NOV 29, 2017 7:32 AM PST

Coffee: Is It a Harmless or Horrible Habit?

Sitting down with a nice cup of coffee is something thousands of people do every day. The science research on it, however, has been up and down. Some studies say it’s bad for you, that it’s highly addictive and drinking it can cause heart arrhythmia or other problems. Other studies point to health benefits like a reduced risk of stroke or some forms of cancer.

A new study, published recently in the British Medical Journal, may have set the record straight once and for all…or at least until the next study comes out. The BMJ published a meta-analysis of research into coffee and found that imbibing the trendy and yet classic drink is “more likely to benefit health than to harm it.”

A meta-analysis is primarily a study of all the studies. There’s some big data involved, and lots of numbers to be crunched, but the article in the BMJ looked at the evidence from over 200 studies and what they came up with was a pretty big cup of java joy for coffee drinkers. Study authors advised that consuming between three and four cups of coffee per day is associated with lower risks for developing heart disease, dying early, getting diabetes and it could even lower the incidence of some cancers, certain liver conditions, and dementia.

It’s not all donuts and dunking though. Coffee consumption by pregnant women is still not advised, and there is a small risk of fractures and bone loss in some women. Still, the review of so much relevant research is encouraging. With so many of reviewed studies being observational, there was no way to pinpoint any firm cause and effect relationships between coffee and health. That is why the umbrella review of the studies is a better way to look at coffee consumption.

The team of researchers was led by Dr. Robin Poole, Specialist Registrar in Public Health at the University of Southampton, with collaborators from the University of Edinburgh. Umbrella reviews are a way for scientists to gather many different research studies into one large group of data and then analyze that data to find trends and associations. It’s not intended to be randomized controlled research, and no clinical trials are conducted in an umbrella review, but the information is aggregated together so that many factors can be seen in one place. The team that conducted this review called for “Robust randomized controlled trials to understand whether the key observed associations are causal.” It was also stressed that nothing in the review should be construed as advocating that patients drink more coffee to prevent or cure any disease.

In the analysis, the researchers did have to account for some factors that went along with coffee consumption such as smoking. Also, many coffee drinks like cappuccino or lattes include large amounts of sugar and fat, and these additional ingredients could negate any health benefits that coffee provides. The benefits of drinking decaf coffee were not as apparent; however, they did show some similar benefits. While more research with better methods and trials will hopefully be conducted, it’s safe to say that coffee consumption isn’t something most people need to be overly concerned about. Check out the video below for more information about this dark, delicious treat.

Sources: British Medical Journal, USA Today

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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