Coffee is “more likely to benefit health than harm”, a new review has found.

People appear to reduce their risk of a range of health problems when they drink three to four cups a day, experts found.

They concluded drinking coffee seems safe “within usual patterns of consumption”, except in pregnancy and among women who are at risk of a fracture.

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Experts from the University of Southampton and the University of Edinburgh, conducted an “umbrella review”, bringing together evidence from more than 200 studies which examined the effects of coffee consumption on health.

Their study, published in The British Medical Journal, found drinking three or four cups a day compared to drinking none has been linked to a lower likelihood of developing or dying from cardiovascular problems, such as heart attacks and stroke.

Meanwhile high consumption levels compared with low consumption levels appeared to confer benefits of an 18% lower risk of incident cancer.

Drinking coffee has also been linked to a lower risk specific cancers including prostate cancer, endometrial cancer, skin cancer and liver cancer.

Consumption also had “beneficial associations” with other conditions including diabetes, gallstones, gout and some liver conditions.

Coffee drinking is also linked to lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease, they found.

The authors found that harmful associations linked to the caffeinated drink were “largely nullified” when other factors were taken into account such as smoking.

But the health benefits are not seen in pregnant women where high levels of coffee consumption is linked to lower birth rates, preterm birth and pregnancy loss.

The authors wrote: “Coffee is one of the most commonly consumed beverages worldwide.

“As such, even small individual health effects could be important on a population scale.

“Coffee consumption seems generally safe within usual levels of intake, with summary estimates indicating largest risk reduction for various health outcomes at three to four cups a day, and more likely to benefit health than harm.”

In a linked editorial, Professor Eliseo Guallar from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Maryland, the US, wrote that “coffee is safe, but hold the cake”.

He argued the latest study showed that “coffee consumption seems generally safe”, but added: “Coffee is often consumed with products rich in refined sugars and unhealthy fats, and these may independently contribute to adverse health outcomes.”