Updated Jun 5, 2022 - Health

Coffee, the healthy indulgence

Illustration of a large coffee mug surrounded by a circle of smaller mugs.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Coffee is one of life’s rarest gifts: a pleasure that’s good for you.

Why it matters: Most things we indulge in — desserts, cocktails, fried food — aren’t the healthiest for us. But coffee is like a delicious cup of caffeinated medicine.

Oh, let us count the ways it helps us. It...

  1. Lengthens your life.
  2. Reduces the risk of dementia.
  3. Reduces the risk of stroke and heart failure.
  4. Protects against Type 2 diabetes, prostate cancer and liver disease.
  5. Boosts your mood, especially during wintertime when we have fewer hours of daylight.

The big picture: What surprised us most about coffee's benefits is that they seem to apply to all sorts of coffee drinkers. 

  • A new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that those who drank 1.5 to 3.5 cups a day — even sweetened with sugar — were 29% to 31% less likely to die than non-drinkers, Axios' Tina Reed writes.
  • Another recent study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, looked at people who drank one cup a day and those who drank a whopping eight cups a day, and also those who drank regular vs. decaf. Researchers found that all of them had a lower risk of death than non-coffee drinkers.

Yes, but: Know the limits.

  • Doctors typically recommend staying under 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, which is around four cups — or two mugs — of regular coffee. Teens should drink less.
  • Beware of when you drink your coffee. Caffeine too late in the day will disrupt the quantity and quality of your sleep, which can lead to its own health problems.
  • And beware of what you put in your coffee. Yes, a little cream and sugar is fine, but frappuccinos and macchiatos will quickly add to your daily calories.
  • Brew matters. Not all coffee preparations are the same. Unfiltered coffee — such as coffee made with a French press — has been linked to higher cholesterol levels.
  • Got more coffee questions? Send them to us at [email protected], and we'll get them answered.

The bottom line: We so rarely get a pass to enjoy something guilt-free. Coffee is one of the great universal pleasures, enjoyed across cultures from the U.S. to Norway, from Ethiopia to Vietnam and beyond.

Editor's note: This story originally published on June 1.

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