Coffee: Superfood or Death Sentence?

Earlier this year, I outlined some of the amazing health benefits associated with regular coffee consumption.  These include a decrease risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and endometrial cancer; pain reduction as among its benefits too.

Now, new research from the Mayo Clinic (1) makes us pause and reflect on how much is too much of a good thing.  I often hammer that old adage, “all things in moderation;” in this case, moderation appears to be 4 cups of coffee per day.  More than that raises the risk of death for people under age 55.

Researchers looked at data from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study, which examined dietary habits and health data from over 43,000 participants over the course of 31 years.  For folks under the age of 55 who drank more than 28 cups of coffee per week, all-cause mortality risk increased by over 50% for men, and more than doubled for women.  The direct cause of this association is unknown, but seems to be unrelated to coffees cardiovascular effects.

One of the important points to keep in mind is that a “cup” in this study is defined as 8 fluid ounces; the cutoff point therefore seems to be about 32 ounces per day.  The “cup” markers on your coffee pot are 6 ounces each, so the limit would be about five of those cups.  If you prefer to get your coffee on the go, this would translate into only two “grandes.”

This study leaves a lot of questions, such as the association of caffeine on health (the study didn’t differentiate between regular and decaf coffee), the actual biological mechanisms of coffee (it has hundreds of phytochemicals besides caffeine), and the confounding factor of smoking with coffee consumption.  In the meantime…  Come on, people, four cups per day should be plenty for anyone.  In fact, beyond the first one or two cups of the day, why not explore the benefits of other healthful beverages such as green tea?

1.  Liu J, Sui X, Lavie CJ, et al. Association of coffee consumption with all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality.Mayo Clin Proc 2013; DOI:10.1016/j.mayocp.2013.06.020.

Leave a Comment