A new review of existing studies by the BMJ (British Medical Journal) concludes that moderate coffee consumption may offer health benefits, including a lower risk of cancer, liver disease, and death from a stroke. However, researchers remain uncertain of a direct correlation with coffee consumption, according to BBC News. The review also concluded that large amounts of coffee consumption during pregnancy could pose risks.
Experts still advised against starting to drink coffee specifically for health reasons.
The review, by researchers at the University of Southampton, examined over 200 mostly observational studies on the impact of coffee on various aspects of human health.
It appeared that coffee drinkers who drank about three cups a day had a lower risk of heart problems or dying from them compared with non-coffee drinkers. The strongest evidence in the review pointed to a reduced risk of liver disease such as cancer.
According to one of the study’s co-authors, Professor Paul Roderick of the University of Southampton, the review could not definitively conclude that coffee consumption was instrumental in the difference.
“Factors such as age, whether people smoked or not and how much exercise they took could all have had an effect,” said Roderick.
The review’s conclusions line up with other recent research on the health effects of coffee consumption, adding an overall bright picture of the healthfulness of moderate coffee intake. Other than pregnant women, who should limit intake to 200 milligrams due to increased risk of miscarriages, adults can consider moderate caffeine intake to be as high as 400 milligrams. Typically, this will mean three to four cups of coffee each day.
“There is a balance of risks in life, and the benefits of moderate consumption of coffee seem to outweigh the risks,” Roderick added.
The researchers also cautioned against the consumption of coffee drinks with a lot of sugar, milk, or cream, or pairing your coffee with high-fat snacks on the side. They also call for new clinical trials to find out more about the health effects of coffee.
While they said it was difficult to describe with certainty exactly how coffee makes its positive impact on the body, they speculated it might be due to anti-oxidants and anti-fibrotics, both of which can protect cells from damage.