Fill 'er Up! Health Effects of Coffee

Charles P. Vega, MD


October 03, 2013

In This Article


The results of the current study made national headlines but really provide more questions than answers when it comes to the major health effects of coffee consumption. It should be emphasized that the higher risk for death in this study was limited to men at the highest levels of coffee consumption. Other good evidence suggests that coffee is not deleterious to health and does not promote early mortality.

Moderation is key to most things in life, and individuals who are heavy coffee drinkers should consider reining in their rampant coffee habit. However, patients may also overestimate the risks of drinking coffee. If they choose to cut back on moderate consumption of coffee, physicians should inform them that they may not be reducing their risk for diabetes or improving their for mortality. At the same time, such changes in and of themselves can be empowering and can serve as teachable moments to encourage other salutary behaviors that have a better chance of improving morbidity and mortality.

Clinical Pearls

The current study finds that coffee is associated with a higher risk for mortality but only among men who drank an average of at least 4 cups of coffee per day. There were significant limitations in this observational study.

Previous research has found that coffee consumption can increase serum lipid levels. Coffee appears to have a negligible effect on the risk for hypertension.

In contrast, coffee consumption appears to reduce the risk for incident diabetes.

The overall record of coffee on cardiovascular and mortality outcomes is mixed. The evidence appears strongest for a reduction in the risk for cardiovascular death among women who drink coffee.

There is insubstantial evidence to recommend against moderate consumption of coffee among adults.


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