Is Your Morning Coffee Making You Fat?

The study found a harsh truth: only 35% of coffee drinkers have their coffee black. That means 65% are adding sugar, cream, flavored syrups, and a lot more crap.

(Source: Julie McMahon)

More than 100 million Americans, close to a third of the U.S. population, drink coffee every day. That number rises to 150 million Americans, or half the U.S. population, drinking tea (green, black, white, and oolong tea) daily. That’s a lot of people having a hot, sweet, delicious, stimulating beverage every day.

A new study examined data collected from 2000 to 2012 by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The data provided information on the coffee-drinking habits of more than 13,000 adults and the tea-drinking habits of more than 6,200 adults. The study found a harsh truth: only 35% of coffee drinkers have their coffee black. That means the other 65% are adding sugar, cream, flavored syrups, Splenda, stevia, powdered creamer, milk, or other forms of deliciousness. In the end, all those calories really tend to add up.

For example, a single fluid ounce of your classic Torani flavored syrup (vanilla, hazelnut, peppermint, etc.) contains 100 calories and 25 grams of sugar. Considering that your average large flavored coffee contains anywhere from 0.5 to two fluid ounces of syrup, that’s a lot of additional calories and sugar in your coffee.

Or take International Delight’s French Vanilla creamer, one of the most popular flavored non-dairy creamers served in restaurants around the country. A single packet contains 30 calories, two grams of fat, and five grams of sugar. Add two or three of those packets into the coffee, and you’re looking at a lot of extra calories and sugar.

For people who have just one cup of coffee per day, perhaps the extra calories don’t add up. But what about the 24% of coffee drinkers who have more than 12 cups of coffee per week? That’s at least two per day, so twice the calories. The average coffee drinker ends up consuming more than three cups per day. With 60% of people claiming they need a cup of coffee to start the day, you know there are a lot of people getting way more calories than are healthy. According to the study, more than 60% of the extra calories in coffee come from sugar, not from milk or cream.

Tea drinkers suffer the same problem. The addition of sugar, cream, milk, and sweeteners can increase the calorie count of their tea significantly.

“Compared with adding nothing to one’s tea, drinking tea with caloric add-ins increased daily caloric intake by more than 43 calories, on average, with nearly 85 percent of those added calories coming from sugar,” said University of Illinois kinesiology and community health professor Ruopeng An, who conducted the study.

Let this be a warning to you next time you hit up Starbucks or head to the coffee machine. Think about all those extra calories you’re consuming and what they’ll do to your arteries, your digestive system, your immune system, and your waistline. Perhaps you’ll ease up on the sugar or milk, or cut back on the coffee. Those calories add up in inches and pounds.


1. R. An, Y. Shi, “Consumption of coffee and tea with add-ins in relation to daily energy, sugar, and fat intake in US adults,” 2001–2012. Public Health, 2017; 146: 1 DOI: 10.1016/j.puhe.2016.12.032.

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