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Coffee consumption and health: umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes

BMJ 2017; 359 doi: (Published 22 November 2017) Cite this as: BMJ 2017;359:j5024
  1. Robin Poole, specialty registrar in public health1,
  2. Oliver J Kennedy, graduate medical student1,
  3. Paul Roderick, professor of public health1,
  4. Jonathan A Fallowfield, NHS Research Scotland senior clinical fellow2,
  5. Peter C Hayes, professor of hepatology2,
  6. Julie Parkes, associate professor of public health1
  1. 1Academic Unit of Primary Care and Population Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, South Academic Block, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, Hampshire SO16 6YD, UK
  2. 2Medical Research Council/University of Edinburgh Centre for Inflammation Research, Queen’s Medical Research Institute, Edinburgh, EH16 4TJ, UK
  1. Correspondence to: R Poole r.poole{at}
  • Accepted 16 October 2017


Objectives To evaluate the existing evidence for associations between coffee consumption and multiple health outcomes.

Design Umbrella review of the evidence across meta-analyses of observational and interventional studies of coffee consumption and any health outcome.

Data sources PubMed, Embase, CINAHL, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, and screening of references.

Eligibility criteria for selecting studies Meta-analyses of both observational and interventional studies that examined the associations between coffee consumption and any health outcome in any adult population in all countries and all settings. Studies of genetic polymorphisms for coffee metabolism were excluded.

Results The umbrella review identified 201 meta-analyses of observational research with 67 unique health outcomes and 17 meta-analyses of interventional research with nine unique outcomes. Coffee consumption was more often associated with benefit than harm for a range of health outcomes across exposures including high versus low, any versus none, and one extra cup a day. There was evidence of a non-linear association between consumption and some outcomes, with summary estimates indicating largest relative risk reduction at intakes of three to four cups a day versus none, including all cause mortality (relative risk 0.83, 95% confidence interval 0.83 to 0.88), cardiovascular mortality (0.81, 0.72 to 0.90), and cardiovascular disease (0.85, 0.80 to 0.90). High versus low consumption was associated with an 18% lower risk of incident cancer (0.82, 0.74 to 0.89). Consumption was also associated with a lower risk of several specific cancers and neurological, metabolic, and liver conditions. Harmful associations were largely nullified by adequate adjustment for smoking, except in pregnancy, where high versus low/no consumption was associated with low birth weight (odds ratio 1.31, 95% confidence interval 1.03 to 1.67), preterm birth in the first (1.22, 1.00 to 1.49) and second (1.12, 1.02 to 1.22) trimester, and pregnancy loss (1.46, 1.06 to 1.99). There was also an association between coffee drinking and risk of fracture in women but not in men.

Conclusion 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. Robust randomised controlled trials are needed to understand whether the observed associations are causal. Importantly, outside of pregnancy, existing evidence suggests that coffee could be tested as an intervention without significant risk of causing harm. Women at increased risk of fracture should possibly be excluded.


  • Contributors: RP conceptualised the umbrella review, conducted the search, study selection, data extraction, and drafted and revised the paper. OJK conceptualised the umbrella review, conducted the study selection and data extraction, and revised the draft paper. JP conceptualised the umbrella review and revised the draft paper. JAF revised the draft paper. PCH revised the draft paper. PR conceptualised the umbrella review, arbitrated the study selection, and revised the draft paper. All authors reviewed and approved the final version of the manuscript. RP is guarantor.

  • Funding: This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors; the authors remain independent of any funding influence.

  • Competing interests: All authors have completed the ICMJE uniform disclosure form at and declare: no support from any organisation for the submitted work; JAF reports research grants from GlaxoSmithKline and from Intercept Pharmaceuticals, and personal fees from Novartis and from Merck, outside the submitted work; PCH reports personal fees from MSD, personal fees from Gilead, personal fees from Abbvie, personal fees from Jannsen, personal fees from BMS, personal fees from Pfizer, grants and personal fees from Roche, personal fees from Novartis, outside the submitted work; no other relationships or activities that could appear to have influenced the submitted work.

  • Ethical approval: Not required.

  • Data sharing: References for studies included in the umbrella review but not selected to represent the outcome in the summary figures are available on request.

  • Transparency: The lead author affirms that the manuscript is an honest, accurate, and transparent account of the study being reported; that no important aspects of the study have been omitted; and that any discrepancies from the study as planned have been explained.

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