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Health benefits of coffee and a proposed warning label

July 25, 2018

About the Author

photo of Robert H. Shmerling, MD

Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School. … See Full Bio
View all posts by Robert H. Shmerling, MD


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cherry zhou
August 11, 2018

Coffee Drinking has no doubt more benefits than disadvantages. I get it you have posted this article in favor of coffee drinking, but don’t you think the article would have been much better if you had mentioned the potential side affects as well?

Cherry Zhou,

August 1, 2018

Dr. Schmerling

Thanks for the article, very interesting and also clear on the coffee benefits. Just one question: Why do you state consumers should avoid instant coffee?

August 1, 2018

coffee drinkers tend to be white collar professionals, they have better health care and other health habit, thus lives longer, need have better control groups for these studies.

Cody Phillips
July 31, 2018

Nice article on a salient topic.

July 30, 2018

The tone of this article seems a little skewed: it appears to undermine the studies on the potential harmful effects of coffee as not convincing because such links have not been proven, but then it seems eager to tout the health benefits of coffee using studies that likely have the same difficulty proving causality. Hence, it is important to highlight that in spite of the rhetoric that there is mostly good news about drinking coffee and that there is no reason to expect any links to cancer, the author can only speak of the “potential” health benefits of coffee and that the risks of coffee “might” be outweighed by the benefits. There are likely both benefits and hazards to be found in coffee, and it is still too early to be more dismissive of one side for the other.

Dwight Oxley
July 30, 2018

Excellent article.

William (Bill) Murray
July 30, 2018

Dr. Schmerling –

Thank you for this excellent, succinct, and very clear summary of the situation regarding coffee, health, and California’s Proposition 65.

I would only add that – perhaps in part due to clear-eyed assessments such as yours – the California regulator, OEHHA, is considering adopting a new rule which would eliminate the need for “coffee and cancer” warnings pertaining to acrylamide and other substances. The rationale for this change, according to the regulator, very closely tracks your own assessment.

California authorities are currently in a public-input-phase of the process, which will end on August 30th of this year. With “science” on the side of this proposed change, there is an opportunity for the State’s decision-making process to be guided by the substantial body of independent research into coffee and health, and not by a legalistic interpretation of the statute.


N.B. I am President of the National Coffee Association.

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