Is Coffee Healthy?

Is coffee healthy for women during the meanopause

Simultaneously adored and demonised by many, coffee appears to pose a variety of positives and negatives to our health. So, when you get down to it, just how healthy - or unhealthy - is coffee really?

Table of contents

Coffee is simultaneously demonised and adored: it increases stress hormones and robs you of sleep, however also lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and is packed with antioxidants. Whether you prefer a black coffee or a latte macchiato, you've probably found yourself wondering: how healthy - or unhealthy - is coffee really?

"But first, coffee!" This sentiment probably resonates with most people, whether coffee be part of their morning routine, a dedicated interest that has led to them investing in a specialised coffee machine, or just a simple pleasure they occasionally indulge in. For many, however, reaching for that cup of coffee may also be accompanied by the thought: is coffee actually bad for me? What about my blood pressure? And what does it do to my sleep?

In fact, opinions on the topic are divided. There are hundreds of scientific studies on coffee and yet there are no uniform guidelines and opinions that cover all aspects. One thing, however, is now clear: coffee can greatly facilitate good health. But caffeine, probably the best known and most influential component of coffee, is chemically an alkaloid and is classified as a drug in both pharmacological and medical terms.

To understand what happens to you when you drink coffee, we will take you on a journey through your body, explaining how coffee supports you and where and when you should avoid it. This journey is very complex and detailed, and gives you the opportunity afterwards to decide based on your own experience when, whether, and to what extent you drink coffee.

How coffee affects the body


The taste of coffee unfolds via the taste buds on the tongue. This is characterised by the acids, bitter substances and more than 800 natural aromatic substances it contains. The aromas are not actually perceived in the mouth, but in the nose, where they ascend via the back of the throat.


Within 15-30 minutes of drinking coffee, the caffeine is absorbed via the stomach and small intestine, after which it is distributed throughout the body. Sensitive people can react to coffee with an excessive release of hydrochloric acid - and thus hyperacidity in the stomach. They often have to give up coffee altogether. In this instance, switching to an espresso may also help. The longer roasting process makes it gentler on the stomach.

Incidentally, coffee does not have an acidifying effect on the organism as a whole, but is actually slightly alkaline. The frequent statement that coffee over-acidifies your body can be clearly refuted, at least for the organism as a whole.

If you suffer from a severe iron deficiency, you should separate your coffee consumption from your meals or even give it up for a while. This is because the tannins in the drink bind the iron ions in the stomach, meaning that the iron is excreted rather than entering the bloodstream via the intestinal wall.

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The maximum concentration of caffeine in the blood comes roughly 30 to 60 minutes after being ingested. The caffeine is distributed throughout the body via the bloodstream before it is finally broken down in the liver. Only around a fifth of the caffeine is then excreted in the urine.


  • Caffeine can easily cross our blood-brain barrier, shooting quickly into the brain which means it has a direct effect on the central nervous system - and that comes with noticeable consequences:
  • Caffeine blocks the molecule adenosine, which makes us tired. Because the two molecules are similar, caffeine can occupy the adenosine receptors in the brain without activating them. This prevents the body from receiving fatigue signals. So, in essence, caffeine is not a stimulant that presses on the accelerator, but rather a block on the brakes.

At the same time, caffeine ensures that the hormones adrenaline and cortisol are increasingly released. These are our stress hormones, which give us a boost and influence our cardiovascular system, blood pressure and other hormones. You can read more about this in #5 and #7.

What do these interventions in the central nervous system lead to?

1. Stimulation and increased performance

The blocked adenosine receptors make the body more alert and efficient, we can concentrate better and feel fitter. However, this only applies to people who are tired. Coffee does not make people who are well-rested even more efficient.
In people who regularly drink a lot of coffee, the body develops more docking sites for the adenosine molecule - the caffeine effect dwindles and we need more and more of it in the long term to feel the desired effect.

2. Pain Relief

Caffeine is considered a mild painkiller and is used in some medications as a supportive analgesic. It slightly constricts blood vessels locally in the brain, which can relieve headaches or migraines.

Coffee also enhances the effect of painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol. Painkillers that already contain caffeine should therefore not be combined with drinks with a high caffeine content.

3. Altered sleep

Caffeine delays falling asleep and reduces the duration of sleep because it affects various neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and adrenaline. The strength of this influence varies greatly from person to person. On the one hand, habituation plays a role, but so do our genetics. People with a certain variant of the adenosine receptor show a higher sensitivity and sleep worse after drinking coffee. The enzyme system of the liver - in which caffeine is broken down - also works at different speeds for genetic reasons. Those who break down caffeine more slowly sleep less well after coffee.

The increase in cortisol also plays a key role in sleep. This is because cortisol is the antagonist of our sleep hormone, melatonin. Normally, cortisol is released in higher concentrations in the morning as a natural stimulant and slowly decreases over the course of the day. Exactly the opposite of melatonin. If caffeine causes cortisol levels to remain high in the evening, this can suppress the release of melatonin and impair the body's ability to switch to sleep.

So if you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, you should avoid caffeine or limit yourself to a maximum of one cup a day between 10am and 2pm.

 You might ask: why not drink it right after getting up? The answer is that, in that case, the normal course of cortisol gets mixed up: the caffeine kick increases the natural rise in cortisol in the morning, resulting in an unnatural peak with a rapid drop. The physical stress response and inner restlessness are increased and the afternoon low is therefore intensified.


The increase in stress hormones caused by caffeine gives you a short, invigorating kick. If you're already suffering from constant stress due to a busy everyday life and hormonal chaos, this kick can be the last straw that breaks the camel's back. In other words: you drink additional stress.

As our hormonal system works as a whole, our sex hormones can also be easily affected.

During the perimenopause, symptoms of progesterone deficiency can be exacerbated. And as progesterone is only produced in small doses in the adrenal glands from the menopause onwards, this can lead to a hormonal conflict of interest. After all, the adrenal glands also produce our stress hormones and always opt for their production instead of progesterone when they are overloaded.

According to a study by the University of Utah, caffeine consumption can also alter oestrogen levels. Interestingly, the direction in which it is influenced is linked to ethnic origin: In Asian women and black US-American women, the level increased, but in white women it caused a drop.

However, these influences are only minimal in healthy women and have no effect on ovulation (if there still is one). Long-term consequences are not known.

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Coffee beans contain the substances kahweol and cafestol. These substances, especially cafestol, can increase LDL cholesterol levels in the blood. However, most cafestol remains in the filter in filtered coffee. Only with unfiltered coffee, such as French press coffee, does so much cafestol get into the drink that blood lipids are affected. Espresso is somewhere in between.

In healthy people with moderate coffee consumption, current studies do not suggest an increased health risk. However, if cholesterol levels are significantly elevated anyway, the way coffee is brewed can help to lower cholesterol.


Caffeine is a stimulant: it increases pulse, the heart beats faster and the blood vessels dilate. However, even though it may sound like it, this effect is not detrimental to the cardiovascular system. And while it increases blood pressure in the short term, it does not do so in the long term.

The majority of new studies clearly argue against a link between cardiovascular disease and coffee consumption. Many studies even speak of positive effects for the cardiovascular system with moderate consumption.

Interesting fact: caffeine in many other caffeinated drinks, such as energy drinks, does lead to an increase in blood pressure. The difference lies in the other substances contained in coffee. For example, chlorogenic acid, a group of polyphenols found in many plants, including coffee beans. Chlorogenic acid has a strong antioxidant effect and protects cells from damage caused by free radicals. It also lowers blood sugar levels and regulates blood pressure. It is present in both "normal" and decaffeinated beverages, but the amount varies greatly depending on the type of bean and roasting process.


Body temperature can rise briefly with coffee because caffeine stimulates facultative thermogenesis - the heat-producing processes in the cells. This process, as well as the dilated blood vessels, triggers hot flashes. Anyone who is already struggling with them should reduce or even completely avoid caffeinated coffee.

It is repeatedly reported that caffeine also stimulates lipolysis. In this process, body fat is broken down and its components are used to provide energy. The body would therefore burn fat. However, there are no convincing studies to date that confirm whether or not coffee can help you lose weight sustainably.


Caffeine increases athletic performance. The mechanism responsible for this increase in performance has not yet been conclusively clarified. What is clear is that symptoms of fatigue occur later, the perception of pain is reduced, muscle contractility is increased and the vasodilating effect of caffeine improves the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the muscles.

Due to these positive properties, the active ingredient was on the World Anti-Doping Agency's list of banned substances until 2004.

British researchers have discovered that caffeine can increase muscle strength by up to 6% and contributes to faster regeneration after training. However, the amounts of caffeine administered were equivalent to five to six cups of strong coffee. The effect of moderate amounts has not yet been conclusively clarified.

Decaffeinated coffee also has an effect. The niacin (vitamin B3) contained in coffee also has a muscle-activating effect and supports muscle regeneration. It is absorbed into the blood almost as quickly as caffeine and is used for cellular respiration. But here as well, you have to drink large quantities to really feel the effect. Furthermore, without your own training, even the best optimisation won't help.


Caffeine promotes the excretion of calcium and thus tends to promote bone loss. However, studies are inconclusive in this regard and come to contradictory results. In summary, however, it can be said that moderate consumption does not increase the risk of osteoporosis in healthy people with an otherwise adequate calcium supply.

However, post-menopausal women with low calcium levels have a slightly increased risk of osteoporosis if they regularly drink too much coffee. In the view of the study leaders, however, it is not necessary to give up coffee completely.


Caffeine has a vasodilating effect on the bronchial system of the lungs: the muscles of the bronchi relax and breathing becomes easier. This can even improve the breathing function of asthmatics for a few hours. It is important to note, however, that some asthma medications are so similar to caffeine that they can reinforce each other, which results in palpitations, insomnia and nervousness.


Kidney activity is stimulated for a short time because caffeine increases the filter function of the kidneys, meaning more urine is produced. However, this effect quickly wears off again. Coffee therefore does not remove fluid from the body, as has long been assumed.

Urinary incontinence is not aggravated either, although the short-term increase in urgency and frequency of the urge to urinate is of course unpleasant in the case of existing bladder weakness. Decaf coffee does not have these effects and can be a good alternative.

In general, studies show that coffee even counteracts renal insufficiency and can also be helpful for existing illnesses. Researchers assume that it is not primarily the caffeine that is responsible for this, but the antioxidant effect of other ingredients such as chlorogenic acid, niacin and quinidine. These substances are also contained in decaffeinated coffee.

#13 GUT

Peristalsis, i.e. the movements of the intestines, is stimulated by caffeine, acids, tannins and the bitter substances in coffee. The secretion of bile is also stimulated. All of this promotes the digestive process, meaning those who are constipated can therefore benefit from it. However: flatulence is also stimulated. And for those who are prone to diarrhea: this propensity is also increased.

Various studies have shown beneficial changes in the microbiome. Among other things, the study participants had significantly more Bacteroidetes bacteria. These bacteria are usually associated with a lower body weight and a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

In addition, the plant substances (polyphenols) contained in coffee promote the development of a healthy microbiome overall. But beware: milk, or more precisely the animal proteins it contains, prevent these health-promoting phytochemicals from being absorbed in the gut. It is therefore wise to drink your coffee black for intestinal health. According to studies, plant-based milk is also better than cow's milk, as we can absorb more beneficial coffee ingredients.

There is no unanimous opinion on leaky gut. One criticism is that with a leaky gut, the irritants from the coffee can pass through the intestinal barrier unhindered and cause the immune system to overreact .However, according to other studies, coffee is definitely recommended for people with leaky gut, as it has a demonstrably positive effect on the diversity of the microbiome.

In general, however, there is no evidence that stomach ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease or bowel cancer are triggered by moderate coffee consumption.


Not only the coffee antioxidants, but also the two lipids kahweol and cafestol have a protective effect on liver cells.

According to a recent study, coffee reduces the risk of dying from chronic liver disease. The participants were also around 20% less likely to suffer from the same disease or a fatty liver.

By the way:

  • The half-life of caffeine in healthy adults is around 2.5 to 5 hours.
  • Uric acid is not one of the intermediate or end products of the metabolism of caffeine, which is why neither coffee nor caffeine are problematic in relation to gout.
  • Coffee also does not increase the risk of cancer.

Coffee: Who shouldn't drink coffee?

In reality, moderate and regular coffee consumption is perfectly in line with a healthy and balanced diet.

Coffee and many of its ingredients have high antioxidant activity. They protect our cells from free radicals and so are great for many of our organs!

But if you suffer from:

  • sleep disorders
  • constant stress and/or nervousness
  • hot flashes
  • a sensitive stomach and/or heartburn
  • severe osteoporosis
  • severe iron deficiency

then you should continue to avoid coffee with caffeine - or at least for a while. You can easily achieve all the positive effects of antioxidants and polyphenols with a balanced, plant-based diet.

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Coffee alternatives

If not coffee, then what?

Fortunately, there is now a wide range of alternatives. If you just want to avoid coffee but still need the wake-up effect sometimes, green tea, matcha tea (also a green tea variant), guarana powder, mate tea or black tea are great alternatives. If possible, always look for organic quality and don't overdo it with the quantities.

If you are looking for something with a coffee flavor but don't want caffeine, decaffeinated coffee or espresso is of course the easiest option. Alternatively, there is now a large selection of coffee-like drinks in health food stores, for example: malt coffee, lupin coffee, spelt coffee, chicory coffee or acorn coffee.

They are infused or brewed with hot water and are not made from the roasted seeds of the coffee cherry, but from other, often native plants. It's best to test the taste.

Conclusion: Consume in reasonable doses and with consideration

According to the European Food Safety Authority, a single dose of 3 mg per kilogram of body weight is safe. This means that a woman weighing 70 kilograms could consume 210 mg of caffeine in a single dose. One cup contains between 35 and 120 milligrams of caffeine, depending on the strength. You should not consume more than 400 mg of caffeine a day.

In other words: 1-2 cups a day with caffeine, not first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and not after 2pm.

Is coffee healthy diagram graphic variations recommended dosage caffeine

What you should definitely look out for:

  • Be aware of your senses: coffee is a stimulant and not a drink like water.
  • Test and self-reflection: try out which brewing method is good for you, what intensity, quantity and time of day. Small adjustments sometimes make all the difference.
  • Don’t go on autopilot: don't just drink because you always do - drink when you need it or when it's good for you.
  • Black gold: try pure enjoyment without cow's milk, or reduce or use plant-based alternatives.

Sources and References

Coffee and its surprising health benefits

Questions and answers about caffeine and caffeinated substances, including energy drinks

Bundesinstitut für Risikobertung, 2015

Effects of green coffee extract supplementation on anthropometric indices, glycaemic control, blood pressure, lipid profile, insulin resistance and appetite in patients with the metabolic syndrome: a randomised clinical trial

Roshan H, Nikpayam O, Sedaghat M, Sohrab G.,2018, Br J Nutr. 119(3):250-258. 

Population-based metagenomics analysis reveals markers for gut microbiome composition and diversity.

Zhernakova A et al 2016, Science 352 (6285): 565-569

Effect of coffee on performance and chronic sleep deprivation in caffeine-sensitive individuals

Elmenhorst, E.-M. und Elmenhorst, D. und Lange, D. und Baur, D. und Hennecke, E., 2021
Coffee uncovered: Experts identify what makes the bean effective against fatty liver disease Nutrition insight, 2023