Coffee helps to prevent a multitude of conditions, including heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, a major UK study has found.
Around three cups a day also reduces the chance of an early death by 17 percent, as well as warding off liver disease and dementia, say scientists.
The University of Southampton researchers, whose report was published in the British Medical Journal, found that drinking coffee in moderation is ‘more likely to benefit health than harm’.
The scientists believe the antioxidant plant compounds in coffee are responsible for the benefits.
Decaffeinated coffee has a similar impact to the standard version, they found, suggesting that it is not the caffeine which helps to prevent disease.
‘Roasted coffee is a complex mixture of over 1,000 bioactive compounds, some with potentially therapeutic antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antifibrotic, or anticancer effects,’ they wrote.
The research team, which also included experts from the University of Edinburgh, reviewed all the available evidence on coffee consumption, combining the findings of 201 published studies. They found it had a major impact on heart problems, cutting the risk of developing cardiovascular disease by 15 percent and slashing the chance of a cardiovascular death by 19 percent.
It also cuts the risk of liver cancer by 34 percent and bowel cancer by 17 percent.
Coffee drinkers have a 36 percent lower chance of developing Parkinson’s disease and a 27 percent lower risk of Alzheimer’s, they found. They wrote: ‘Coffee is highly consumed worldwide and could have positive health benefits, especially in chronic liver disease.
‘Coffee consumption seems generally safe within usual levels of intake, with summary estimates indicating largest risk reduction for various health outcomes at three to four cups a day, and more likely to benefit health than harm.’
But they stressed their findings do not mean it is good for everyone. For example, coffee seems to increase the risk of leukaemia, lymphoma and lung cancer.
And pregnant women are at greater risk of losing their baby if they drink too much of it.
The researchers also found that those who drank more than three cups a day did not tend to see any additional benefits.
The European Food Safety Agency advises drinking no more than four cups a day. In an editorial published in the BMJ, Eliseo Guallar, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said people should not start drinking coffee for health reasons.
While overall it may be beneficial, some people may be at higher risk of adverse effects, he said. He added that coffee is often drunk with sugar and milk or cream, which ‘may independently contribute to adverse health outcomes’.