementia. Additionally, there seemed to be beneficial associations between coffee consumption and Parkinson’s disease, depression and Alzheimer's disease.
However, there were some exceptions, namely women who are pregnant or at risk of fracture.
There was less evidence for the effects of drinking decaffeinated coffee but it had similar benefits for a number of outcomes. Increasing consumption to above three cups a day was not associated with harm, but the beneficial effect was less pronounced.
But - it is important to note - the studies used mainly observational data, which means lower quality evidence, which means no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect. The findings do back up other recent reviews and studies of coffee intake, though.
So the official line is "coffee drinking appears safe within usual patterns of consumption, except during pregnancy and in women at increased risk of fracture", and testing in randomised trials should happen now to strengthen the evidence of benefits.
The research team was led by Dr Robin Poole, Specialist Registrar in Public Health at the University of Southampton, with collaborators from the University of Edinburgh.
Eliseo Guallar at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health says although we can be reassured that coffee intake is generally safe, doctors should not recommend drinking coffee to prevent disease - and people should not start drinking coffee for health reasons. [BMJ]
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