We set out to answer this straightforward question, since we’re drinking more coffee than ever.
In fact, more than 50 percent of Americans age 18 and older drink coffee and the average coffee drinker has 3.1 cups of joe per day.
So, is drinking coffee good or bad?
First, we can’t talk about coffee without considering its best-known ingredient, caffeine.
Some coffees have more of the stimulant, like the Pike Place Roast from Starbucks, in at 330 mg. Others have less, like the same size coffee from McDonald’s at 100 mg. Even decaffeinated coffee may contain some caffeine, on the order of 25 mg, about the same as an eight-ounce cup of green tea.
“How much caffeine you can or should have varies with a number of factors,” said Dr. Grace Laynes, an internal medicine specialist at Marshfield Clinic. “We see that men are likely to be more sensitive to caffeine than women. People with anxiety disorders, attention deficit disorders like ADHD or palpitations, heart disease or kidney disease also need to be cautious.”
Laynes is quick to add that, for most of us, drinking coffee is actually good. A recent study published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine showed coffee drinking was associated with a lower risk of death. Those who drank coffee under parameters of the study didn’t die as often from heart attacks and strokes. That’s a pretty strong benefit, she pointed out.
Two other major studies failed to prove any connections between coffee and cancer, or coffee and heart disease, as some had previously believed.
Coffee does have negatives, such as increased frequency of urination since caffeine is a diuretic; upset stomach with heartburn or diarrhea; dental staining and bad breath. There are also health risks for kids and adolescents who may be prone to hyperactivity, anxiety and attention difficulty. Pregnant women should also be cautious.
“If it’s the caffeine in coffee that causes you any of these problems, you can always skip the caffeine,” Laynes said. “It just seems to me that overuse of coffee may cause some health problems, but just a cup or two per day is not going to harm you. It may even be good for you.”
So is coffee good or bad for you? You can decide for yourself.