For many coffee is a part of the daily routine, but often it is unclear where it sits in the dietary pecking order when media reports often boast or frown upon its nutritional value (or lack thereof).
Yet, according to the CEO for Nutrition Australia, Lucinda Hancock, that’s because it depends on the amount you’re drinking daily.
“Like any food or drink, coffee can be both beneficial and harmful depending on the dose,” says Ms Hancock.
“Many research findings have explored the harmful effects of coffee when consumed in large amounts, reporting a decrease in coffee would be beneficial. So too, research findings have found moderate consumption can actually be beneficial (as detailed above) and recommend safe consumption for positive health effects.”
While a small dosage of coffee would be less than 100mgs/one small (eight-ounce) cup of takeaway coffee a day, a moderate dosage would be 3-400mgs (3-4 cups per day), while anything above 400mgs (4 cups or more) would be considered a “high dosage”.
As a result, there is plenty of variability in how one could healthily manage their coffee consumption, and as a result, plenty of myths that need to be debunked, as Ms Hancock explains below:
Aside from stimulatory effects, there are no nutritional benefits of coffee
Coffee contains riboflavin, niacin, and rich antioxidants, with espresso-made coffee extracting 80% of the antioxidants contained within coffee beans, Ms Hancock explains.
“The antioxidants in coffee have been found to lower the risk of some cancers, as they reduce free radicals in the body and have a protective role against DNA damage,” she adds.
Coffee makes you dehydrated
“When consumed in moderation, coffee has no effect on a healthy adult body’s ability to maintain our fluid balance and does not contribute to dehydration when water is consumed in adequate amounts throughout the day,” Ms Hancock says.
“It’s important to note coffee consumed in replacement of water can contribute to dehydration. However, this is due to the lack of water consumed, as opposed to the caffeine diuretic effect.”
Coffee consumption can put stress on the heart
While this is an issue for people who consume excessive coffee, Ms Hancock says that research has found its effects on other coffee drinkers are non-existent.
“While consumption of caffeine in excess (more than 8 cups per day) can increase blood pressure (BP), caffeine has no effect on the BP of habitual coffee drinkers and on people who consume greater than or equal to 400mg per day (ie. three to four small cups of coffee),” she explains.
Coffee gives you anxiety
Ms Hancock says that while research has found large amounts of coffee consumed in a day (ie. eight or more cups) can slightly elevate anxiety symptoms, low to moderate amounts of coffee do not affect anxiety symptoms.
Coffee consumption can cause an increased risk of bone fractures
An increased risk of fracture (54%) has been associated with caffeine consumption of greater than or equal to eight cups per day. However, Ms Hancock says that a literature review of 14 different studies on caffeine’s effects on calcium levels found no correlation between coffee consumption and reduced bone density for up to 400mg of caffeine consumption a day.
Yet, while the negation of these myths does imply some benefits to drinking coffee, Ms Hancock recommends that coffee drinkers investigate and consider information that acknowledges the specifics of their circumstances.
“There are many factors that can influence how a person responds to coffee. Genetics, age, sex, weight and underlying conditions are just some of the factors that influence a person,” she says.
For more evidence-based information on food and drink consumption, Lucinda Hancock and Nutrition Australia have recommended the following resources:
- The Australian Dietary Guidelines
- The Nutrition Australia Website
- The CSIRO Website
- Tim Crowe’s Thinking Nutrition Podcast (Episode 4: Coffee, available on Apple & Spotify Podcasts)
- For the more research-oriented, the “A Comprehensive Overview of the Risks and Benefits of Coffee Consumption” literature review, published in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, is also suggested.