Coffee article health
Does Coffee Cause Kidney Stones?
Do you have a love-hate relationship with coffee? Sometimes, misinformation and/or lack of
information often leads people to believe some of the bad rep towards coffee. I have heard
people saying that coffee makes you acidic. Others say that it can cause dehydration. Some
believe that it is bad for the heart. What negative feedback about coffee have you heard
I know some people think that coffee can cause kidney stones. Coffee lovers will say that it’s not
true. I love coffee and I would confirm that it will not cause kidney stones. I have been drinking
coffee for more than two decades and I never had a problem with it.
Well, some of you who are reading this may argue that this is a personal choice and experience.
While you have a point, I think it will also be beneficial if we look at established clinical studies
and medical research confirming that coffee does not cause kidney stones.
What are kidney stones?
Kidneys work as a filter, cleaning the waste from the blood and creating urine. Sometimes, salt
and other minerals that are present in the urine form a crystal and get stuck in our kidney.
These formations are called kidney stones. Sizes of stones can range from the as small as a
sugar crystal to as big as a ping pong ball. We rarely notice the presence of a kidney stone until
they cause a blockage. When this happens, one can feel an intense pain. It means that kidney
stones have travelled into the ureters, the narrow tubes leading to the bladder.
When you have kidney stones, you can feel any of the following symptoms:
When kidney stones move through the urinary tract, they may cause:
Severe pain in the back, belly, or groin
Frequent or painful urination
Blood in the urine
Nausea and vomiting
According to National Health Services UK, kidney stones often form when minerals in the body
become too much and start to build up. The kidney cannot filter all of the waste and some of
these minerals stay in the kidney. Kidney stones can be made up of any of the following
uric acid – a waste product produced when the body breaks down food to use as energy
cysteine – an amino acid that helps to build protein
You and I are prone to developing kidney stones. But the following conditions increases the risk:
eat a high-protein, low-fibre diet
are inactive or bed-bound
have a family history of kidney stones
have had several kidney or urinary infections
have had a kidney stone before, particularly if it was before you were 25
have only one fully working kidney
have had an intestinal bypass (surgery on your digestive system), or a condition affecting the
small intestine, such as Crohn's disease
It is important to understand the nature and causes of kidney stones. This gives is a clear
picture of how kidney stones are developed and whether or not drinking coffee can cause
If food and drinks can cause kidney stones, note that calcium, ammonia, uric acid and cysteine
are the most common minerals that causes kidney stones. If you eat foods or drink liquids that
are rich in these minerals, over consumption of such can lead to kidney stones. However, it is
important to note that coffee does not contain any of the following minerals. Coffee, essentially,
contains caffeine and other antioxidants. As a matter of fact, antioxidants are beneficial
compounds that help avoid cell damage.
Due to its high antioxidant content, coffee is known to help decrease the risk of some cancers
and liver diseases. You can also lose weight if you drink coffee in moderation.
Let’s now focus on medical evidence that coffee does not cause kidney stones.
Coffee and kidney stones: research findings
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, Department of Nutrition, developed a study
to assess the effects of certain beverages on kidney stone formation. Published in the American
Journal of Epidemiology, the researchers determined the relationship between 21 different types
of beverages and the risk for kidney stone formation in more than 45,000 men. They found that
caffeinated coffee reduced the risk of kidney stone formation by 10 percent.
Another significant finding, the research team found that whether the coffee is decaf or not, the
same effect is achieved. Those who drink decaf coffee also had 10 percent reduction in kidney
In another useful study published by PubMed, two large groups of nurses and one group of
physicians have been followed for many years to describe what habits and diets are considered
healthy or unhealthy. For the duration of the study, some people in the group developed kidney
stones. Some, did not. The interesting part of the study was that the questionnaire used
determined the specific food and beverage intake of the participants, as well as the amount
The amounts are important to keep in mind. For coffee and tea it was 8 oz servings. For juices,
a small glass. For carbonated drinks and beer a glass, bottle or can. For wine a 5 oz glass.
Servings were graded from less than 1 weekly, over the range of 1, 2-4, 5-6 weekly, and more
than 1 serving a day. A significant effect meant that as the amounts increased, the risk of new
stones increased or decreased in rough proportion. The researchers called it the ‘dose’ effect.
According to the researchers, sugar sweetened colas and non-cola drinks were associated with
development of kidney stones. Punch was also associated with more stones. But drinks with
sugar in them were not all bad. Apple juice, grapefruit juice, and tomato juice did not raise or
lower risk of stones.
How about coffee? It turns out that men who drank coffee had a lower risk of developing kidney
In a report published by the American Study for Nutrition, the researchers analyzed 217,883
participants over an eight-year period and they found that coffee can lower the risk of kidney
How to prevent kidney stones
However, drinking coffee is not the only solution to reduce the risk of developing kidney stones.
Dr. Melanie Hoenig, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel
Deaconess Medical Center, shared the top ways to prevent kidney stones. Here are her
Drink plenty of water
Water helps dissolve substance in the urine. Try to drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. Also
try other liquids like fresh fruit juices, particularly lemon and orange juice. The citrate in these
drinks can dissolve stones easily.
Get the calcium you need
Know your daily calcium requirement. Lack of calcium or over consumption can lead to kidney
stones formation. Men 50 and older should get 1,000 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day, along
with 800 to 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D to help the body absorb the calcium.
Preferably, get calcium from natural sources so the body can use it easily.
Eat less table salt. This is especially true if you are prone to develop kidney stones. Current
guidelines suggest limiting total daily sodium intake to 2,300 mg. If sodium has contributed to
kidney stones in the past, try to reduce your daily intake to 1,500 mg. This will also be good for
your blood pressure and heart.
Limit animal protein
Eat less red meat. Limit your chicken and eggs. Instead, get plant-based protein because they
are easy to breakdown. Plus, it is good for your heart.
Avoid stone-forming foods
Beets, chocolate, spinach, rhubarb, tea, and most nuts are rich in oxalate, and colas are rich in
phosphate, both of which can contribute to kidney stones.
Strive for a well-balanced diet. Anything in excess is bad for the health. The same thing is true
with coffee. It can help reduce kidney stone formation but drink coffee in moderation. At most,
three cups a day are good enough to make you enjoy coffee and get its health benefits.