For some, coffee is an indispensable part of daily life–whether as a morning pick-me-up, an afternoon energy booster or simply a treat between meals. According to the National Coffee Association’s 2010 survey of coffee-drinking trends, 56 percent of Americans indulge in a cup of joe on a daily basis. Despite its popularity, the effects of this beverage are not always positive: Coffee carries several potential health risks for occasional and devoted drinkers alike.
Coffee, particularly when unfiltered, may increase serum and LDL cholesterol levels in some individuals. Unfiltered coffee contains two cholesterol-raising substances known as cafestol and kahweol, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. Although paper filters remove both substances from brewed coffee, consumers of unfiltered varieties may experience up to a 23 mg/dl rise in total cholesterol and a 14 mg/dl rise in LDL cholesterol. If you have high cholesterol, consider limiting or avoiding unfiltered coffee and opting for filtered versions instead.
For consumers of caffeinated coffee, boosted energy may come at a cost: Caffeine can sharply raise blood pressure levels, even for individuals whose blood pressure is typically normal. Consuming fully caffeinated coffee can substantially increase your blood pressure, although some people are more sensitive to caffeine’s effects than others. If you have high blood pressure, the Limit your coffee consumption to 24 oz. per day, and coffee before physical labor and vigorous exercise–both of which naturally raise blood pressure.
Coffee consumption is associated with increased homocysteine levels in the blood–a risk factor for cardiovascular diseases such as stroke, heart disease and peripheral vascular disease, the Linus Pauling Institute says. Although the exact link between coffee and elevated homocysteine is unclear, drinking four or more cups of coffee per day is likely to measurably raise homocysteine levels. Those at risk for cardiovascular disease may benefit from limiting coffee consumption.
Because caffeine is a diuretic, or a substance increasing urine production, drinkers of regular coffee are at risk of dehydration, the University of Arizona Campus Health website says. Engaging in vigorous exercise or living in an arid climate may make you especially sensitive to the dehydrating effects of coffee. Coffee consumers should make an effort to drink water or other caffeine-free beverages to stay fully hydrated, especially during and after exercise.
For frequent coffee drinkers, forgoing a cup of joe may cause more problems than drinking it. As the American Heart Association explains, caffeine withdrawal can strike 12 to 24 hours after a regular coffee drinker last consumes caffeine. Characterized by headaches, fatigue, depression, anxiety and drowsiness, caffeine withdrawal typically subsides within 48 hours or as soon as a coffee drinker gets his caffeine fix.