Answers to Google’s top health searches: Is coffee bad for you?

By Gregory Doyle, MD and Jason Oreskovich, DO

How would some of us get through the day without a cup of joe. But is it doing more harm than good?

Coffee is considered safe in moderate amounts of 3-4 cups a day, depending on caffeine content. Brewed coffee can have 80-140 milligrams of caffeine per cup, and 400 milligrams or less is considered safe. Lesser amounts are safe for adolescents. Moderate coffee consumption is safe for pregnant women – 200 milligrams per day. Most of the harmful effects from coffee include anxiety, panicky symptoms, stomach upset, and abnormal heartbeats in amounts greater than 480 milligrams a day.


Drinking coffee has several benefits including improved concentration and energy: it can help shift workers concentrate, minimize jet lag, and enhance work or athletic performance. Disease-fighting antioxidants in coffee may increase bone strength and decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, alcoholic cirrhosis, gout, and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Coffee drinkers may also experience a slight decrease of all causes of mortality.

The negative effects of caffeine dependence and abuse continue to be debated among experts, but caffeine does not cause serious withdrawal symptoms like drugs or alcohol. The central nervous system is stimulated by the caffeine in coffee, and regular consumption can cause a mild physical dependence. If you consume more than two cups of coffee a day and stop drinking coffee abruptly, you may experience the following symptoms for a day or two: anxiety, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, headache, and irritability.

Overall, it’s difficult to recommend for or against coffee, but keep in mind all of the generally positive effects of coffee when filling your morning to-go cup.

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