The rise of herbal tea and its benefits has put coffee at a disadvantage, thanks to the bean being blamed for a range of health issues – from hypertension and gout flare-ups to breast cysts and incontinence.

But it's not all doom and gloom for coffee lovers. While drinking more than four cups has proved to elevate health concerns, there is new research which makes a strong case for its consumption – but in moderation.

A research paper published in The BMJ, a medical journal, on Wednesday, 22 November, suggests that drinking between three to four cups of coffee a day could help stave off a number of health issues. However, if not controlled, it could lead to a few other problems. More on that in a bit.

Led by Robin Poole from the University of Southampton, the study suggests that java drinkers who consumed coffee in moderation are 17% less likely to die early.

If that's not enough to get a steaming hot cup of the bean, they are also 19% less likely to die of heart disease, 18% less likely to develop cancer and have a lowered risk of type 2 diabetes, when compared with people who do not drink coffee.

Gender also influences the effects of coffee. Women seem to benefit more than men with higher levels of consumption if factors like mortality from cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases are considered. At the same time, high consumption is associated with an increased risk of bone fractures in women, and can also lead to a higher risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

According to research in the past, caffeine consumption has been linked to the body's ability to absorb calcium, which in turn affects bone mineral density, especially in women. The latest study builds on that research but calls for more randomised controlled trials to further understand the correlation.

"Factors such as age, whether people smoked or not and how much exercise they took could all have had an effect," Professor Paul Roderick, co-author of the study, told BBC. "There is a balance of risks in life, and the benefits of moderate consumption of coffee seem to outweigh the risks," he added.

While most researchers cannot agree on a definitive list to detail the benefits of coffee, they point out that three cups a day is a safe bet.

"I think now we can be reasonably reassured that overall, coffee drinking is a safe habit," Dr Eliseo Guallar, Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, mentioned in his editorial which accompanied the study. "Moderate coffee consumption seems remarkably safe, and it can be incorporated as part of a healthy diet by most of the adult population."

Flat White Coffee Millenials
Drinking between three to four cups of coffee a day could help stave off a number of health issues REUTERS/Jason Reed