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Coffee consumption linked to health benefits, researchers claim

High consumption levels are also associated with an 18% lower risk of incident cancer. Credit: PA

Drinking a few cups of coffee a day reduces health risks, experts have claimed.

Researchers from the University of Southampton and the University of Edinburgh reviewed more than 200 studies examining the effects of coffee consumption on health, concluding that taken "within usual patterns of consumption" the drink is safe, except in pregnancy.

Published in The British Medical Journal, the study notes that consuming three or four cups a day compared to drinking none was linked to a lower likelihood of developing or dying from cardiovascular problems.

High consumption levels are also associated with an 18% lower risk of incident cancer, as well as lowering the risk of specific cancers including prostate cancer, endometrial cancer and skin cancer.

There are also "beneficial associations" with conditions ranging from diabetes, to gallstones to gout, as well as links to lower risks of Parkinson's disease, depression, and Alzheimer's disease.

However, high levels of coffee consumption in pregnant women are linked to lower birth rates, preterm birth and pregnancy loss.

Credit: PA

"Coffee is one of the most commonly consumed beverages worldwide,” researchers wrote. "As such, even small individual health effects could be important on a population scale.

"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."

Tom Sanders, emeritus professor of nutrition and dietetics at King's College London, said: "While the conclusion is reassuring to coffee consumers, there are some limitations.

"Coffee is known to cause headaches in some people and it also increases the urge to go to the toilet - some people chose not to drink coffee for these reasons.

"Patients with abnormal heart rhythms are often advised to drink decaffeinated coffee. Caffeine also acutely increases blood pressure, albeit transiently.

"Consequently, there is likely to be a bias towards better health in those who chose to drink coffee compared to those that avoid it, who may do so because they have health problems - this is a limitation of the studies this review looked at as these factors weren't always taken into account."