Is coffee your friend or foe? What the latest studies say

The headlines run thick and fast:

Excess coffee consumption increases the risk of heart disease

Can coffee cure a headache or is it the culprit?

Coffee three times a day could prevent clogged arteries

Can drinking coffee lengthen your life?

They’re just some of the titles on reports about new studies investigating the health benefits or dangers of drinking coffee. And given coffee is almost a ritual for many people, interest is intense.

One of the more recent – and eye-catching – reports was this one in The Australian: Coffee, tea found to ward off dementia.

Read: Are you drinking your coffee too early?

It was explaining a new study that claimed “drinking coffee and tea may slash your risk of having a stroke or developing dementia”.

“While drinking coffee or tea alone had benefits, the most effect came with drinking both beverages,” the news item continued. “Four to six cups a day of both coffee and tea was the sweet spot for reducing risk of disease.”

But before you reach for the coffee beans and the teapot and set yourself to drink, drink, drink, a research check by PhD candidate Lachlan Van Schaik and postdoctoral fellow in neurocognitive ageing Greg Kennedy published in The Conversation gives pause for thought.

Read: Coffee alternative is a win-win

They specifically looked at whether six cups of coffee a day could shrink brain volume and increase the risk of dementia and whether drinking coffee in moderation decreases the risk of dementia.

They delved into the detail, writing: “Researchers from Australia and the United Kingdom found this level of coffee consumption [six cups per day] is associated with smaller total brain volume and a 53 per cent increased risk of dementia. But they didn’t show high caffeine intake causes dementia, and they note this study cannot confirm the underlying reason for the association.”

Overall, they found the more coffee participants consumed daily, the smaller their total brain volume.

But – people who didn’t drink coffee, or drank decaf, showed slightly higher odds of developing dementia than people who drank a moderate amount of coffee. The odds of dementia were significantly higher for those who drank more than six cups daily.

Read: Four coffee machines to avoid purchasing

So what’s the take-home message?

Drs Kennedy and Van Schaik say that such findings help to formulate questions for future research.

“There’s a body of evidence suggesting drinking coffee is beneficial for health, reducing the risk of diabetes and heart disease, and improving metabolism and cognition,” they wrote.

“As with most things in life, the amount matters. So while the findings here aren’t cause for alarm, if you’re drinking six cups of coffee or more a day, you might want to think about drinking a little less. Perhaps one to three cups daily.”

Are you a big coffee drinker? Do you need to moderate your consumption? Should you start drinking coffee? Why not share your experience in the comments section below?

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Written by Janelle Ward

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