Drink coffee, Not too much, Mostly black" - Coffee is healthy

Yes, coffee is healthy

Have you noticed that the things we love the most in food and drink are often the things most studied? Wine, chocolate, and coffee. We love these foods so much that we can’t help by wonder whether or not they’re actually killing us, much less making us healthier. I’ll let the wine and chocolate lovers make their own excuses write their own articles, while I sleep well knowing that coffee is healthy!

Coffee is one of the most studied foods

Coffee is one of the most studied substances in the world. The sheer number of studies practically ensures that they will find things both good and bad and bad about coffee. That’s actually a positive, because should always know what we are getting into, and in this case whether coffee is healthy.

coffee is healthy

Spoiler alert, coffee is healthy

Within limits, of course.

Year after year, more data on the health ramifications of drinking coffee comes to light. Recently the internet was abuzz with the news that coffee might extend our lifespans and fend off sudden death from strokes and heart attacks.

I, for one, hate sudden death.

Still, I don’t want to be one of those guys who sees a positive headline about something he loves and just shares it, so I took the time to read up. While the studies were not as cut and dried as so many coffee lovers on Facebook said, overall it was pretty good news.

Coffee drinkers live longer

Says the BBC article below.

I read through to the study, and it does seem to be decent news, if a a tiny bit exaggerated. Yes, people who drank a moderate amount of coffee per day did seem to live longer than those who didn’t, but it was longer, not decades longer. Still, hurray!

BBC – Coffee Drinkers Live Longer

Coffee can reduce the risk of all-cause mortality

You think sudden death is bad? All-cause mortality sounds awful!

No, but seriously, a study of ten European countries found that people who enjoyed moderate amounts of coffee were less likely to die early of a variety of diseases or conditions. I’m told that’s what all-cause mortality is all about.

Study limitations

Just like your favorite health food, no study is perfect, and these two studies are no different. There’s really no effective way to measure how coffee effects long-term health unless you put people in a dome and give only half of them coffee.

That’s cruel. …to the half. that doesn’t get coffee.

Instead, studies of long term health use big populations to gather the data, then they mine it and try to pull out the “confounders.”

People trying to be healthy contribute to healthy user bias, for instance. They people tend to exercise because  it’s healthy. Therefore, exercisers tend to be healthy. Was it the exercise or all the healthy things they do that led to good health?

What a confounding question.

Correlation does not equal causation

Because the studies were not direct, they were merely correlations. They don’t prove anything. They point a finger, but you have to use your smarts to see if it makes sense.

Those healthy people I mentioned earlier? They have that confounding healthy user bias I mentioned, which makes it hard to know if any one thing is healthy. Lots of healthy things make up for a few transgressions. Don’t quote me on that.

Ironically, because we’ve been told that coffee is bad for us, people trying to be healthy drink less of it.

In fact, coffee drinkers are actually more likely to smoke and be sedentary.  Is that an unhealthy user bias?

Whatever. This works in coffee’s favor when it comes to population studies because you can’t just point and say “those people are healthy anyway.” You’d have to wave off the cloud of smoke just to see them. Don’t quote me on that, either.

Drink coffee, Not too much, Mostly black" - Coffee is healthy

Drink coffee, not too much, mostly black

In our book, Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well, we devoted a chapter to coffee, so I won’t belabor my points.

The chapter is “Drink Coffee, Not Too Much, Mostly Black,” and when it comes to coffee, that phrase is a great starting point.

Drink coffee

But if you don’t like it, don’t drink it.

It might be healthy, but lots of things are healthy. Have tea for a warm drink, eat herbs, spices, and veggies for the anti-oxidants, and wake up with a good dose of morning sunshine!

Coffee can’t compete with that. Sorry, coffee.

Not too much

Studies on the health effects of coffee just keep coming. They tend to agree that one to four cups per day is about the limit. Even then, seek out a good quality decaf after the first couple of cups.

Oh, a cup of coffee is six ounces. A Starbucks tall is two cups, and don’t get me started on a venti!

Mostly black

I love black coffee when it’s an amazing roast, but I also like a little half and half. Enough to make it a sort of caramel color. I like a latte, but it’s a rare splurge. I don’t like it sweet and I hate flavorings.

Non-dairy creamers? Coffee is healthy, but you can easily ruin it. Creamers are often filled with sugars and sketchy ingredients like partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and trans-fats. Seriously read the labels.

Coffee IS healthy!

There will always be questions about whether a drink like coffee is healthy or not, and that’s actually a good thing. As much as I love coffee, I don’t want to kid myself that it’s healthy even when it’s not.

I’ll keep drinking, but I’ll also keep reading. For now it seems coffee is healthy, but still I’ll drink it, in moderation, and mostly black. But mostly with some half and half.

“Drink coffee, not too much, mostly black”


PS. You can ready everything we have to say about coffee, from the health benefits to how to make it taste its best, right here.

Studies & Links

Coffee Drinking and Mortality in 10 European Countries: A Multinational Cohort Study.

Association of Coffee Consumption With Total and Cause-Specific Mortality

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