• Dr Karl says drinking coffee might actually be good for you. (Getty Images)
Coffee isn't the health culprit it's made out to be. According to Australia's most loved science communicator, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, drinking a few cups of coffee every day may be good for you.
By
Yasmin Noone

17 May 2019 - 9:12 AM  UPDATED 17 May 2019 - 9:18 AM

We all know that feeling. It’s the post-lunch dip and you’re lacking that special energetic spark you need to get you through your workday.

What you really need is a good strong coffee. But alas – the health guilt associated with ingesting another hit of the black stuff is strong. Besides, you’ve already had a few today.

The question is: should you go ahead and order another cup of coffee or is an extra cup bad for your health?

“And yet, people believe that the best way to get healthy is to give up coffee but overwhelmingly all the studies show that it is good for your health in moderate amounts.”

Science communicator and author, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki reassures us that drinking a few cups of coffee each day – minus the guilt – may actually be good for us. 

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“Have you ever had any friends who have ever said something along the lines of ‘gee its time to get healthy. I will give up coffee’?” Dr Karl asks SBS.

“Well coffee increases your life expectancy. Coffee improves your outcome if you have heart disease or prostate cancer. It also improves your outcome if you have tongue cancers and skin cancers.

“And yet, people believe that the best way to get healthy is to give up coffee but overwhelmingly all the studies show that it is good for your health in moderate amounts.”

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Type II diabetes and coffee

In Dr Karl’s book, The Doctor, he says research shows that coffee drinkers may have a reduced risk of type II diabetes.

“This finding comes from a meta-study of 28 other studies covering over 1 million adults,” he writes in The Doctor, released in 2017 by Macmillan Australia.

“People who drank three or more cups of coffee each day had their relative risk of developing type II diabetes lowered by 21 per cent – as compared to those who never, or only rarely, drank it."

He says decaffeinated coffee was also protective but not as much as coffee with caffeine.

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How much coffee is okay to drink?

A UK review of 200 studies, published in The BMJ in 2017, suggests drinking three to four cups of coffee a day is most likely to help your health rather than harm it.

The analysis of observational and interventional studies of coffee consumption and health outcomes revealed that coffee consumption was more often associated with benefit than harm for a range of health outcomes.

The review concluded that drinking three to four cups a day could lower your risk of death and diseases such as diabetes, liver disease, dementia, and heart disease.

More research is required to establish a causal link. The study’s authors also note there are two groups of people to whom the results do not apply: pregnant women and people at risk of fractures.

“Knowing the limits of what’s good for you and what’s not is imperative. As with many things, it’s all about moderation; overindulge and your health will pay for it.”

How much is too much when it comes to our heart health? 

New research from the University of South Australia (UniSA) pinpointed an upper limit on safe coffee consumption and cardiovascular health.

The UniSA study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition this month, shows the magic number where excess caffeine can cause high blood pressure, a precursor to heart disease in relatively healthy people is six cups.

Researchers analysed data of 347,077 participants aged 37-73 years from UK Biobank data, exploring the ability of the caffeine-metabolising gene (CYP1A2) to better process caffeine. They also identified increased risks of cardiovascular disease in line with coffee consumption and genetic variations.

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The results showed that drinking six or more coffees a day may increase your risk of heart disease by up to 22 per cent.

“Based on our data, six was the tipping point where caffeine started to negatively affect cardiovascular risk,” says UniSA researcher Professor Elina Hyppönen of the Australian Centre for Precision Health.

“In order to maintain a healthy heart and a healthy blood pressure, people must limit their coffees to fewer than six cups a day.

“Knowing the limits of what’s good for you and what’s not is imperative. As with many things, it’s all about moderation; overindulge and your health will pay for it.”


 

Who Do You Think You Are? is produced by Warner Bros. International Television Production Australia for SBS.  Australia’s favourite scientist, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki came to Australia as a refugee with his parents in 1950. An only child, Karl knows very little about his parent’s life before they emigrated. Following his only lead, Karl heads to Ukraine in Eastern Europe where he has found a small village that carries his surname. As he traces his parents’ footsteps, Karl will uncover buried truths, make unexpected connections, and finally bridge the gap to his parents’ past. Tune in for Dr Karl's episode on Tuesday 21 May on SBS and then via SBS On Demand.

The series airs at 7.30pm Tuesday nights on SBS and then via SBS On Demand. Join the conversation #WDYTYA

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