Most of us out there don’t think all too much about our ritualistic morning cups of coffee. In fact, many would confess that their brains aren’t even switched on until sometime after the first sip. Scientists, on the other hand, seem to think about coffee quite a bit, with various studies drawing differing conclusions about whether or not everyone’s favorite bean water is any good for us. It’s all probably too much for any amateur to sort through without abundant spare time and, well, an unlimited supply of coffee.
Thankfully for the many millions if not billions of people who integrate coffee into their daily routines, a recent New England Journal of Medicine review article analyzed a full 95 different studies to conclude that drinking up to five cups of coffee a day doesn’t present long-term adverse health effects—in fact, that level of consumption might even have its benefits.
First and foremost, the meta-analysis found that consuming up to six standard, filtered cups of coffee per day does not increase the risk of coronary artery disease or stroke. Conversely, those who consume three to five cups of filtered coffee per day (at least) mildly) reduce their risk of cardiovascular diseases.
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Simultaneously, a survey of studies on the link between coffee and cancer found that drinking caffeinated coffee doesn’t increase cancer risk or cancer mortality rates. In fact, the collective data suggests a slightly reduced risk of melanoma, nonmelanoma skin cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer.
In case you’re the type to worry about kidney stones, there’s good news there as well. Consumption of both caffeinated and decaf coffee was shown to reduce the risk of kidney stones. Simultaneously, caffeinated coffee was shown to more significantly decrease the risk of gallstones and gallbladder cancer than its weaker counterpart.
When looking at “all-cause mortality,” studies from around the world show that consumption of two to five cups of coffee is at least associated with reduced mortality. In fact, those who drink up to five cups a day experienced a lower or similar risk of death to those who didn’t drink any coffee at all. That data was fairly consistent across caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, and also doesn’t seem to be affected by variations in individual caffeine metabolisms.
While the news here is great for long-term physical health, there are plenty of shorter-term mental health reasons why one should be cautious about drinking five cups of coffee in a 24-hour period. The meta-analysis admits that high levels of caffeine intake can and do lead to symptoms like anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia, among others. So don’t destroy your short-term quality of life in pursuit of what are ultimately minimal to moderate long-term benefits.
But if you’ve spent a lot of time these days sipping some java and pondering your own mortality, fear not. At the very least, it won’t be the coffee that kills you.
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