coffeeI really like coffee, even though I only tend to drink it a few days a week. In fact, as I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten even more interested in it. On a recent trip to Panama I visited a coffee plantation, went through an official tasting, and even tried the famed “Geisha” coffee that has supposedly sold for over $100 a pound. And most news about the health benefits of coffee are very good. It is high in antioxidants, and is associated with lower risk of type II diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
Unfortunately, there seem to be some negative effects as well. Epidemiologic studies have linked urinary incontinence with drinking coffee for women in the past. Now, there’s a study showing an association with the normal amount of coffee a lot of people drink every day and reduced bladder control among men, too.
Researchers from the University of Alabama used survey information from 5,000 men who were at least 21 years old. Those who drank about 234 mg of caffeine per day were troubled by moderate to severe incontinence.
While that amount of caffeine can be found in a couple of cups of coffee, caffeine levels do vary depending on how coffee is made. Instant coffee tends to have less caffeine. It has about 100mg of caffeine per cup. For filter coffee, a cup has about 140mg of caffeine. And, researchers said it’s the caffeine that’s causing the problem. Researchers adjusted for prostate conditions and the association between ingesting caffeine and moderate to severe urinary incontinence was unchanged.
Why Researchers Singled out Caffeine in Coffee
Like coffee, tea is available in a decaffeinated version, but even a cup of tea that’s not decaffeinated only has about 75mg of caffeine. Cola and energy drinks tend to have even less from 40mg to 80mg. Chocolate doesn’t seem to have a lot of caffeine, either. A 50g bar of milk chocolate only gives you up to 25mg of caffeine. The same amount of plain chocolate can have up to 50mg of caffeine. That’s a far cry from the 234 mg that produced problems in the study.
An abstract (summary) of the study was published online in The Journal of Urology in January. As for me, I’m going to keep having a few cups on the weekends, and occasionally whenever I want.

Wiley Long is founder and president of Medigap Advisors, and is passionate about helping people navigate the confusing waters of Medicare. He is the author of The Medicare Playbook: Designing Your Successful Health Coverage Strategy, a clear and simple explanation so you can make the most of your Medicare coverage.