Is Coffee Good for a Person with Arthritis? (A Scientific Look)

Certified Senior Advisor®
coffee and arthritis

The science about coffee's affect on arthritis is less than clear. You can find studies on both sides of the argument. Here's a closer look at what we know AND don't know.

coffee and arthritis
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Diet can be an essential tool for those who have arthritis.

However, it is still not clear to investigators whether or not coffee is harmful or helpful. The lack of clear evidence creates apparent problems.

One study will come with results directly contradictory to what another study finds, making it challenging to determine if people with arthritis should cut out coffee entirely. Or, if it could be helpful for pain relief in particular situations.

Let’s jump into what we know, what we don’t know, and what is likely about connections between the morning coffee habit and how that affects arthritis.

The Link Between Coffee & Arthritis

The link between coffee and arthritis is not fully understood. Some studies have found that coffee may help to protect the joints from damage by reducing inflammation. In contrast, other studies have found that coffee may increase inflammation in the body.

A National Institutes of Health study 2 shows that caffeine, a primary ingredient in coffee, has been shown to cause issues with the development and repair of cartilage in the body. So, having too much of it could easily be connected to problems with bones and joints in older age – such as arthritis.

Then again, according to the study cited in this article 1, coffee can offer some relief to people already suffering from arthritis pain due to its antioxidant properties, as well as caffeine’s known effects as an extremely mild pain killer and stimulant.

What Does This Mean for Coffee Lovers?

Keeping in mind that there are so many contradictory studies, which means the overall pros and cons are still up for debate, there are a few possible things we can assume as likely based on a series of studies and knowledge of various foods.

It seems like the most significant risk with coffee and arthritis goes with people developing rheumatoid arthritis later in life if they have had a lifelong coffee habit. The lifelong coffee habit showed up more often in surveys with those who had arthritis later in life versus those who didn’t.

So, what’s a coffee-loving person with arthritis to do? The best action is to talk to your doctor about whether coffee is proper for you.

In the meantime, keep these tips keep in mind:

Limit Consumption

If you do drink coffee, limit your consumption to two cups per day. Too much caffeine isn’t good for the body, and it only takes a small amount of caffeine to get the positive benefit it offers.

Skip the Stir-ins

Avoid adding sugar or cream to your coffee, as these can increase inflammation in the body, which you want to avoid in general, much less if you have an issue with arthritis.

Use the Right Equipment

If drinking coffee causes you physical pain in your hands, choose arthritis-friendly coffee cups that have easy-to-grip handles and are lightweight

What If You Can’t (Or Won’t) Give Up Coffee?

Going without coffee can be a deal breaker for many people, especially if you don’t care for tea or don’t feel the same boost. In this case, the best way to try to alleviate potential issues is to look at foods that are good for bone and cartilage health.

Such foods include:

  • Legumes
  • Turmeric
  • Oranges
  • Pomegranates
  • Green Tea (even changing out one cup of coffee a day, in theory, could help)
  • Gelatin
  • Brown Rice
  • Various Nuts
  • An excellent daily multivitamin

While this is not a guarantee that having a certain amount of caffeine from coffee will potentially hurt cartilage health and development, then adding these foods that help cartilage stay strong or heal.

You should also consider supplementing your omega-3 fatty acids and adding ginger or garlic to appropriate dishes.

In Conclusion

While there isn’t a set decision on how coffee potentially helps to cause arthritis, how it might help pain relief in people who have it, or if all of that is incorrect – coffee drinkers should drink it in moderation.

Having the appropriate supplements and foods in your diet is also a great idea to help offset any potential arthritic issues that might come up due to a long-standing coffee habit.

This question will be interesting to follow as new studies come forward in the future.


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Scott Grant, CSA®, ATP

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional
Certified Rehab Technology Supplier (CRTS®)

I have been serving seniors and the elderly for over 20 years as a medical equipment and custom wheelchair specialist for a regional medical equipment company. I am also a lucky dad to four awesome daughters and grandfather to three pretty terrific grandkids. When not helping older adult improve the quality of their lives, I enjoy early morning runs and occasional kayak trips. I am also a self-admitted nerd who loves anything from the 1980's. Learn More

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