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Is Coffee Bad for Your Kidneys? What You Need to Know!

person having another cup of coffee

If you’re living with kidney disease or are at risk for developing it, you might be wondering if your coffee habit is doing damage. The good news is that, according to the National Kidney Foundation, drinking coffee is generally safe for those with kidney disease.1

Just like anything related to our health, however, the answer is more complicated than a simple yes or no. Here’s what you need to know about coffee and your kidneys.

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How Does Coffee Affect Kidney Function?

Coffee is mildly diuretic. This means that drinking coffee can cause you to pee slightly more than usual, but not enough to actually dehydrate you. In fact, coffee can actually help you stay hydrated because, depending on how you take your coffee, it can contain up to 98% water.

The caffeine in coffee also has a brief vasoconstrictive effect, meaning it makes your blood vessels constrict. This can cause a small, temporary increase in blood pressure.

While those with kidney disease need to be careful about their blood pressure, caffeine’s effect is so brief that it’s unlikely to cause any lasting damage. However, you should always ask your doctor if you’re unsure or have any concerns before consuming any.

empty coffee cups
Image Credit: Izz R, Unsplash

Does Coffee Cause Kidney Stones?

Good news for coffee lovers everywhere: coffee can actually help reduce your risk of kidney stones. According to this study published by the National Kidney Foundation’s (NKF) American Journal of Kidney Diseases (AJKD), consuming up to 1.5 cups of coffee per day can lower your risk of developing kidney stones by as much as 40%.

Before you run to the nearest café, it’s important to know that this study only looked at those who already had kidney stones. As such, more research is needed to determine if coffee can help prevent kidney stones from developing in the first place.

This is great news considering the huge number of Americans who drink coffee. Bloomberg claims that 66% of the US population drinks coffee daily as of 2022, up from 58% from 2021. That’s not hard to believe. Starbucks’s revenue increased by over 14% in the first quarter of 2022, Americans drank 3.3 billion pounds of coffee in 2021, and Folgers sold more than $1 billion worth of coffee in 2019. In short, we love our coffee.

Can Coffee Damage Your Kidneys?

Not by itself, no, coffee isn’t likely to cause kidney damage. To understand why, it’s important to understand the common causes of kidney damage, which are:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Heavy alcohol use
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Recurrent kidney infection
  • Certain medications

As you can see, coffee isn’t on the list. While coffee itself isn’t likely to cause kidney damage, the same can’t be said for some of the add-ins.

For example, many coffee drinks are just desserts in disguise. A Salted Caramel Mocha from Starbucks, one of the most popular items on their menu, packs 59 grams of sugar in a grande cup. That’s nearly double the American Heart Association’s recommended daily intake of sugar, and consuming that much sugar can lead to weight gain, which is a risk factor for developing kidney disease.

Coffee creamer, another common add-in, is also high in sugar and calories—usually 5 grams of sugar per serving. Add flavored syrups, sweetened whipped cream, and other toppings, and you’ve got a recipe for weight gain and poor kidney health.

lots of coffee cups on white background
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

Is Decaf Coffee Bad for Your Kidneys?

Again, not necessarily, no. In fact, if you enjoy the taste of coffee but can do without the caffeine kick, decaf coffee might be a good choice. Decaf coffee is lower in caffeine than regular coffee, but it still tastes like the real thing.

If you keep the mix-ins to a minimum, decaf coffee is a perfectly healthy choice for those with kidney disease or anyone who wants to avoid caffeine’s side effects.

Can I Drink Coffee With Chronic Kidney Disease?

For most people, the answer is yet. But again, it is always advised to ask your doctor first. A study found that people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) can benefit from drinking coffee. Specifically, increased caffeine intake can help lower the risk of death in those with CKD by improving vascular function.

Do remember that the recommended daily caffeine intake is 400 milligrams, which is about 4 cups of regular brewed coffee. So, if you have CKD, it’s best to stick to plain coffee or decaf.

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Final Thoughts

Drinking coffee is not usually bad for your kidneys, and it may even have some health benefits. It’s still important to be mindful of your caffeine intake, including what you add to your morning cup of joe. Not sure how much coffee and caffeine is safe for you? Talk to your physician or dietitian for personalized recommendations.

Related Read: Caffeine Detox Facts & Tips: How to Quit the Easy Way!


Featured Image Credit: SrideeStudio, Shutterstock

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Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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