Experts representing public health nutrition, preventive medicine, and consumer behaviour call for better health information.
European consumer research* conducted by the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC) to better understand beliefs, behaviours, and knowledge regarding coffee and a healthy diet, suggests consumers are confused about the potential health benefits of coffee, in part because the information they are receiving is not always in line with the latest science.
Moderate consumption of coffee at 3-5 cups per day has been associated with a range of desirable physiological effects such as improved alertness and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes[2,3], cardiovascular disease[4,5] and cognitive decline[6,7]. It can be consumed as part of a healthy balanced lifestyle, providing fluid and small amounts of some nutrients, such as potassium, magnesium and niacin. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are also advised by EFSA that caffeine intakes of up to 200mg (2 cups of coffee) per day are considered safe for the foetus/infant.
To further explore the consumer research findings, ISIC invited three eminent experts representing public health nutrition, preventive medicine, and consumer behaviour to review and discuss the latest scientific research on coffee and health, consumers’ knowledge and attitudes, and the role of healthcare professionals in disseminating healthy diet advice.
Conclusions from the roundtable:
· Many consumers are not aware of the potential health effects of coffee, with 49% believing it may cause health problems.
· Consumers often obtain out-of-date information on coffee and health from the internet and media sources (such as magazines and TV) but also from healthcare professionals e.g. 56% of the survey respondents who believed that “drinking coffee increases the risk of heart disease” heard this either online, in a newspaper/magazine, or on TV and 16% heard this from a doctor, nurse, or dietician.
· Consumers may not always distinguish between coffee and caffeine, viewing it purely as a stimulant, missing out on coffee’s specific components and potential physiological benefits.
· HCPs need up-to-date accurate, science-based information that healthcare professionals can discuss and share with their patients.
· Informing patients about the latest science on coffee could result in behavioural change as consumers begin to appreciate its role within a healthy diet.
· More education is needed to help the general public identify reliable/unreliable information from media/online sources.
The experts were:
· Prof Chris Seal: Professor of Food and Human Nutrition, and Chair of Board of Studies, Food & Human Nutrition BSc at Newcastle University, UK.
· Prof Lluís Serra-Majem: Director of the Research Institute of Biomedical and Health Sciences, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria University, Spain
· Dr Agnès Giboreau: Research Director, Institut Paul Bocuse, France
Professor Lluís Serra-Majem commented: “We are increasingly seeing consumers obtain health information from the internet and media sources rather than from qualified healthcare professionals. We need to improve access to information for all parties, as in my experience healthcare professionals sometimes impart their own opinions to patients, even if this is only based on personal experience, not scientific fact.”
Professor Chris Seal continued: “Whilst key dietary messages such as ‘consume five portions of fruit and vegetables a day’ and ‘eat less fat, salt and sugar’ are well known, many remain unaware of the potential health benefits of coffee. Helping people to understand how regular daily consumption of 3-5 cups of coffee might reduce their risk of certain diseases and long-term health conditions could prompt behaviour change.”
Dr. Agnès Giboreau said: “Coffee is often drunk to accompany or conclude a meal therefore it’s important that consumers understand the value of what they’re drinking as well as eating. Personal habits, such as the way someone takes their coffee, are often based on experiences and cultural backgrounds, and so changing behaviour must be consistent with culture, beliefs and typical habits.”
There was unanimous agreement amongst the expert panel that healthcare professionals, including dietitians, nutritionists and clinicians, are the best source of reliable, scientifically-grounded information on healthy lifestyles for consumers. They are also best placed to advise consumers on where to find reliable information on coffee and a healthy diet. Healthcare professionals could also encourage consumers to analyse the credibility and validity of health information they read or see in the media. It was agreed that this group of professionals should be supported with regularly-updated educational material to ensure that the advice they give is accurate.
* 4119 respondents across 10 European countries were surveyed by ISIC through an independent research company in November 2015.
To read the roundtable report, ‘The good things in life: coffee as part of a healthy diet and lifestyle’ click here.
1. EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) (2011) Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to caffeine and increased fat oxidation leading to a reduction in body fat mass (ID 735, 1484), increased energy expenditure leading to a reduction in body weight (ID 1487), increased alertness (ID 736, 1101, 1187, 1485, 1491, 2063, 2103) and increased attention (ID 736, 1485, 1491, 2375) pursuant to Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/20061. EFSA Journal;9(4):2054
2. Huxley R. et al. (2009) Coffee, Decaffeinated Coffee, and Tea Consumption in Relation to Incident Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Arch Intern Med, 169:2053-63.
3. Zhang Y. et al. (2011) Coffee consumption and the incidence of type 2 diabetes in men and women with normal glucose tolerance: The Strong Heart Study. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 21(6):418-23.
4. European Heart Network, ‘European Cardiovascular Disease Statistics 2012’ Available at: http://www.ehnheart.org/cvd-statistics.html
5. Ding M. et al (2014) Long-term coffee consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and a dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Circulation. 129(6):643-59
6. Santos C. et al. (2010) Caffeine intake and dementia: systematic review and meta-analysis. J Alzheimers Dis, 20(1):187-204
7. Palacios N. et al. (2012) Caffeine and Risk of Parkinson’s Disease in a Large Cohort of Men and Women. Movement Disorders, 1;27(10):1276-82
8. EFSA (2015) Scientific Opinion on the Safety of Caffeine, EFSA Journal, 13(5):410