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Science tackles the half-truths


(aid) – Coffee drinkers haven’t had an easy time in recent decades. “Don’t drink coffee in the evenings, you won’t get to sleep if you do.” “Always have a glass of water you’re your coffee, because coffee is dehydrating.” Or simply “Too much coffee is bad for you.” These are the most common urban myths that coffee fans face. Nutritionists have now disposed of some of these half-truths.


The idea that coffee acts as a diuretic was shown to be a myth by the German Nutrition Society (DGE) as long ago as 2005. The recommendation that you should drink a glass of water with every cup of coffee is based on a false interpretation of a research study where total water volume was used as the only measure for assessing people’s fluid balance. The fact is that the caffeine in coffee does have a diuretic effect, but your body is quite capable of managing its own fluid intake.


How much coffee is “too much” and whether it’s bad for you is more of a philosophical question than a nutritional one. Most nutritionists would agree that dividing food into “healthy” and “unhealthy” isn’t an effective approach. As with so much else, it depends on how much you consume and on your whole pattern of eating and drinking. Scientists from the German Institute of Human Nutrition Potsdam-Rehbrücke (DifE) have been researching the interaction between coffee and health. In a study of 43,000 adults (men and women), they could find no evidence that drinking coffee poses an increased risk of heart and circulatory problems or cancer.

Furthermore, coffee consumption seems to be associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A DifE press release states that, “People who drink more than 4 cups (that’s over 600 ml) of caffeine-containing coffee a day have a 23% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than people who drink less than 1 cup a day”. If that isn’t good news for coffee drinkers? Or at least a good counterargument against the ultra-critical.

So what are we left with? The question of whether coffee in the evening makes you sleep badly. And we haven’t yet heard of a research institute that’s tackled that one. It could be that statistics don’t really help much here. Research projects can come up with interesting results and they’re often a good basis for wanting to change behaviour. But each coffee drinker is an individual and bound to react individually to coffee and the substances it contains. So here it’s over to you to do your own ‘scientific’ research.