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Here's good news for coffee drinkers. Have another cup — for your health

PRI logo PRI 2/26/2015 T.J. Raphael, The Takeaway

Coffee: Many of us can't imagine life without it.

But is there a limit to how much we should drink? With a Starbucks on every corner, pots brewing in every office, and plenty of coffee being consumed at home, is it possible that Americans might be consuming too much coffee?

Rest easy, America — the answer is no. In fact, the nation’s top nutrition panel says coffee isn’t just OK to drink, but that maybe we should drink more of it. That's according to a new report from the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which advises the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture.

“We were looking at coffee because of the increase of all these different types of caffeine products that are out there,” says Miriam E. Nelson, a professor of nutrition at Tufts University and a member of the committee. “We really wanted to do a thorough review in case there was really some negative health impact from some of these products.”

© Julius Schorzman/Wikimedia Commons

In their newest report, Nelson and her colleagues had great news for all the coffee lovers out there.

“What we saw when we looked at all the evidence is that, in fact, two, three, four, or five cups of coffee a day — and I’m talking about eight ounce cups of coffee, not huge coffees — that in fact there’s a health benefit,” says Nelson. “Drinking coffee reduces your risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, liver and endometrial cancer and also probably Parkinson’s disease. It’s good news.”

Nelson says the average coffee drinker has about two to three cups of coffee every day. Though coffee connoisseurs may want to jump up and put on a second or third pot, Nelson stresses that coffee drinking only has positive benefits in moderation — she warns against “excessive” caffeine intake, which can be detrimental one’s health. Additionally, Nelson suggests that high caffeine shots or beverages can be dangerous.

“We need more research on this to really understand it, but the number of emergency room visits — especially in teenagers or young adults that might be adding these caffeine shots to alcoholic beverages — that’s a serious problem,” she says. “The good news here is really around plain old coffee drinking.”

Though upping your coffee intake from two cups to four cups could have health benefits, Nelson says consumers must be wary of what they’re putting in their coffee. Adding creamers loaded with fat and sugar adds increases calories that can negatively impact a person’s health.

“We do need to worry about the calories,” she says. “But coffee is a whole food and it’s a great food.”

Will Nelson be adding an extra cup of coffee into her morning routine? Don’t count on it.

“I’m actually a tea drinker,” she says.

This story first aired as an interview on PRI's The Takeaway, a public radio program that invites you to be part of the American conversation.

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