Parenthood is exhausting—like really exhausting. And if you’re anything like me, that means you’re running on coffee every minute of every day. (I know I down at least three cups of java by noon, if not earlier.) Current medical wisdom, though, says that drinking copious amounts of caffeine is bad for you. But it seems that’s not entirely true.
In fact, according to a new British study, your coffee habit may actually benefit your health.
A team of University of Southampton researchers who reviewed more than 200 past studies concluded that people who consume three to four cups of coffee a day have a lower risk of developing certain health conditions than non-coffee drinkers.
In particular, the study, which published in The British Medical Journal, found that coffee consumption is associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease, stroke, certain cancers and liver disease.
"There is a balance of risks in life, and the benefits of moderate consumption of coffee seem to outweigh the risks," says study co-author Paul Roderick, a professor of medicine at University of Southampton.
I won’t lie: These findings are great news for me and my mom friends who live on coffee, which, by the way, is packed with disease-fighting antioxidants. We’re among the millions of people around the world who, according to the International Coffee Organization, helped drink an estimated 151.3 million bags of coffee in the 2015-2016 fiscal year. Overall, global coffee consumption has jumped an average 1.3% each year over a four year period.
The British Medical Journal review also confirms previous research that had touted the health benefits of a coffee habit. According to a 2012 National Institutes of Health (NIH) study, people who drank at least three daily cups of joe had a lower risk of death from heart disease, stroke, cancer and diabetes, among other conditions.
But why does coffee have such a positive impact on your health? Researchers aren’t entirely sure. Neal Freedom, lead author of the NIH study, said of his findings: “The mechanism by which coffee protects against risk of death—if indeed the finding reflects a causal relationship—is not clear, because coffee contains more than 1,000 compounds that might potentially affect health.”
And in the case of the British Medical Journal study, Roebrick admits that, in addition to coffee intake, age, smoking habits and exercise routines “could all have had an effect” on the health benefits gleaned from their analysis.
It’s also important to note that drinking java has the opposite effect on pregnant women; as noted by the British researchers, coffee consumption during pregnancy is linked to a higher risk of low birth weight, preterm birth and pregnancy loss.
Still, I won’t lie: This new research excites my coffee-drinking soul. Will I jump up to five or six cups a day? Probably not. But at least I won’t feel guilty swallowing this fourth mug while trying to change my toddler.