The pros and cons of coffee

By Hae Young Yoo

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

It is no secret that Americans drink a lot of coffee. According to the National Coffee Association’s 2013 National Coffee Drinking Trends study, 83 percent of the country’s adult population drinks coffee, and a large portion of that percentage is made up of college students. Some students need only a single cup to wake up in the morning or to get that paper done by midnight, but there are others who depend on multiple caffeine rushes throughout the day to keep them sane and functioning. There has been much debate on how good coffee is for the human body, but here are some pros and cons to help illustrate the debate more clearly.

The pros
Caloric value

Although it is a bit boring, the classic black cup of coffee is very low in calories, with up to five calories per eight ounce cup. It’s the milk, sugar, cream and everything else that is added to coffee that often gives it the high calorie count and fat content. A Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks is a classic fall favorite, but a tall cup with whipped cream has about 360 calories, and a grande can have up to 480.


Coffee is rich in antioxidants, and according to a study done at the University of Scranton, it is the primary source of antioxidants in the diet of the average American citizen. The leader of the study, Joe Vinson, Ph.D. says, “Americans get more of their antioxidants from coffee than any other dietary source.” Antioxidants are essential because they protect the body against degenerative diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes. They are found in great quantities in foods like fruits and beans, but since most people choose to sip on a hot café latte or cappuccino instead, it is not surprising that the majority of antioxidant consumption comes from coffee drinking.

Feeling alert

Adenosine is a naturally occurring molecule in the brain that builds up during the day and produces feelings of tiredness when they bind to adenosine receptors. Drinking coffee makes people feel alive and invincible because caffeine so closely resembles adenosine that it can fit into its receptors and block them off. Caffeine also stimulates the nerves, which helps to improve mental performance, and increases the heart rate to pump more blood throughout the body.

The cons


Coffee has been associated with osteoporosis, a disease in which the bones become weak and break easily due to a lack of calcium. This is because the caffeine in coffee takes calcium away from the bones. A study in the journal Osteoporosis International concluded that drinking four cups of coffee or more a day was linked to a moderately increased risk of osteoporotic fractures, especially in women who do not get enough calcium in their diets.

Blood pressure
More research needs to be done, but studies have shown that there is a connection between chronic coffee drinking and higher blood pressure. The increase is not high, and people who already suffer from high blood pressure or hypertension are most likely to be affected.
A regular coffee drinker knows what can happen if he does not have his cup of coffee in the morning; he will have a headache and be far from his usually cheery self. When someone who drinks coffee daily tries to quit cold turkey, the withdrawal effects are more intense, with symptoms that include pounding headaches, feeling irritable, depression, nausea and anxiety. People get addicted to coffee not only because it makes them feel great, but also because the brain grows accustomed to functioning with all the caffeine.

Researchers will continue to study coffee and publish their findings, but coffee is not just the most popular and favorite drink among Americans. It has become a part of the culture in this country, and despite the cons, the fanatics who want their coffee will have it.

Hae Young Yoo can be reached at [email protected]