Can you Drink too Much Coffee?
“Without my morning coffee, I’m just like a dried-up piece of goat.”
- Johann Sebastian Bach
Many of you will identify with the quote this week; we know we do! Coffee can feel essential but is it good for us? Let’s take a look.
Health benefits of coffee:
A robust meta-analysis of hundreds of studies showed that moderate consumption of coffee, 3-4 cups a day, was associated with positive results in many diseases.
They found a reduction in coronary heart disease and stroke; the biggest benefit was seen in women.
They also found reduced risk of many cancers: prostate, endometrial, melanoma, oral, leukaemia, other skin cancers and liver cancer.
There was a significant decrease in the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and cirrhosis.
Other studies have shown reduced risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Coffee contains 100s of chemicals including caffeine and chlorogenic acids. Many of these compounds have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antifibrotic and anti-cancer properties affecting key metabolic and inflammatory pathways. Caffeine is a stimulant which in moderate amounts can be useful to us.
Other positive effects of coffee, mainly associated with caffeine are
- Increased attention and energy with less fatigue and better response times.
- Decreased appetite which can help with weight loss
- Improved mood with decreased depression and suicidal thoughts.
What about health harms? Are there any down-sides to coffee?
Excess consumption can be associated with insomnia and, anecdotally, we know this risk increases if we drink coffee later in the day.
Palpitations are common in those who consume too much caffeine and reducing this will alleviate the problem. This side effect is mainly due to caffeine.
Withdrawal is a real problem with regular coffee drinkers. If we go from several cups a day to none we can experience headaches, fatigue, and low mood.
In the first study we have referenced, Poole et al found that in pregnancy, coffee was associated with low birth weight and pre-term birth in the first and second trimester.
Caffeine is absorbed into the blood stream fairly quickly (within an hour) and remains for several hours depending on our age, sex, hormone levels, liver function, obesity level, smoking status, our diet and certain drugs.
Outside of the medical evidence there are other benefits to consider. Taking time to meet for coffee provides a space for us to connect with the people we value. Many great work ideas have been born in the coffee break and it allows time for networking and making new connections.
The Macmillan Coffee Morning phenomenon has raised millions to help those who have been affected by cancer.
With every coffee we drink we can also contribute socially by pledging to support Fairtrade coffee growers and taking our re-usable cups with us to coffee shops.
More personally, a coffee break can be just what we need. A quiet time to reflect, to breathe and relax. An opportunity to practice mindfulness, letting go of worries about tomorrow or ruminations of the past.
So, enjoy your weekend with a coffee (or 3) and a good book.
 Poole R, Kennedy OJ, Roderick P, Fallowfield JA, Hayes PC, Parkes J. Coffee consumption and health: umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes. BMJ. 2017 Nov 22;359:j5024.  Hu FB, Satija A, Manson JE. Curbing the Diabetes Pandemic: The Need for Global Policy Solutions. JAMA. 2015 Jun 16;313(23):2319-20.  Dong Hang, Ane Sørlie Kværner, Wenjie Ma, Yang Hu, Fred K Tabung, Hongmei Nan, Zhibin Hu, Hongbing Shen, Lorelei A Mucci, Andrew T Chan, Edward L Giovannucci, Mingyang Song, Coffee consumption and plasma biomarkers of metabolic and inflammatory pathways in US health professionals, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 109, Issue 3, March 2019, Pages 635–647