Coffee and Autoimmune Diseases: A Mixed Blend

According to the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, a division of the National Institutes of Health, autoimmune diseases affect over 24 million Americans. Additionally, there are at least 80 different autoimmune-related diseases and conditions, so it is a sadly familiar situation for many people.

Autoimmune diseases are difficult to treat because discerning which aspect of the immune system is overreacting can be a challenge. Additionally, treatment must be carefully calibrated. After all, too much dampening of an immune response leaves someone open to infections. Not enough moderation means that autoimmune conditions continue to get worse, creating lasting problems.

Diet and lifestyle are integral aspects of dealing with autoimmune diseases. Some foods, refined carbs and sugars, for example, cause inflammation that can trigger harmful responses in the body. For many individuals, finding out what works in their diet and what doesn’t can be a hit-or-miss experience – and not often a pleasant one.

For those who enjoy their morning cup of Joe, there is some mostly good news. A review found that in addition to lowering the risk of non-autoimmune conditions like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and liver cancer, coffee may protect against multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis.

That doesn’t appear to be the case with type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, and the jury is still out on coffee’s effect on systemic sclerosis and Sjögren’s syndrome.

But for the most part, many people can wake up to the amazing benefits of coffee. Aside from helping get a good start on the day, it may be bolstering good health in multiple ways.


Sharif K, Watad A, Bragazzi NL, Adawi M, Amital H, Shoenfeld Y. Coffee and autoimmunity: More than a mere hot beverage! Autoimmun Rev. 2017 Jul;16(7):712-721. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2017.05.007. Epub 2017 May 4. PMID: 28479483.

Coffee is one of the world's most consumed beverage. In the last decades, coffee consumption has attracted a huge body of research due to its impact on health. Recent scientific evidences showed that coffee intake could be associated with decreased mortality from cardiovascular and neurological diseases, diabetes type II, as well as from endometrial and liver cancer, among others. In this review, on the basis of available data in the literature, we aimed to investigate the association between coffee intake and its influence on the immune system and the insurgence of the most relevant autoimmune diseases. While some studies reported conflicting results, general trends have been identified. Coffee consumption seems to increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM). By contrast, coffee consumption may exert a protective role against multiple sclerosis, primary sclerosing cholangitis, and ulcerative colitis. Concerning other autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus, psoriasis, primary biliary cholangitis and Crohn's disease, no significant association was found. In other studies, coffee consumption was shown to influence disease course and management options. Coffee intake led to a decrease in insulin sensitivity in T1DM, in methotrexate efficacy in RA, and in levothyroxine absorption in Hashimoto's disease. Further, coffee consumption was associated with cross reactivity with gliadin antibodies in celiac patients. Data on certain autoimmune diseases like systemic sclerosis, Sjögren’s syndrome, and Behçet’s disease, among others, are lacking in the existent literature. As such, further research is warranted.

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Terry is happy to provide his opinion on diet and nutrition, supplements and lifestyle choices. This information is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the advice of your physician and is not to be considered medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Should you have any concerns please contact your physician directly.

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