Is Coffee Bad For You?

Sometimes I read a story in the news and it’s so purposefully misleading it makes me foam at the mouth.

Earlier today, ABC News ran a story that new research from the Mayo Clinic shows a correlation between persons under the age of 55 who drink more than four cups of coffee a day and increased mortality rates.


Somebody think of the children!

Let me explain why this doesn’t matter, and how the media uses sensationalist crap-science articles like this to scare up pageviews on slow news days.

It all starts with the article byline.

“New study claims drinking more than four cups of coffee a day can increase risk of early death.”

Well, no.  That’s not what the research shows, actually.  The research shows a CORRELATION between increased risk of early death and drinking more than four cups of coffee a day.  If the study showed a direct effect (i.e., that drinking more than four cups of coffee a day was literally equivalent to playing Russian roulette with a loaded hand-gun), that would be a very different story.

For example, I’d be willing to bet most people who are gay have also eaten carrots in their life.  I might conduct a study surveying gay people, asking if they’ve eaten carrots, and as a result, I might find a 99% correlation between people who eat carrots and people who are gay.

If I were to then publish this research, crap-science writers might then spin these findings into a story titled something like “Do Carrots Turn You Gay?” with an abstract like “New study claims eating carrots increases chance of gayness.”  

But of course they don’t, and that’s stupid, because correlative links don’t mean anything.  The only reason they’re even recorded and published is to throw up an expedition flag for other researchers which declares “more research is needed, in this area right here”.

But it gets even better, because the Mayo Clinic research didn’t even claim a link between high coffee consumption and heart-related deaths.  No, it showed a link between people who drink high amounts of coffee and death by all causes.

Yes, that’s right, folks.  Drinking coffee makes you more likely to die. The instant you finish that fourth cup, a magical quantum wave ripples out across the universe and pisses off the Grim Reaper, who then puts you on his shit-list and goes all Final Destination.  If you drink more than four cups of coffee of a day, YOU WILL BE HIT BY A BUS.

But don’t worry!  At the stroke of midnight, the reaper blazes up, mellows out, and burns yesterday’s list, whereupon your chances of being hit by a bus go back to normal levels.


“Is coffee bad for you” is one of the oldest and most reliable internet click-bait stories around.  It’s one of those pandering pieces of web-writing that use shoddy, ignorant, sensationalist misinterpretations of scientific findings to prey on everyday concerns for the purpose of drumming of page-views.

The fact is, there is NO evidence of any direct, long-term health risks posed by habitual coffee consumption. Zero. Zilch. None.  All that’s out there is a bunch of fluff science; empty correlations between this, that, and the other thing.  EVERY in-depth study on the long-term effects of habitual coffee and caffeine consumption done by ANY legitimate scientific body has come up dry, or has found health BENEFITS, like decreased risk of cancer, Alzheimer’s, and dementia.

That’s it.  End of story.  Asked and answer.

Q. Is coffee bad for you?

A. There is currently no evidence to that effect, goddammit.

Header image by Michael Allen Smith, licensed under Creative Commons. Available at


  • This takes me back to sophomore year of college where we talked about ~*~SCIENCE~*~ in my one honors class. Anything that goes on with only one study and tries to say that it proved anything isn’t real science…science is a process, ’bout testing a hypothesis over and over again, looking at it from all angles, from both the “is this right?” and “is this wrong?” side and everything in between. Or at least that’s how I see it. And even still, it’s more like science ends up coming up with “sound ideas” about how the universe works, accepting that perhaps later on it may prove that those “sound ideas” could be wrong later on.

    Anyway, I don’t drink coffee, so I’m not as invested in the study as I am about how it’s claiming to be a study. It reminds me of statistics, or however that saying goes about how statistics can be manipulated to mean anything.

    • Yeah, I mean it’s not the study I question; the Mayo Clinic is pretty legit, to put it lightly. It’s just the way the media has of twisting stuff like this for the sake of a sensational story. It’s either ignorant (which is irritating) or a willful act of exploitative misrepresentation (which is infuriating).

      • It would be interesting then to see the Mayo Clinic respond to the presentation of their research…if they were cool with it, though, then I wouldn’t see them as pretty legit, honestly.