Drinking more caffeine lately? Here’s how it can affect you over time and advice on making it better for you.
An industry survey estimated that 64% of Americans drank a cup of coffee every day. And with good reason: There are tons of health benefits.
For example, studies have linked coffee to a decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes and some cancers. But, as with most good things, too much of it may have negative consequences.
Coffee ― and we don’t mean decaf ― can be a treatment or a trigger for health concerns, depending on a number of variables, including how much you consume, how frequently you consume it, how it’s prepared and your health history. Here are some of the potential benefits and drawbacks of drinking coffee.
Coffee is often touted for its disease-fighting properties. The antioxidants and anti-inflammatories in coffee are likely responsible for the association between coffee drinking and the reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer (including oral cancers).
Those antioxidants, however, won’t necessarily offset the negative effects of the sugars, syrups and creamers you add.
“If you now load your coffee with sugars and other things that increase inflammation or you have coffee with that big muffin, then the anti-inflammatory or antioxidants in the coffee will not be able to counteract that at all,” said Zhaoping Li, a professor of medicine and chief of the Division of Clinical Nutrition at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Black coffee may help reduce body fat.
One study found that drinking four cups of coffee daily was associated with a reduction in body fat of roughly 4%. (But, again, that was without cream and sugar.)
The caffeine in coffee may raise metabolism, potentially burning more calories and leading to reduced body fat, said Derrick Johnston Alperet, the study’s co-author and a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
“Our study results and evidence from previous studies suggest that regular coffee intake may aid in weight loss and in achieving better overall health if it is incorporated into a healthful diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, but less of sugar and artificially sweetened beverages and processed and red meat,” Alperet said.
Coffee could help extend your life.
Regular coffee drinkers tend to live longer. Coffee drinkers are less likely to die of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney disease.
Caffeine puts your brain on alert.
We can’t talk about coffee without addressing the thing people think of first: caffeine. Caffeine — which occurs naturally in coffee beans, tea leaves and cocoa beans — is a dietary component, not a nutrient. It stimulates the central nervous system, causing you to feel more alert.
“Obviously, when you’re alert, you’re able to concentrate and perform mentally,” UCLA’s Li said. That’s why so many of us turn to coffee to start our day or as an afternoon pick-me-up.
Of course, you’ll also find caffeine in other beverages, including brewed black tea, brewed green tea and caffeinated soda. In terms of natural beverages, though, coffee has the highest concentration of caffeine, Li said.
Different types of coffee can have different amounts of caffeine. A single fluid ounce of brewed coffee will have roughly 12 milligrams of caffeine; a similar amount of instant coffee will have only 8 milligrams, while an ounce of espresso will have a whopping 64 milligrams, according to the U.S. government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020.
Low to moderate amounts of caffeine (50 to 300 milligrams) can increase alertness, energy and the ability to concentrate, according to the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Higher doses, however, can lead to negative effects.
“Sometimes people aren’t aware that the side effects they’re having are due to coffee or something else,” such as stress or diet, said Donald Hensrud, director of the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program and editor of the Mayo Clinic Diet.
For example, several things can contribute to heartburn, including eating too late, gaining weight or consuming certain types of food or beverages — including coffee.
People who experience anxiety should also take a look at their coffee habits and if coffee could be affecting their symptoms. Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health conditions in the country, affecting 40 million adults 18 and older. Research suggests that more than 250 milligrams of caffeine — the amount in about 2½ cups of coffee — may trigger anxiety in some people.
Pregnant women are often advised to limit caffeine, but recommendations on how much can vary.
Coffee makes you pee more.
Caffeine is thought to be a diuretic. Coffee can increase urination and act as a bladder irritant. For people who experience bladder control problems, this can worsen their symptoms, Hensrud said.
Coffee can either help or heal headaches, depending on a few unique factors.
The caffeine in coffee can be either a treatment or a trigger for headaches. On the one hand, caffeine blocks brain receptors associated with pain and relieves headache pain, said Elizabeth Mostofsky, an epidemiology instructor at the Chan School and research fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
It can also make other pain medications as much as 40% more effective, Mostofsky added.
But drinking more than three caffeinated beverages a day may actually trigger a headache in people prone to migraines.
Have you ever had a cup of coffee late in the afternoon and then wound up starring at your bedroom ceiling until 2 a.m.? Or can you enjoy a cappuccino after dinner and then sleep soundly that night?
Each person’s body processes caffeine a bit differently, based on his or her tolerance and metabolism. The “awake” feeling we get from drinking coffee can last up to six hours or so, depending on the individual, Li said.
If you notice that you’re still feeling the effects of an afternoon coffee at bedtime, Hensrud advised cutting off coffee earlier in the day.
So how much coffee is OK?
The potential health benefits of drinking coffee are clear. But there’s no advice telling you to start drinking coffee if you don’t already.
“I think if you like coffee, coffee is part of your healthy diet,” Li said. “If you’re not a coffee drinker, there is no necessity to drinking coffee. You can drink tea or water.”
Li added that green tea has much less caffeine than coffee and also happens to be a great source of antioxidants. Decaf coffee can also provide some of the benefits of regular coffee without the effects of caffeine.
Regular coffee drinkers might be looking for that magic number of cups they should drink to feel their best. Dietary guidelines say that moderate coffee consumption is three to five cups per day (providing up to 400 milligrams per day of caffeine).
“Studies are showing if you have about three cups — some studies are showing four cups — a day, it’s definitely safe,” Li said.
Like most things with diet, though, it really comes down to moderation and paying attention to your body.
“The end result of a lot of things in nutrition is practicality and enjoyment,” Hensrud said. “Sometimes people get lost in the weeds or the details. For example, there are no guidelines for people to start drinking coffee if they don’t. If you enjoy it, drink it, and if you’re having side effects, cut back. I like to bring it back to a practical level and let people decide for themselves.”
The Healthiest Way To Brew Your Coffee
– And Possibly Lengthen Your Life
For many of us, the day doesn’t start off right until we have that cuppa joe.
Just the aroma of that dark, rich brew can get our senses stirring, ready for the mood boost we know is coming.
And it turns out that coffee’s not just fine for your health, it may even lengthen your life — but only if you prepare it with a filter, according to a new long-term study published Wednesday in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
“Unfiltered coffee contains substances which increase blood cholesterol. Using a filter removes these and makes heart attacks and premature death less likely,” said study author Dag Thelle, a senior professor in the public health and community medicine department of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
“Our study provides strong and convincing evidence of a link between coffee brewing methods, heart attacks and longevity,” Thelle said.
That’s bad news for lovers of coffee made with the French press, or cafetière, that is so popular today, or those fond of strong Greek and Turkish brewing methods. Boiling coffee or using a coffee press can actually increase your risk of heart disease.
“Unfiltered coffee, like Greek and Turkish coffee, which is boiled, or coffee made in a French press contain higher amounts of cafestol and kahweol – chemicals found in oil droplets floating in the coffee and also in the sediment,” said registered dietitian Lisa Drayer, a CNN health and nutrition contributor.
“Studies have shown that these substances can raise triglyceride levels and LDL cholesterol levels,” Drayer said. “So stick with filtered coffee, such as a paper filter that you would use in a drip-brewed coffee, which can help to trap these chemicals.”
Drinking filtered coffee better for health
The new study followed over half a million healthy Norwegian men and women between the ages of 20 and 79 over a 20-year period.
Results showed drinking boiled or pressed unfiltered coffee raised the risk of death in men aged 60 and above, due to elevated cardiovascular mortality.
But drinking filtered coffee – that through a paper filter, for example, was found to be healthier than drinking no coffee at all.
Filtered coffee was linked to a 15% reduced risk of death from any cause, a 12% decreased risk of death from cardiovascular disease in men and a 20% lowered risk of death from heart disease in women when compared to drinking no coffee.
In fact, the study found those who drank one to four cups of filtered coffee per day had the lowest mortality rate.
“The finding that those drinking the filtered beverage did a little better than those not drinking coffee at all could not be explained by any other variable such as age, gender or lifestyle habits. So we think this observation is true,” Thelle said.
The findings echo other research highlighting coffee’s health benefits. According to the American Heart Association, filtered coffee can sharpen your mental focus, boost mood and improve performance during exercise.
The British Medical Journal published a huge umbrella study in 2017 that looked at over 200 meta-analyses of the health benefits of coffee and that found drinking three to fours cups of black coffee a day provides the most health benefits overall.
Those included lowering the risk of heart disease; numerous types of cancer; and neurological, metabolic and liver disorders; as well as overall mortality. Other studies have found coffee reduces the risk for melanoma, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, type 2 diabetes, liver disease, prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s, computer-related back pain and more.
Of course, nothing is perfect. There are some reasons you may want to limit or avoid coffee.
Watch your sleep. “If you have trouble falling asleep, it’s best to avoid coffee and all sources of caffeine in the evening or close to bedtime,” Drayer suggested.
Careful if you’re at risk for fractures. The British Medical Journal analysis found high levels of coffee consumption (over four cups a day) was associated with a higher risk of fractures in women who already had a greater likelihood, but not in men.
Pregnant women should also be wary. Higher levels of coffee consumption were found to increase risk for preterm births and stillbirths, as well as low birth weight in babies. This is possibly due to the fact that the half-life of caffeine is known to double during pregnancy, raising the dose of caffeine per cup, according to the study.
Not for those with Parkinson’s. A study published in September 2017 reversed opinion on the benefits for Parkinson’s disease, which was long thought to be helped by caffeine. Researchers who first found that coffee reduced tremors in those with Parkinson’s went back and studied a larger sample of patients for a longer time. This time, they found no difference between those taking caffeine tablets and those taking a placebo. After the initial data came back negative, the study was stopped.
But for the vast majority of us, coffee is just fine, experts said.
“For people who know they have high cholesterol levels and want to do something about it, stay away from unfiltered brew, including coffee made with a cafetière,” Thelle said. “For everyone else, drink your coffee with a clear conscience and go for filtered.”
To keep your coffee consumption even more healthy, Drayer suggested the following tips:
Add low-fat milk and skip the cream. “Cream contributes about 50 calories and 3 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon,” Drayer said, adding that low-fat milk has fewer calories and will help to offset calcium losses (a tablespoon has only 6 calories, but 19 milligrams of calcium).
Avoid sugar in your coffee. “A teaspoon of sugar contains 16 calories. It may not sound like much, but if you add two teaspoons to your brew and drink a few cups per day, the calories add up,” she said.
Instant Coffee: Good or Bad?
Instant coffee is very popular in many areas of the world.
It may even account for more than 50% of all coffee consumption in some countries.
Instant coffee is also faster, cheaper, and easier to make than regular coffee.
You may know that drinking regular coffee is linked to many health benefits but wonder whether the same benefits apply to instant coffee.
This article explains everything you need to know about instant coffee and its health effects.
What is instant coffee?
Instant coffee is a type of coffee made from dried coffee extract.
Similarly to how regular coffee is brewed, the extract is made by brewing ground coffee beans, although it’s more concentrated.
After brewing, the water is removed from the extract to make dry fragments or powder, both of which dissolve when added to water.
There are two main ways to make instant coffee:
- Spray-drying. Coffee extract is sprayed into hot air, which quickly dries the droplets and turns them into fine powder or small pieces.
- Freeze-drying. The coffee extract is frozen and cut into small fragments, which are then dried at a low temperature under vacuum conditions.
Both methods preserve the quality, aroma, and flavor of the coffee.
The most common way to prepare instant coffee is to add one teaspoon of powder to a cup of hot water.
The strength of the coffee can easily be adjusted by adding more or less powder to your cup.
Instant coffee contains antioxidants and nutrients
Coffee is the biggest source of antioxidants in the modern diet.
Its high antioxidant content is believed to be responsible for many of its associated health benefits.
Like regular coffee, instant coffee contains many powerful antioxidants.
According to one study, instant coffee may contain even higher amounts of certain antioxidants than other brews, due to the way it is processed.
Furthermore, one standard cup of instant coffee contains only 7 calories and small amounts of potassium, magnesium, and niacin (vitamin B3).
Instant coffee is full of powerful antioxidants. It may even contain higher amounts of some antioxidants than other types of coffee.
Instant coffee contains slightly less caffeine
Caffeine is the most widely consumed stimulant in the world, and coffee is its biggest dietary source.
However, instant coffee generally contains slightly less caffeine than regular coffee.
One cup of instant coffee containing one teaspoon of powder may contain 30–90 mg of caffeine, while one cup of regular coffee contains 70–140 mg.
Since sensitivity to caffeine varies by individual, instant coffee may be a better choice for those who need to cut back on caffeine.
Instant coffee is also available in decaf, which contains even less caffeine.
Too much caffeine may cause anxiety, disrupted sleep, restlessness, upset stomach, tremors, and a fast heartbeat.
A cup of instant coffee containing one teaspoon of powder generally contains 30–90 mg of caffeine, while regular coffee contains 70–140 mg per cup.
Instant coffee contains more acrylamide
Acrylamide is a potentially harmful chemical that forms when coffee beans are roasted.
This chemical is also commonly found in a wide range of foods, smoke, household items, and personal care products.
Interestingly, instant coffee may contain up to twice as much acrylamide as fresh, roasted coffee.
Overexposure to acrylamide may damage the nervous system and increase the risk of cancer.
However, the amount of acrylamide you’re exposed to through diet and coffee is much lower than the amount that has been shown to be harmful.
Therefore, drinking instant coffee should not cause concern regarding acrylamide exposure.
Instant coffee contains up to twice as much acrylamide as regular coffee, but this amount is still lower than the amount considered to be harmful.
Like regular coffee, instant coffee may have several health benefits
Drinking coffee has been linked to many health benefits.
Given that instant coffee contains the same antioxidants and nutrients as regular coffee, it should provide most of the same health effects.
Drinking instant coffee may:
- Enhance brain function. Its caffeine content can improve brain function.
- Boost metabolism. Its caffeine may increase metabolism and help you burn more fat.
- Reduce disease risk. Coffee may reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
- Decrease diabetes risk. Coffee may help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Improve liver health. Coffee and caffeine may reduce the risk of liver diseases like cirrhosis and liver cancer.
- Improve mental health. Coffee may help lower the risk of depression and suicide.
- Promote longevity. Drinking coffee may help you live longer.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that many of these studies were observational.
These types of studies can’t prove that coffee causes a reduced risk of disease — only that people who habitually drink coffee are less likely to develop disease.
If you’re wondering how much coffee to drink, consuming 3–5 cups of instant coffee each day may be optimal. Studies have often linked this amount to the highest risk reductions.
Instant coffee offers most of the same health benefits as regular coffee, including a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and liver disease.
The bottom line
Instant coffee is quick, easy, and doesn’t require a coffee maker. It also has a very long shelf life and is cheaper than regular coffee.
Therefore, it may be very handy when you’re traveling or on the go.
Instant coffee contains slightly less caffeine and more acrylamide than regular coffee, but it contains most of the same antioxidants.
Overall, instant coffee is a healthy, low-calorie beverage that is linked to the same health benefits as other types of coffee.