Doctors Say You Shouldn’t Start Drinking Coffee Just Because It Sounds Super-Healthy

Call it the glass-entirely-empty view.
Call it the glass-entirely-empty view. Photo: Shilo Studio

Go ahead and extend coffee’s magic-elixir status to the most impressive beneficiaries of all: People who’ve never even drunk it. Sure, a cup of joe may prevent cirrhosis, fix ED, and add years to your life, but what about the one-third of Americans who choose to forgo those amazing benefits? In its benevolence, coffee gives the coffee-abstinent crowd a sort of consolation prize, the Times’ Well blog points out in a piece about whether everyone should jump on the caffeine bandwagon:

Coffee has been linked to, among other things, reducing tinnitus risk, increasing driver safety, cutting melanoma risk, galvanizing workouts, surviving colon cancer, living a longer life and avoiding death.

The medical consensus seems clear: Coffee is not unhealthy.

But experts tend to stop short of suggesting the uncaffeinated among us add it to our diets.

“It’s one thing to say it’s safe,” said Dr. Rob van Dam, an adjunct associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard University. “It’s another thing to recommend it as a medical choice even though people don’t like it and they’d have to make an effort to adopt it. We’d need a different level of evidence to recommend it to people.”

The director of the Mayo Clinic’s Healthy Living Program calls it “kind of an individual decision,” explaining to the paper that coffee consumption is one of a tiny number of topics where the medical community says it’s fine either way. The trade-off is that, by not drinking coffee, people never have to worry about caffeine jitters, insomnia, or how to get the energy boost coffee drinkers crave — which, to call a spade a spade here, van Dam notes is what all addicts say, adding that buzz isn’t an energy boost so much as it is the physiological result of addressing “the withdrawal symptoms coffee drinkers have created.” And, really, who wants a longer life if it comes with a constant threat of caffeine headaches?