Coffee Might Not Be So Bad For You, According To A New Study

Whether it's due to its high caffeine content, its potentially sky-high sugar amounts, or some sort of general cultural consensus, coffee is not often seen as a "health" food by most approximations. Is this a mistake, though? Could coffee actually be a very positive, healthy beverage? Should we not begrudge those who "need" multiple cups per day in order to function, instead extolling their coffee choices for their health perks?

CNN Health notes that two or three cups of most types of coffee daily can prevent cardiovascular disease and early death. The author of the study, Peter Kistler, is the head of clinical electrophysiology research at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, as well as the head of electrophysiology at Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. The study researched decaffeinated, instant, and ground coffees and found that in the bulk of situations, there were "significant reductions" in coronary heart disease, stroke, and congestive heart failure risks. The report also notes that previous studies reported additional positive responses, including lowered risk of heart disease, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Type 2 diabetes, liver disease, and prostate cancer.

How was the study performed?

The study asked nearly 450,000 adults about their level of coffee consumption, analyzing caffeinated coffee drinkers, caffeinated instant coffee drinks, non-caffeinated coffee drinkers, and non-coffee drinkers (per CNN Health). After 12.5 years, the researchers found that all types of coffee led to a reduction in death. Kistler notes that while many associate coffee with caffeine only, the beverage actually contains a slew of other "biologically active components" which can also account for positive health changes. One of the largest findings of the study notes that ground coffee consumption led to a 27% lower risk of death (via CNN).

While this news is certainly positive, more research is needed to specifically identify the precise reasonings behind these findings. Annette Creedon, of the British Nutrition Foundation, told CNN that coffee can also have negative reactions in people with sleep issues or uncontrolled diabetes, who may not react well to high-caffeinated beverages.

The pros and cons of coffee drinking

Furthermore, the notion of 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day leaves a wide range. Is that black only? Does it contain sugar, milk, or creamer? Does it contain foams or syrups? These variables can severely impact the "healthfulness" of a cup of coffee. CNN Health reports that coffee brewing can even change the nutritional makeup of the brew, which throws yet another wrench into the study.

Conversely, though, it should also be noted that caffeine overall can have negative affects on the heart. As noted by OSF Healthcare, "caffeine increases heart rate and blood pressure, and too much of it can cause anxiety, insomnia, headaches, stomach irritation, and an irregular heartbeat." It also doesn't help that caffeine can be addictive. OSF Healthcare notes that 400 mg of caffeine should be the absolute maximum limit of consumption per day, which equals an estimated 4 cups of coffee. In addition, it's unwise to suddenly start consuming copious amounts of coffee if you've not been a regular drinker. Lastly, it's also worth acknowledging that a ton of coffee is not a cure-all for heart health, so maintaining a proper diet and active lifestyle is also always paramount.

Final takeaways

According to Anna Koulova, a cardiologist and the Director of Cardiac MRI at Stamford Health, who notes that, "If you're already a healthy person who drinks coffee and feels well, there is no reason to make any changes. Similarly, if you're a healthy person who doesn't drink coffee, there's no reason to pick up the habit now."

Charlotte Mills, of the University of Reading in the U.K., asks, "does coffee make you healthy or do inherently healthier people consume coffee?" While that's unclear for now, there will be additional, controlled studied conducted in order to better prove a direct causation (via CNN).

One thing is for certain, the health benefits of coffee can be supremely beneficial, but for those with sensitivities to caffeine, it can be a bit hazardous. For those who enjoy a cup of joe, rest assured that your second — or third — cup of coffee today might actually be a pretty good investment in your heart health.