Clinical Edge

Summaries of Must-Read Clinical Literature, Guidelines, and FDA Actions

Is Coffee Consumption Safe at All Levels?

BMJ; ePub 2017 Nov 22; Poole, Kennedy, et al

Coffee consumption is generally safe, and in fact very healthy, within usual levels of intake, except during pregnancy and in women at increased risk of fracture, a recent study found. This according to a review of meta-analyses of observational and interventional studies of coffee consumption and a range of health outcomes. The review identified 201 meta-analyses of observational research which looked at 67 unique health outcomes and 17 meta-analyses of interventional research with 9 unique outcomes. Researchers found:

  • Coffee consumption was more often associated with benefit than harm for a range of health outcomes across multiple exposures.
  • Coffee consumption led to a lower risk for all-cause mortality, cardiovascular (CV) mortality, and total cancer, as well as a lower risk of specific cancers, including prostate cancer, endometrial cancer, melanoma, non-melanoma skin cancer, and liver cancer.
  • Coffee consumption also decreased the risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, gallstones,gout, and renal stones, and for liver conditions including hepatic fibrosis, cirrhosis, cirrhosis mortality, and chronic liver disease.
  • Summary estimates indicate the largest risk reduction for various health outcomes at 3-4 cups per day vs none, including all-cause mortality, CV mortality, and CVD.
  • High vs low consumption was associated with an 18% lower risk of incident cancer.
  • There was an association between coffee drinking and risk of fracture in women, but not in men.


Poole R, Kennedy OJ, Roderick P, Fallowfield JA, Hayes PC, Parkes J. Coffee consumption and health: Umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes. [Published online ahead of print November 22, 2017]. BMJ. 2017;359:j5024. doi:10.1136/bmj.j5024.


Finally an enjoyable habit that is good for you! Robust data across multiple data sources, scores of studies, and literally dozens of meta-analyses shows drinking coffee is not only enjoyable and gives you energy, but is actually healthy for you. This association between coffee consumption and improved outcomes is apparent within the range, 1- 4 cups of coffee a day, that most people drink. The article itself is an interesting read for those who are interested, as it discusses some of the underlying pathophysiologic reasons that explain the positive effects seen with coffee, ranging from the antioxidants in coffee and how they might decrease heart disease to obscure chemicals in coffee that might explain its anti-carcinogenic effects. —Neil Skolnik, MD