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Coffee – The good, the bad and the caffeinated

Coffee receives all sorts of conflicting press and for good reason. Like many substances, there are benefits and a down side to your morning beverage.

The effect of coffee will depend on factors that are attributed to the coffee itself and the individual consuming it. (refer to Figure 1). Short term effects are probably more well known than the long term ones and this is because the latter is harder to measure and predict. Additionally, the evidence is not quite to where it needs to be, but is pointing towards benefits from drinking small amounts.

It is likely that reading the evidence available on coffee vs health won’t change your mind about drinking it. It might however initiate thought about the quantity you drink as well when & why you drink it.

What we do know

Negatives of coffee consumption:

  • Can interrupt sleep patterns

  • Can exacerbate fatigue

  • May increase blood pressure

  • Not recommended during pregnancy and breastfeeding

  • Encourages a reliance on caffeine consumption

  • Withdrawal can be uncomfortable

  • Consumption is reported by people with many different serious health conditions

  • Poorly tolerated by some individuals with a specific genetic marker

  • More research is needed to identify any links to long term health issues

On the positive side:

  • Gets your bowels moving

  • Improves mood

  • Helps with alertness / counteracts sleepiness

  • No proof that it increases the risk of any type of cancer

  • Contains antioxidants which is promising for neurological disorders

  • It is not as acidic as expected – sitting around pH 5

  • Improves symptoms in Parkinson’s patients

  • Can improve sports performance short term

When looking at the copious amounts of research, it seems that drinking larger amounts (estimated to be anything over 4 cups a day), may lead to health concerns. When consumed in modest amounts, there is little to no effect on health, while others drinking small amounts may be of benefit long term. Additives to your coffee such as milk and sugar are also going to change things slightly. Milk adds some essential nutrients while sugar doesn't provide any health benefits.

How can coffee be used effectively?

1. Don’t use it to mask other problems.

If coffee is being used to overcome constant tiredness in the morning - review your sleep habits. Relying on coffee to function is like your car always having an almost empty gas tank. Only petrol can replenish the fuel supply, nothing else. Coffee can't replace sleep. Getting at least 8 hours sleep will refill your tank.

2. Get the timing right.

Caffeine will always affect the sleep/wake cycle no matter what time it is consumed. The closer to sleep, the more likely it will have an adverse affect. Many experts say to cut yourself off by 2pm, but often I advise people to stop at midday especially where there are extreme sleep and fatigue problems.

If you get to your cut-off time and haven’t had your coffee, consider skipping it or reducing your normal quantity of cups.

3. Adjust accordingly

Your regular coffee routine might not sit well every day so adjust as necessary. If you wake up refreshed, consider your need for it that day or consider consuming less. It’s often we drink it out of habit instead out of necessity.

For more targeted advice suited to you, including assistance with Nutrition and Dietary choices, please get in touch via my website, via phone or email at

Purple Tree Therapies is located in New Farm but I can also do video consultations via Zoom.


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