You are here:

Coffee: What’s the harm?

Q. I drink five or six cups of caffeinated coffee daily. Are there any known health risks to drinking a lot of coffee? Should I cut back?

A. Heavy coffee drinking may temporarily cause shaky hands, worsening heartburn, or “skipped” heartbeats. However, the studies conducted to date have not proved that drinking a lot of the brown brew does permanent harm to your health.

Many studies have examined the link between coffee and health, but it is difficult to isolate the effect of drinking coffee from other behaviors, like smoking and physical activity. In other words, researchers may discover trends in the health of coffee drinkers that might not actually have anything to do with drinking coffee.

But several consistent messages have emerged. People who drink coffee do not appear to have a higher risk of cancer; in fact, some studies have linked coffee to a lower risk of prostate cancer and diabetes. Studies have found no consistent links between coffee and heart disease or neurological conditions, although coffee drinkers are less likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Recently, researchers looked at coffee drinking and health in 400,000 members of AARP. After carefully adjusting for known dietary habits, lifestyle, and medical problems, coffee consumption was associated with a 10% to 15% reduction in death from any cause. The reduction was seen in almost all causes of death, except cancer.

Most people suffer no harm from coffee drinking until they try to stop too suddenly. Signs of caffeine withdrawal include a headache, excessive drowsiness, and irritability. If you notice this happening, you may wish to decrease the amount of coffee you drink gradually instead of going cold turkey.

— William Kormos, M.D.
Editor in Chief, Harvard Men’s Health Watch

Posted by: Dr.Health

Back to Top