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November 7, 2017
By L. Carr, Contributing Columnist

Coffee is one of the nation’s favorite drinks. 54 percent of
adult Americans drink coffee every day, according to National
Coffee Drinking Trends 2010 from the National Coffee
Association. On average, Americans drink 3.1 cups per day
and 65 percent of people drink it at breakfast.

In total, the US spends $40 billion on coffee each year. It's a
huge business. But not only does coffee keep us awake and
help us start the day, it could have dramatic effects on our
health – particularly the health of our kidneys.

Debate still rages over whether coffee is good or bad for our
health. Studies show coffee can help lower the risk of
diabetes, help prevent heart disease, lower rates of Parkinson’
s disease and prevent gallstones, but it could cause obesity,
raise the risk of birth problems, raise blood pressure, and
cause kidney problems.

Will drinking coffee harm your kidneys? Do you need to
worry about coffee if you are at risk of, or have, chronic
kidney disease?

What Happens to Your Body When You Drink Coffee?

Coffee is made up of a wide range of different molecules and
substances, and the most important of these is caffeine.
Caffeine is a central nervous stimulant, which is why it helps
so many Americans start the day.  Coffee also contains
antioxidants that help to prevent DNA damage and could stop
cancer-causing mutations in the body.

But it is the caffeine in coffee that affects parts of the body
like the kidneys. When you drink a cup of coffee, caffeine
spreads through the body and takes some time to be
metabolized. It typically stays in the body for a long time,
depending on your age and your health.

How Much Caffeine Are We Getting From Coffee?

The amount of caffeine in your cup of coffee depends on how
your coffee is brewed and the type of coffee you consume.
An 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee will contain around 95 to
165 mg of caffeine, with a shot of espresso containing
between 47 and 64 mg.

What Happens to the Kidneys When You Drink Coffee?

Caffeine in coffee affects the kidneys as it is a mild diuretic.
This means that it increases urine output. Coffee will also
raise blood pressure for a short amount of time. Both of
these changes are not permanent and last for a short time.

Increased blood pressure can damage the kidneys. Studies
show that caffeine in coffee increases blood pressure up to
10 mm Hg for a short time, but some research shows this
only affects people who are not used to drinking coffee.

A 2002 study from University Hospital Zürich, Switzerland
looked at 15 healthy people, six of which were habitual coffee
drinkers and nine non-habitual, and their arterial blood
pressure, heart rate, and muscle sympathetic nervous activity
before and after drinking a triple espresso or a decaffeinated
triple espresso, or after having an intravenous shot of 250mg
of caffeine or a saline solution.

Blood pressure after drinking coffee increased, but only in
the non-habitual drinkers.

If coffee increases blood pressure, and high blood pressure
damages the kidneys, it would seem to make intuitive sense
that avoiding coffee would help to lower the risk of kidney

But that intuition would be wrong. But studies show that
drinking the equivalent of three to four cups of coffee a day
does not appear to increase the risk of kidney disease.

A 2007 study from the University of Messina in Italy looked at
current scientific literature and came to these conclusions,
suggesting that while the average person would not be at
increased risk of kidney damage drinking moderate amounts
of coffee, care should be taken with the elderly, children, and
patients who are being treated with diuretics. People over the
age of 60 should take care to monitor how their blood
pressure reacts to coffee consumption.

However, there are other factors which affect the conclusion
of whether coffee is good or bad, overall, for the kidneys.

Chronic kidney disease is not the only possible kidney risk
that comes from consuming coffee. Other factors include
kidney stones and conditions concerning the bladder and

Coffee and Kidney Stones: What You Need to Do

Kidney stones occur when minerals and salts crystalize
together in the kidneys. They usually form when there is not
enough fluid in the urine or too much solid waste content.
About 1 in 10 people in the United States suffer from a kidney
stone at some point in their life, according to the National
Kidney Foundation.

One way experts suggest you avoid kidney stones is to avoid
excessive caffeine consumption, which would mean limiting
your consumption of coffee. Caffeine can cause dehydration
since it speeds up metabolism.

However, scientists have carried out studies where they find
a link between other factors and kidney stones, but not
between caffeine or coffee and kidney stones. For example, a
2010 study from the University of Texas Southwestern
Medical Center, Dallas shows that post-menopausal women
who receive estrogen therapy have a higher risk of kidney
stones but they did not detect any link between coffee
consumption and kidney stone risk.

Avoid Too Much Coffee to Avoid Hyperchloremia

Too much coffee, however, could affect the kidneys in the
form of something called "hyperchloremia".

Hyperchloremia is a condition where there is too much
chloride, an electrolyte, in the blood. It can cause
dehydration and also cause high blood pressure, irregular
heart rate, fluid retention, and seizures. 

Hyperchloremia can be caused by dehydration – and this
dehydration may be the result of drinking too much coffee or
other caffeinated beverages. Treatment options for
hyperchloremia include avoiding coffee, caffeinated drinks,
aspirin, and alcohol.

Coffee Can Worsen an Overactive Bladder…

Caffeine can also stimulate the bladder. The bladder collects
urine from the kidneys and usually you can adequately
control your bladder and therefore how the kidneys expel
this urine. But sometimes, with overactive bladder, you
cannot control it. Overactive bladder happens when your
bladder squeezes often, without warning. You may need to
visit the bathroom much more often and could experience
urine leakage.

Coffee therefore should be avoided if you have overactive
bladder, since it has an effect on this condition.

A 2014 study from Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, Plymouth,
Devon, England looked at 14 women with overactive bladder
and had them drink caffeinated and decaffeinated drinks over
a 28 day period. They discovered that “reducing caffeine
intake may alleviate the severity of some symptoms” and that
caffeine substitutes were well tolerated.

…And Can Result in Frequent Urination

Your kidneys expel water from the body along with waste,
meaning that urination is a natural process. But sometimes
urination increases so that it becomes a problem. Frequent
urination causes mental distress as well as possible urinary
tract problems since chronic frequent urination can cause a
urinary tract infection.

A 2015 study from Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
demonstrated that 21 percent of adolescents sampled in a
study on physical and emotional symptoms related to caffeine
consumption experienced frequent urination.

But Coffee Could Help Kidneys as a Natural Diuretic

Sometimes more frequent urination could be a benefit,
however. Caffeine in coffee could, according to experts, be
used by people with kidney conditions as a diuretic to get rid
of excess fluid or salt. Caffeine in coffee has a mild, short-
term diuretic effect.

In essence, coffee is not inherently good or bad for the
kidneys. There is limited evidence to suggest that it causes an
increased risk of kidney disease, and there is evidence it both
helps and hinders kidney function. The bottom line is that a
moderate intake of coffee is unlikely to seriously harm your

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