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Table of Contents > Articles > Coffee's Bad Reputation Questioned
Coffee's Bad Reputation Questioned

If you're a coffee drinker who's been worrying about whether that steaming cup of java is a present pleasure for which you'll have to pay in the long-run, fret no more. Two recent studies suggest that coffee may in fact be a boon to your health.

Coffee's reputation as contributing to heart disease and cancer is now being challenged by two recent studies. One, a large study from Finland published in the Archives of Internal Medicine suggests that this reputation is undeserved. A second study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that drinking coffee may actually confer some protection against bladder cancer, a cancer most often associated with cigarette smoking.

People in the northern country of Finland appear to be the biggest coffee drinkers in the world; their daily intake of coffee is, on average, higher than in any other country. When researchers at the University of Helsinki in Finland surveyed more than 20,000 Finnish adults, they found that the average respondent drank between five and six cups of coffee per day. In a country where coffee is so popular, they were concerned. They wanted to know if it is true that habitual coffee drinking linked to coronary heart disease (CHD). Their findings may come as a surprise: Coffee drinking did not increase the risk of CHD; the highest CHD death rates were among those who did not drink coffee at all. In male coffee drinkers, there was a slightly increased risk of CHD in heavy coffee drinkers, a risk that researchers suggest is most likely the result of cigarette smoking or high cholesterol, rather than the coffee drinking itself.

Warmer climes were the setting for the second study in which researchers recruited just under 500 patients from several hospitals in Spain, each of whom had been diagnosed with bladder cancer. Each patient was interviewed about employment history, tobacco use, exposure to environmental tobacco smoke, and diet, including coffee consumption. Results of these interviews suggest that smoking, not coffee drinking, is the principal risk factor for bladder cancer. Smokers who did not drink coffee were seven times as likely to develop the disease than non-smokers. Interestingly, smokers who drank coffee were only three times as likely to develop bladder cancer as non-smoking coffee drinkers. The researchers note other studies suggesting that caffeine has a protective effect where some types of cancer are concerned. The results of the Spanish study suggest that drinking coffee may afford "a certain protection against the carcinogenic risk associated with smoking."

While these studies suggest that moderate coffee drinking may actually be good for you, it is important to note that the results of both studies are preliminary. As always, you should be sure to discuss any significant dietary changes, including coffee consumption, with your healthcare provider.


Kleemola P, Jousilahti P, Pietinen P, Vartiainen E, Tuomilehto J. Coffee consumption and the risk of coronary heart disease and death. Arch Intern Med. 2000;160:3393-3400.

Lopez-Abenta G, Escolar A. Tobacco consumption and bladder cancer in non-coffee drinkers. Epidemiol Community Health. 2001;55:68-70.

Review Date: December 2000
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

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