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Wake Up and Smell the Coffee: Health Benefits of Coffee Consumption

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​Dr. Peter Martin, Professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology and Director of the Vanderbilt Addiction Center and the Director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Coffee Studies talks about the Health Benefits of Coffee Consumption.

Learn more​ about the Vanderbilt Institute for Coffee Studies.

Begin Transcript

Laura Osterman:      Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt University Health and Wellness Wellcast.  I am Laura Osterman with Health Plus.   If you are sitting down with a cup of coffee, this news may make your day.  We are here for Dr. Peter Martin, Professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology and Director of the Vanderbilt Addiction Center and also the Director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Coffee Studies, and today, we are talking about the health benefits of coffee.  Thank you for joining us today.

Dr. Peter Martin:      It is my pleasure.

Laura Osterman:      Can you tell us what are the health benefits of coffee?

Dr. Peter Martin:      The health benefits of coffee are a long and interesting story.  Back in the old days when I was in medical school, I was taught that coffee was bad for me, and for many, many years that is what I believed until one day I was approached by some scientists in Brazil who felt that coffee was good for you and then he said, “Would we start an institute for coffee studies here at Vanderbilt?” And my answer to them was, “Well, I am not sure.  I was taught that coffee was bad for you.”  What came out of all of this is I started reading, and it was very clear to me that the only reason that everyone was taught that coffee was bad for them was that the original studies done on the topic were poorly done.  That is, people looked at individuals who drank coffee, and if you know, a lot of the people who drink coffee also smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol, and it was the bad effects of the alcohol and cigarettes that were present in those early epidemiologic studies.  In later studies, when they statistically factored out lifestyle variables it became clear that coffee is not harmful for you; if anything, it actually beneficial; and in fact, there was study in the New England Journal about 2011 or 2012, which said that coffee drinking is associated with better health outcomes for almost all illnesses.  There are good studies to show that coffee drinking is protective for things like type 2 diabetes.  There are studies showing protective effects in cancer, in some forms of heart disease, and as I said, the most recent data suggests that it is beneficial for almost all causes mortality.  So, if you enjoy coffee, don’t fret.  It is actually potentially good for you.

Laura Osterman:      And that is good news I think to many of our listeners.  Now, are there any considerations for adverse health effects of coffee?

Dr. Peter Martin:      Well, once again, remember what I said.  We were taught that coffee was bad for you.  Even most doctors when you go and see them now, especially if they have a little bit of a gray hair, they will tell you just stop drinking coffee, particularly if you are have stomach problems or if you have heart rhythm abnormalities, but actually if you enjoy coffee and you can sleep, then there is no reason why you should not drink it.  Of course, I don’t want to usurp your doctor. My interest in coffee has to do with a variety of other things like, for example, coffee may have anti-depressant effects, coffee may reduce the likelihood of relapse in people who are alcoholics.  These are studies, some of these studies we have done ourselves, and others have been done throughout the world, for example, it has been demonstrated that people who drink coffee may have lower rates of suicide, particularly women from the study done in Boston where they looked at 50,000 or so nurses and showed an association between coffee drinking and lower rates of suicide, so not only a variety of physical illnesses but also mental illnesses are beneficially influenced by coffee consumption.

Laura Osterman:      Are there recommendations for how much coffee to drink to get the health benefits?

Dr. Peter Martin:      Most of my patients ask me, “How many cups of coffee can I drink?”  That is the kind of standard question.  If one is good, is 50 better, and my answer always is drink as much as you enjoy, and if you cannot sleep at night, drop the last cup of coffee during the day that you have been drinking, and keep on doing that until you get a full night’s sleep, and then you can drink as much as you want.

Laura Osterman:      Now, we have talked about these benefits to drinking coffee.  Is it better to drink your coffee black or is it okay to add things to it?  How do you drink your coffee?

Dr. Peter Martin:      Let me tell you that if you want you can make your coffee as unhealthy as any drink you want.  By adding a lot of sugar and cream, you are defeating the purpose of its health benefit.  Good coffee tastes excellent black without any sugar or milk or cream, and in fact that is how I love to drink coffee.  You get fine coffee that is only moderately roasted, not over roasted, where all the healthy components of the coffee have not been degraded by over roasting.

Laura Osterman:      Great.  So, enjoy that black cup of coffee for the most health benefits.  Thank you so much for your time today.

Dr. Peter Martin:      It is my pleasure to speak with you.

Laura Osterman:      Thanks for listening.  Please feel free to leave us any comments on this Wellcast on the form at the bottom of this page.  If you have a story or suggestion, please e-mail it to us at or you can use the “Contact Us” page on our website at

— end of recording —

Posted on Friday, March 6, 2015 in Health Plus, Wellcasts and tagged ,


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