Coffee and health in the elderly

Acta Med Croatica. 2000;54(1):33-6.


Coffee is a very attractive but not a unique drink. There are various types of coffee, e.g. Arabica, Canephora, and Robusta. In addition, various coffee blends containing several coffee types of different origin are offered in coffee-houses in Croatia and worldwide. These coffee blends can differ substantially according to their components, especially to the proportion of caffeine. Caffeine is the major coffee constituent which the coffee tolerance or intolerance depends on. In a healthy liver, the majority of caffeine is degraded by the hepatic microsomal enzymatic system. Caffeine is mostly degraded to paraxanthine substances, partially to theobromine and theophylline, and a small amount of unchanged caffeine is excreted by urine. Therefore, the metabolism of caffeine depends on the state of this enzymatic system of the liver. Elderly individuals with a depleted enzymatic system do not tolerate coffee with caffeine. They are recommended to take decaffeinated coffee, and this only if their stomach is healthy, because both decaffeinated coffee and coffee with caffeine cause heartburn. Moderate amounts of coffee (50-100 mg of caffeine or 5-10 g of coffee powder a day) are well tolerated by a majority of elderly people, who enjoy to meet and chat over a cup of coffee. Excessive amounts of coffee, however, can in many individuals cause very unpleasant, exceptionally even life-threatening side effects. Therefore, elderly persons are recommended to take moderate amounts of coffee which will not cause any health impairments.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Caffeine / adverse effects*
  • Coffee / adverse effects*
  • Humans


  • Coffee
  • Caffeine