Black coffee is a healthy, low-calorie drink you can enjoy hot or cold. Although it has been the subject of some controversy over the years, studies have shown that coffee may decrease the risk of developing cancer, type 2 diabetes and Parkinson's disease.
Drinking moderate amounts of coffee can yield many health benefits, including increasing mental alertness and decreasing the risk of many serious health conditions.
Health Benefits of Coffee
Coffee has become a great way to start the day for a reason. Drinking coffee has been shown to contribute to increased alertness, faster processing of visual information and enhanced mood, notes a study published in the September 2018 edition of Nutrients. While some of these effects may be attributed to caffeine, researchers noted that individuals who consumed decaffeinated coffee also experienced some benefits. Coffee contains more than a thousand chemical compounds which may also contribute to the positive benefits.
Read more: How Well Does Coffee Keep You Awake?
Studies show that coffee may decrease the risk of developing certain types of cancers, advises Harvard University's School of Public Health. For example, a study published in the April 2016 edition of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention showed that drinking coffee significantly reduces the risk of developing colorectal cancer.
Coffee may also decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, notes an article published in the August 2013 edition of European Endocrinology. Researchers do not yet understand how coffee affects the body to help prevent diabetes, but it may be due to stimulating chemicals that decrease glucose absorption or from the anti-inflammatory effects of coffee.
The paper in European Endocrinology also notes other possible health benefits of drinking coffee. There is a correlation between drinking coffee and decreasing the risk of developing:
- Alcoholic cirrhosis
- Hepatic fibrosis
- Parkinson's disease
In addition to its other health benefits, black coffee is a beverage that won't derail your weight loss or maintenance plan. According to the USDA, one eight-ounce cup of brewed coffee contains only 2 calories and 94.8 milligrams of caffeine. It is also a good source of magnesium and vitamin B2, notes Harvard University, School of Public Health.
Dressing up your coffee with creamer, sugar and flavors can turn a healthy beverage into a high-calorie, high-carbohydrate drink.
Coffee Health Risks
Despite the benefits, there are also some reasons why coffee is bad for you. Coffee may have negative health effects if consumed during pregnancy, notes the paper in European Endocrinology. Pregnant women should not consume more than 200 milligrams of caffeine, or two cups of coffee per day, advises Harvard University, School of Public Health. Drinking large amounts of coffee during pregnancy may increase the risk of:
- Anemia in both the mother and infant
Caffeine in moderation, which the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notes is approximately 400 milligrams, or four to five cups black coffee each day, does not have negative effects for most people. However, some individuals are more sensitive to caffeine than others. If you are sensitive to caffeine, consider drinking decaffeinated black coffee, which only contains two to 15 milligrams of caffeine.
Read more: How Many Cups of Coffee Can You Drink a Day?
If you consume too much caffeine, you may experience side effects including:
- Rapid heart rate
- Difficulty sleeping
Toxic levels of caffeine may occur if you quickly consume 1,200 milligrams or more. This may lead to seizures or even death. You are unlikely to reach toxic levels of caffeine from black coffee alone. These side effects are most often seen in cases when individuals added concentrated powdered or liquid caffeine to their drinks.
- USDA: "Nutrition Facts for Coffee"
- FDA: "Spilling the Beans: How Much Caffeine is Too Much?"
- Harvard University, School of Public Health: "Coffee"
- Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, April 2016: "Coffee Consumption and the Risk of Colorectal Cancer"
- European Endocrinology: "The Emerging Health Benefits of Coffee with an Emphasis on Type 2 Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease"
- Nutrients: "The Acute Effects of Caffeinated Black Coffee on Cognition and Mood in Healthy Young and Older Adults"