So is coffee healthy or not?
August 28, 2016 6:47 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for evidence-based information about the health effects of coffee.

I am not very familiar with scientific methodologies, so I would ask the hivemind for help. Thank you!! :)
posted by Crookshanks_Meow to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I could send you a topic review from UpToDate on this very subject if you memail me your email address. Too much info to recapitulate here. Are you thinking of any specific disease?
posted by M. at 6:59 AM on August 28, 2016 has an entry on coffee. The site is a marketing tool—note my final comment in that thread—but they do list journal references, so worst case you can treat it like Wikipedia and just read the refs.
posted by XMLicious at 7:21 AM on August 28, 2016

This is an impossible question to answer. First, because "healthy" is far too broad of thing to be able to say that coffee is or isn't healthy. Secondly, because the research on coffee and health factors is not at all definitive. Thirdly because dose, how often you drink it, and a million other factors (is the coffee hot or cold, for example, or do you have x genetic factors) also play big roles.

So rather than asking if coffee is healthy, you have to ask what impact it might have on some specific health thing. For example:

Coffee probably doesn't cause cancer.

Coffee after noise exposure might be a bad idea.

Coffee (really caffeine) may reduce Alzhemier's risk.

Coffee may prevent alcohol-induced liver damage.

There's probably hundreds of similar studies finding all sorts of things, "good" and "bad."

As always, you have to be careful when you interpret. You see headlines like "coffee is making you deaf!" but the truth is that all we know is that caffeine may have some interrupting effect on the metabolic process that allows your cells to recover after being exposed to something like a loud concert. Coffee is not carcinogenic, but very hot coffee probably is. It's probably caffeine, and not coffee particularly, that prevents the plaque build-up that causes Alzheimer's. The coffee and liver damage finding is pretty robust, so if you're a drinker, drinking coffee is probably a good idea.

As with everything, there are potential risks and benefits to coffee. How you weigh those is up to you to decide. In the case of coffee, probably the benefits outweigh the risks, at least according to current research.

There's also something to be said for the fact that living causes dying, and if you like coffee, then whatever health risks may be associated with it probably aren't big enough to stop you from enjoying a long life of enjoying delicious, delicious coffee. You can make yourself miserable trying to adjust your life to every new health risk factor study, and you're still going to die from something in the end, having deprived yourself of a lot of joy along the way.
posted by Lutoslawski at 8:28 AM on August 28, 2016 [24 favorites]

Coffee and mortality

That much coffee was found to increase the death rates of younger people, though—under age 55. Hence, based on this study, it may be appropriate to recommend that you avoid drinking more than four cups a day. But, if you put all the studies together, the bottom line is that coffee consumption is associated with no change or a small reduction in mortality starting around one or two cups a day, for both men and women.
posted by Gymnopedist at 8:55 AM on August 28, 2016

Aaron Carroll, a researcher at Indiana U. Med. School, has done a series of (what appear to this nonexpert to be) very nice articles for the NY Times synthesizing research on a number of broad health topics (e.g., exercise, alcohol). His conclusion on coffee: "It’s a completely reasonable addition to a healthy diet, with more potential benefits seen in research than almost any other beverage we’re consuming." The article has details and a few dozen links to research.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 5:53 PM on August 28, 2016

I'd say it's healthy enough--from the studies linked above, and from my own knowledge of it as a low-calorie beverage, not requiring sugar, that helps people eliminate waste (aka poop). IME the places that demonize coffee are not credible when they start about "toxins" and such. Basically, if I'm reading a yoga blog (or you know, any of those lifestyle-type places on the internet) and coffee is presented as an unhealthy thing that precludes True Wellness? That lets me know they're not making claims based on any evidence. Because the evidence is almost unanimously in the camp of "coffee is OK and even good for most people."
posted by witchen at 10:51 AM on August 29, 2016

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