By Dr Mike Stowe

There has been plenty of hype about the health benefits of coffee, particularly after a new study by Harvard University has declared that drinking three cups of coffee a day (even decaf) could help you live longer.

According to Harvard School of Public Health, coffee contains hundreds of different compounds: some are good for human health; others aren’t. This complexity accounts for the fact that scientific opinion about coffee has been fickle in the past. The good news is that your coffee addiction probably is not bad for you (apart from the impact on your wallet) – but it falls short of being a health drink.

Let’s break it down by disease/condition and what is known:

Heart Disease
A Korean study published in the journal Heart last month showed that moderate consumption (drinking 3 to 5 cups of coffee a day) was associated with less calcium build-up in the arteries. But the study stops short of saying drinking coffee can prevent heart attacks. The new Harvard study suggests moderate coffee consumption reduces the risk of dying prematurely from heart disease.

The British Heart Foundation, however, urged caution about interpreting results from these studies as some other studies actually link coffee to risk factors like raised blood pressure and cholesterol, so more research is needed in this area.

The Harvard study also found that drinking up to 6 cups of coffee per day was safe and did not increase the chances of dying from any particular cause, including cancer or heart disease.

But closer reading of the study reveals it does not give the green light to rampant coffee consumption. The research involved men and women in their 40s and 50s who were healthy to start with, and was based on standard 240ml cups of coffee containing 100mg of caffeine with a little milk or sugar. Many of us buy larger cups of coffee containing as much as 330mg of caffeine per serve, which are often loaded with sugary flavourings and/or milk products.

Type 2 Diabetes

An American Diabetes Association review of coffee research last year found “strong” evidence that drinking 6 cups of coffee per day could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by 33 per cent for both men and women, and the new Harvard study backs this up.

However, the link is still unclear. Studies show the results are roughly the same for both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, suggesting an ingredient other than caffeine is responsible. Some studies also suggest that people who have diabetes and struggle to control their glucose levels might be better opting for decaffeinated coffee.

Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Multiple Sclerosis

Various studies have linked higher caffeine intake to a “significantly” reduced risk of developing diseases that involve degeneration of brains cells including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Multiple Sclerosis.

But researchers say the findings do not prove that coffee fights these conditions and that other factors might be involved. Again, more research is needed before doctors actually recommend drinking coffee to reduce the risk of developing these conditions.


It’s not a myth: coffee really does disrupt your sleep. Studies show that to enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep, avoid drinking coffee for at least 6 hours before going to bed.


Coffee also has a very social benefit, which is equally important for our mental well-being. Whether it’s a chat with a friend, a debrief after an event, or a medium for vigorous debate on the salvation of the world and its problems. Many a strategy has been hatched over a brewed bean.

So, do yourself a favor and catch up with a friend, colleague or family at your local café and enjoy a coffee!


If you’re looking for a great local coffee, check out best cafes in Williamstown.