Are you a coffee drinker? Then you probably know there are both health benefits and disadvantages of coffee drinking.
Understanding the pros and cons of coffee drinking, and listening to your own body, will help you decide whether to drink coffee, and how much coffee you should drink.
Coffee: Drink of the Moment
As recently as 20 years ago in Australia, hardly anyone drank coffee. There were no real cafes back then, just a few “coffee shops” in odd, obscure corners of the city.
Those coffee shops typically had vinyl booths or chairs and kitchen-tile floors, and they sold a bad, bad brew of drip coffee which people would drink, usually with an egg or ham sandwich.
These days there’s a coffee shop on every corner, a raft of different coffee makers you can buy for making a brew at home, and even tips and hints on cold brewed coffee and where to buy luwak-poo coffee for the cheapest price (hint: it’s pretty expensive).
My news feed is usually full of articles on the health benefits of coffee, but really, there are just as many downsides.
A little suggestion – treat this like a quiz.
According to your stage of life right now – score yourself
- +1 point for each health benefit that’s relevant for you right now, and
- -1 point for each of the disadvantages of coffee that’s relevant to you right now.
What’s your score?
Scroll to the end to see how you rate.
The Health Benefits of Coffee
1 It’s a great pre-workout drink
Need a boost before your run or Crossfit workout? Caffeine is known as an ergogenic aid or performance enhancer in sport.
A lot of recreational and professional athletes use coffee to boost performance and endurance in a game or event.
2 It’s socially enjoyable
It’s so fun to enjoy coffee with a friend! Drinking coffee is part of most people’s daily ‘time out’ and socialising rituals.
3 You get beneficial antioxidants
Coffee’s ORAC value – the antioxidant content value – is higher than a lot of vegetables. Higher in fact than the antioxidants in kale (and a lot tastier).
4 It’s a great pick-me-up
Coffee’s a stimulant, so of course that means more energy. A no-brainer.
5 It can help if you’re constipated
Being a stimulant and gastric irritant, coffee is great for getting the old bowels moving 🙂
6. It suppresses your appetite – useful if you’re overweight
Many studies, like this one, cite that caffeine is beneficial for improving insulin sensitivity and reducing appetite.
But of course, there are exceptions to this! See Downsides #4 below.
7 Moderate coffee intake may reduce your risk of liver disease
This is obviously useful if you drink alcohol, have liver diseases or want to reduce your risk of liver disease.
But no, we don’t suggest you increase your coffee intake to ‘cancel out’ your wine intake!
8 Coffee may improve your memory and cognitive function and suppress a raft of diseases.
Dr Mercola quotes a meta analysis (a summary of lots of studies) to show that your risk of getting neurological and liver diseases may be lower if you drink moderate amounts of coffee.
The Disadvantages of Coffee
1 It makes you jittery and exhausted if you’re caffeine-sensitive
if you have a low tolerance to caffeine – too much can make you jittery or have an energy peak and crash. Not a pleasant way to spend your day.
Caffeine sensitivity is related to your genes or as a result of a temporary metabolic imbalance (if your body is out of balance).
2 It may worsen your anxiety
The performance-enhancing attributes of coffee that many athletes enjoy (see Benefits, point 1 above) are a double-edged sword.
Those same attributes (affecting your adenosine receptors) can increase anxiety in some people. It’s a genetic thing. If coffee makes you anxious, you may be better off to reduce your intake.
4 It can cause accelerated brain aging and Type 3 diabetes in some overweight people
Some overweight people have defective caffeine metabolism, low magnesium status and non alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), then drinking coffee may cause accelerated brain ageing and Type 3 Diabetes.
3 If may worsen belly fat
Stimulants like coffee increase your output of stress hormones, like cortisol.
Chronic stress causes your body to store belly fat. Bummer.
5 It may worsen symptoms of peri-menopause or menopause
Many doctors and naturopaths warn that women should avoid caffeine (including coffee) during peri-menopause and menopause, because it seems to alter your estrogen levels and this may worsen menopause symptoms in some women.
6 It may worsen digestive issues e.g. ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome
Caffeine is a digestive irritant. Good for constipation, but possibly not so good for people with ulcers, acidity issues or IBS!
7 It’s unhelpful for insomniacs
This one is FAIRLY obvious. It takes 6 – 15 hours to metabolise caffeine, so if you’re insomniac, experiment with reducing your coffee and tea intake after 1pm.
8 You might have unhealthy ‘added extras’ with your coffee
Coffee often comes with unhealthy accoutrements.
Like….. 4 sugars, and/or cake, biscuits, chocolate…..I think you get what I mean.
9 You miss wholesome meals by replacing them with coffee
I know we’re all busy, but sometimes busy people drink coffee after coffee instead of eating proper, wholesome, healthy food.
Coffee suppresses your appetite so it’s a ‘get out of jail’ card, but if you do this, you’re missing out on important nutrition that you need to keep your body functioning.
Ok, that’s a whole compendium of health benefits and disadvantages of coffee.
If you scored -3 or lower, then the disadvantages of coffee probably outweigh the benefits. It may be time to cut back, or switch to decaf.
If you scored -2 to +2, coffee probably is ok for you, neither good nor bad.
If you scored +3 or higher, then the benefits of coffee probably outweigh the disadvantages of coffee. Things are going great…and if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
What did you score?
Let me know in the comments below….and which advantage or disadvantage is most relevant for you?
Chief Inspiration Coach
I’m a quirky scientist and a Health and Wellness Coach who helps 35+ women to understand and eat right for their body type.