Is Coffee Really Good For You? Several Advantages and Disadvantages

chrome coffee holder pouring coffee into a mug in the desert

Billions of cups of coffee are served around the world each day. For many of us, coffee has become one of the most present and persistent rituals in our daily lives.

But is coffee good for you?

The Benefits of Drinking Coffee

Tens of thousands of studies suggest that, for most people, coffee is more helpful than harmful. There are a variety of health benefits and very few drawbacks. 

Coffee Fights Disease with Antioxidants

Antioxidants play a key role in protecting your cells against free radicals, and a fresh cup of coffee is loaded with them.

Free radicals can do damage to trillions of cell membranes across the human body through a process called “oxidation.” 

Studies say that free radicals play a role in heart disease, cancer, and several other diseases. They are produced as your body breaks down fats and foods, or from ingesting environmental factors like cigarette smoke or radiation.

Experts say that coffee is among the best sources of antioxidants in the world, and by consuming it regularly you may be able to lessen oxidative stress in the body and the risk of related diseases.

Coffee Boosts Brain Function and Burns Fat

Caffeine is a chemical stimulant found in coffee that can trigger several responses from the central nervous system. It boosts alertness, brain function, and metabolism.

Millions (perhaps billions) of people rely on caffeine to wake up or improve their level of focus daily. 

Caffeine also stimulates adrenaline, which signals that fat tissues should begin to break down and burn fat cells as it circulates through the body.

Coffee Protect against degenerative diseases.

Coffee may lower the risk of degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and dementia

There are a variety of scientific resources published on this topic, as well as statements from government and advocacy foundations supporting this point of view. At the same time, a definitive scientific consensus of why risk is lowered in humans is still underway.

Some experts hypothesize that the blend of antioxidants, fatty acids, and caffeine found in coffee combines effectively to promote neural integrity, brain function, and a decrease in brain inflammation

Coffee Lowers the Risk of Type II Diabetes

Regular coffee consumption may decrease your risk of contracting type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease that impacts the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar. It typically occurs when the pancreas doesn’t create enough insulin, or the body isn’t able to effectively use the available insulin.

More than 400 million people have diabetes, and it’s a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, and strokes.

A recent Harvard study showed that participants who increased their coffee consumption by more than a cup per day decreased their type 2 diabetes risk by 11%. 

Coffee Lowers the Risks of Liver Disease.

Coffee has been called the “magical bean” for liver diseases. 

It appears to reduce the risk of liver cancer and fibrosis. The acids in coffee may also decrease the ability of hepatitis C to replicate.

Coffee stimulates the release of paraxanthine which is the body’s most powerful mechanism to slow the growth of scar tissue involved in fibrosis.

What Detractors Say About Coffee’s Disadvantages

Many experts believe that the positive effects of coffee greatly outweigh any negative effects, but there are some drawbacks.

Coffee Can Disrupt Sleep

Given coffee’s potent ability to keep people awake, it should come as no surprise that coffee can also harm sleep.

An 8 oz cup of coffee will typically contain about 100mg of caffeine, and the half-life for caffeine in most bodies is about 5 hours. This means that it’s likely that your body will still be holding 50mg of caffeine after 5 hours have elapsed past consuming a cup of coffee. 

Even coffee consumed in the morning can have some impact on the availability and quality of a night’s sleep. Most experts suggest that, for soundest sleeping, you should not consume caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime.

Caffeine is Addictive

Coffee is the most commonly used psychoactive drug in the world. And like other drugs, it can become physically addictive.

The caffeine in coffee stimulates an increase in dopamine production in the brain, which is one factor that makes the experience of consuming it so delightful. It also creates a dependence on the coffee ritual to maintain a consistent sense of pleasure and wellbeing.

Caffeine also blocks receptors in the brain which would otherwise receive “tiredness” signals from the central nervous system. In the sudden absence of caffeine, these “adenosine” receptors may become bombarded with signals that the body is fatigued.

Stopping a coffee habit can be quite challenging, as many who try it have experienced. Withdrawal from caffeine may include mental fogginess, fatigue, headaches, or nausea.

How Much Coffee is Too Much?

All good things in moderation, right?..so exactly how much coffee is too much?

According to the Mayo Clinic, four 8 oz cups of coffee per day is safe for most healthy adults. You may want to cut back if you are consuming more than that.

It can also be helpful to add an extra glass of water for every coffee you consume.

Coffee For Children?

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that children should limit caffeine consumption. 

While mild coffee exposure has not been shown to create negative effects, studies suggest that high doses can cause physiological, psychological, and behavioral harm to children.

This is particularly true for children with psychiatric disorders or cardiac conditions.

Coffee During Pregnancy

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that moderate coffee consumption is not a negative factor for most pregnancies. They also recommend consuming under 200mg of caffeine daily, which is approximately two cups of brewed coffee per day. 

Should You Drink Coffee?

If and how you adopt a coffee ritual is an incredibly personal decision. There are ten thousand ways to source your beans, roast, brew, and consume them.

For many folks, the process of finding a favorite method of procuring and preparing coffee is a rewarding lifelong journey. For others, it’s simply a matter of cost and convenience. 

Either way, a coffee ritual can feel emotionally rewarding and provide a highly functional utility in modern society. It can boost brain and body function, while also lowering your risk for several diseases.

For most healthy adults, experts say that coffee has a greater positive impact than its downsides. Weigh the benefits and drawbacks to determine what is right for you. In some cases, speaking with a doctor may be a simple and helpful way to discover other considerations that are specific to your health journey. 

About the Author: David Lewis is the founder of Kitchen Ambition, a place for home cooking enthusiasts to learn about the best cookware, culinary techniques, and ingredients.