Coffee with caffeine is good for you at the right time and in the right amounts.

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By Cheryl Achterberg, Ph.D.

Kudos for Coffee! In case you hadn’t heard, coffee is considered good for you according to the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. It increases alertness, gets us going in the morning, enhances productivity, and protects us from several serious and stressful diseases.

Coffee consumption is associated with decreased risk for all causes of mortality according to the New England Journal of Medicine. Coffee is specifically associated with a 25% decreased risk for colon cancer, a lowered risk of Alzheimer’s disease as well as Parkinson’s disease and lowered stroke risk. One to two cups of day wards off heart failure according to John Hopkins School of Medicine. Caffeine is one component that is beneficial, opening blood vessels to the brain, but there are other components in coffee that are beneficial as well. The specifics are unclear, but decaffeinated coffee does not produce the same outcomes.

If you are a coffee drinker, there are upper limits. Up to 400mg of caffeine per day is considered safe, though sensitivity varies among individuals. The apparent benefits top out at 4-5 cups/day for men, less for women. Some of the negative side effects include sleeplessness, anxiety, jittery feelings, an upset or “acid stomach,” and esophageal reflux. My mother used to drink as many as 17 cups of coffee/day. Don’t do that. I don’t think she had a good night’s sleep in 40 years.

I’m often asked about tea. A cup of brewed black tea has about half as much caffeine (47mg) as a cup of brewed black coffee (96mg). A cup of brewed green tea has only 28mg. Eight ounces of a cola drink has 22mg of caffeine, but most people drink much more than eight ounces. Energy drinks have a bit more caffeine at 29mg according to Mayo Clinic.

Tea does not have the same health benefits as coffee does. Teas help prevent cancer and heart disease (depending on the kind of tea and amount). It can also interfere with iron absorption, so don’t drink with meals. Coffee decreases the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and enhances alertness and possibly, learning, in moderate amounts. But neither coffee nor tea are healthy in large amounts. Keep track of your intake! Remember, 400mg of caffeine per day should be the maximum consumed .


Freedman, Neal D., Yikyung Park, Christian Abnet, et al. Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality. New England Journal of Medicine 2012; 366(20):1891-1984. May 17, 2010.

Cheryl Achterberg, Ph.D. is a blogger, author, dog lover, nutritionist, and retired dean from The Ohio State University College of Education and Human Ecology. She has published dozens of scientific papers and maintains a blog for dementia caregivers at

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