How Much Coffee Is Too Much Coffee? We Asked Doctors

FIT asked experts what health impacts coffee has on people, and here’s what they had to say.

4 min read

For far too many people, mornings begin with a cup of coffee. It could be a fresh brew, a cup of filter coffee, or just good-old regular instant coffee that sets the tone for the day, and also gives you enough energy to face your boss.

Coffee lovers will swear how they drink coffee not just for themselves, but also because the magic potion makes it easier for others to tolerate them.

But it is also a drink that comes with caution. Over time, people have been told that too much coffee can cause osteoporosis, or heart diseases, or cancer, or depression. Or worst of all, an addiction.

Is coffee really the root cause of all the world's evils (or a little less dramatically, everything that's wrong with your health)?

FIT asked experts what health impacts coffee has on people, and here’s what they had to say.


More to Coffee Than Just an Energy Boost

According to Ms Ruchika Jain, the chief clinical dietitian at Fortis Hospital, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi, the most commonly known health impact of coffee is that it affects our central nervous system – making us alert, and elevating our energy, mood, and ability to concentrate instantaneously. 

But, there’s more to coffee than just that. Ms Jain says:

“A lot of studies in the last decade have shown that coffee is healthy for us. Sure, it has caffeine, but it also contains polyphenols, magnesium components, and chlorogenic elements which are beneficial for us.”
A 2018 study, titled A Daily Cup of Tea or Coffee May Keep You Moving: Association between Tea and Coffee Consumption and Physical Activity, also said that people who drank coffee were 17 percent more likely to meet their physical activity goals for each day.

Ms Jain adds that coffee contains flavonoids, anti-oxidants, and anti-inflammatory elements which:

  • Have potent anti-cancer effects

  • Are beneficial for someone struggling with colon cancer

  • Are beneficial for liver health as they remove toxins

  • Can help in combatting several chronic, neurodegenerative, or old-age-induced diseases such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease

Apart from this, the polyphenols present in coffee have also been found useful when it comes to insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism, making it indirectly beneficial for diabetes patients.

Even a Harvard School of Public Health study in 2021 noted that moderate coffee intake (2-5 cups a day) can be "linked to a lower likelihood of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, liver and endometrial cancers, Parkinson’s disease, and depression. It’s even possible that people who drink coffee can reduce their risk of early death."

Dr Vineet Kumar Gupta, a senior consultant of Gastroenterology at Delhi’s Fortis Hospital, also shares that coffee consumption helps in the prevention of cirrhosis of liver and liver cancer, especially in people suffering from hepatitis C. He adds that coffee might even help people in losing weight.

But Coffee Is Still a 'Caution' Drink

Dr Bimal Chhajer, a cardiologist, former consultant at AIIMS, and the founder of Science and Art of Living Heart Institute, says that despite all its benefits, coffee is still a stimulant drink.

“Coffee immediately shoots up your blood pressure when you consume it. And a lot of people in this country already have high blood pressure.”
Dr Bimal Chhajer

Another study by the Harvard School of Public Health said that excessive consumption of coffee might cause anxiety, insomnia, and an increased heart rate in people.

Not just that, milk also increases the level of cholesterol in our bodies since it is an animal product. “And you use pure milk with coffee, you don’t dilute it with water, so the cholesterol levels also shoot up,” he adds. 

Ms Jain also adds that black coffee is slightly acidic because of its concentrated form and might cause heartburn and acidity in people.

According to a study titled Coffee and Gastrointestinal Function: Facts and Fiction: A Review, "Heartburn is the most frequently reported symptom after coffee drinking. It is demonstrated that coffee promotes gastro-oesophageal reflux. Coffee also prolongs the adaptive relaxation of the proximal stomach, suggesting that it might slow gastric emptying. Coffee induces cholecystokinin release and gallbladder contraction, which may explain why patients with symptomatic gallstones often avoid drinking coffee."

Apart from this, multiple peer-reviewed studies point that caffeine can also interfere with your body's calcium absorption procedure.



However, not all forms of coffee will have the same health impact on you. Since black coffee is the undiluted, purer form of coffee, it’s considered to be the healthiest.

Milk coffee, on the other hand, shares Ms Jain, has a higher calorie content since it might include sugar, cream, or other ingredients as well, and might lead to weight gain. And as the caffeine concentration is lower, the health benefits also decrease proportionately.

FIT asked experts what health impacts coffee has on people, and here’s what they had to say.


(Photo: Garima Sadhwani/The Quint)

Moderation Is Key, Coffee Lovers

While they might not agree to what extent coffee is healthy, both Dr Jain and Dr Chhajer feel that moderation is key when it comes to coffee consumption. 300-400 mg or 1-2 cups a day is enough. Any more than that and the benefits are trumped by overconsumption.

Ms Jain adds that coffee consumption should be especially monitored by pregnant and breastfeeding women, since coffee passes both through the placenta as well as breast milk and its side effects in these organs are not clearly known.

Along the lines of what Ms Jain said, a 2006 study, titled Coffee and Health: A Review of Recent Human Research, also recommended that pregnant women limit their coffee consumption to no more than 300 mg a day "to exclude any increased probability of spontaneous abortion or impaired fetal growth."

However, Dr Chhajer says one should still prefer tea to coffee since the former only has 1/4th the content of caffeine as compared to coffee.

Dr Gupta also feels that people should avoid dependency on caffeine since addiction to it might also cause headaches, anxiety, insomnia, acidity, restlessness, etc.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  coffee   Caffeine 

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