A recent trend focuses on the potential health benefits of drinking coffee with lemon.
Proponents claim that the mix can be nutritious and relieves headaches and diarrhea.
Since coffee and lemon each have multiple proven health effects, you may wonder whether drinking the two together offers any additional benefits.
This article reviews the evidence on coffee with lemon to either validate or debunk the claims.
What is coffee with lemon?
Coffee and lemons are two common ingredients found in almost every kitchen.
Coffee — one of the most consumed beverages worldwide — is made by brewing roasted coffee beans.
About 75% of Americans report drinking it daily, and it’s sought after mainly due to its caffeine content, which stimulates the central nervous system and increases alertness and mood.
On the other hand, lemons are a fruit that belongs to the genus Citrus. They’re the world’s third most-produced citrus fruit, after oranges and mandarins.
They’re a great source of vitamin C and antioxidants — along with many other beneficial plant compounds — which is why people have used them for their medicinal properties for centuries.
The coffee with lemon trend suggests mixing 1 cup (240 milliliters) of coffee with the juice of 1 lemon.
While some may think that it’s an unusual combination, others believe that the benefits outweigh the odd flavor — although science may disagree.
Summary: Coffee and lemon are two common ingredients with beneficial effects on your health. While some believe that mixing the two offers impressive benefits, science may disagree.
Coffee and lemons pack multiple health benefits
Both coffee and lemons have many proven health benefits, which are predominantly associated with their high content of antioxidants. These molecules protect your body from the harmful effects of excessive amounts of free radicals.
Here’s an overview of the benefits that each has to offer.
Evidence-based benefits of coffee
Roasted coffee beans contain over 1,000 bioactive compounds, but caffeine and chlorogenic acid (CGA) stand out as key active compounds with antioxidant capacity.
The two activate pathways that protect against cancer growth, linking coffee to a reduced risk of several types of cancer, including:
- liver cancer
- prostate cancer
- endometrial cancer
- breast cancer
- gastrointestinal cancer
- colorectal cancer
Additionally, coffee has been associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, heart and liver disease, and depression, as well as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Lastly, its caffeine content is responsible for the drink’s energy-boosting effect, positive influence on endurance exercise performance, and ability to increase the number of calories you burn.
Evidence-based benefits of lemon juice
Lemons are a great source of vitamin C and flavonoids, both of which act as powerful antioxidants.
Vitamin C and citrus flavonoids have been linked to a lower risk of some cancers.
Also, both compounds offer protection against heart disease, while vitamin C protects your immune system and helps fight infections.
As you can see, coffee and lemons offer a wide range of benefits that protect your body from chronic ailments. Still, mixing the two doesn’t necessarily translate to a more potent drink.
Summary: Coffee and lemons contain plant beneficial compounds with cancer-fighting properties. They may also protect you against chronic conditions, such as heart disease and diabetes.
Popular claims about drinking coffee with lemon
There are four main claims about the benefits of drinking coffee with lemon. This is what science has to say about them.
Claim 1. It helps melt off fat
This notion is prevalent among various trends that involve the use of lemon, but ultimately neither lemon nor coffee can melt off fat.
Suggested read: Coffee vs. tea: Which is healthier?
The only way to get rid of unwanted fat is by consuming fewer calories or burning more of them. Thus, this claim is false.
However, studies show that coffee may help you lose some weight, which is why some people may experience a slight weight reduction upon consuming the drink.
Recent research has found that caffeine may stimulate brown adipose tissue (BAT), a type of metabolically active fatty tissue that decreases with age and can metabolize carbs and fats.
One test-tube and human study determined that caffeine from a standard 8-ounce (240-mL) cup of coffee can boost BAT activity, causing an increase in metabolic rate.
Similarly, studies suggest that caffeine may enhance the effects of exercise, although more research is needed.
That said, the potential weight loss effect may be due to the caffeine in coffee, not the mixture of coffee with lemon.
Claim 2. It eases headaches
Headaches and migraine attacks have been ranked worldwide as major contributors to disability in those under 50 years.
Hence, it’s common to find multiple home remedies for their treatment. Still, research is very divided regarding the use of coffee for this purpose.
One hypothesis suggests that the caffeine in coffee has a vasoconstrictor effect — meaning that it tightens your blood vessels — which reduces blood flow toward your head and relieves the pain.
Research also suggests that caffeine can amplify the effects of medication for headaches and migraine attacks.
Yet, another hypothesis believes that caffeine may act as a headache trigger for some, along with other beverages and foods, such as chocolate, alcohol, and citrus fruits like lemons.
Therefore, drinking coffee with lemon may relieve or worsen a headache, depending on the person. And if it does help reduce pain, it would be again due to the caffeine in coffee, not the coffee and lemon drink itself.
Claim 3. It relieves diarrhea
This remedy calls for eating ground coffee with lemon instead of drinking it.
Suggested read: 10 evidence-based health benefits of green tea
Still, there’s currently no evidence to support the use of lemon to treat diarrhea, and coffee stimulates your colon, which increases your need to poop.
Additionally, diarrhea causes a significant loss of fluids that can lead to dehydration. Coffee’s diuretic effect may worsen dehydration.
Claim 4. It offers skincare benefits
Research suggests that both coffee and lemon’s antioxidant content may provide skin benefits, so there seems to be some truth behind this claim.
Coffee’s CGA content may improve blood flow and hydration in the skin.
Studies show that its consumption may reduce skin scaliness, improve smoothness, and reduce the deterioration of the skin barrier.
Additionally, lemon’s vitamin C content may stimulate the production of collagen — a protein that provides your skin with strength and elasticity — and reduce skin damage caused by free radicals that originate from sun exposure.
However, you may still take advantage of these benefits by consuming coffee and lemons separately, as no evidence suggests that the effect is only exerted when the two are mixed.
Summary: Coffee seems to be responsible for most of the purported benefits of drinking coffee with lemon, though lemons also play an important role in the skincare claims. Yet, no evidence suggests that they should be consumed together for greater benefits.
Downsides of coffee with lemon
The downsides of drinking coffee with lemon, just like the benefits, are the result of each ingredient’s drawbacks.
For instance, evidence suggests that heavy coffee drinkers may become addicted to caffeine, which the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes as a clinical disorder.
Further studies also indicate that regular caffeine intake is linked to sleep disturbances and associated daytime sleepiness, an increased risk of pregnancy loss, and heartburn.
As for lemons, while generally uncommon, some people may be allergic to citrus fruits’ juice, seeds, or peels.
Additionally, lemons contain citric acid, which is a known contributor to dental erosion.
Summary: While coffee and lemon are two highly consumed ingredients, coffee may impair sleep, cause caffeine addiction, lead to heartburn, and increase the risk of pregnancy loss. Meanwhile, lemons may cause allergies in rare cases, and contribute to dental erosion.
Does coffee with lemon work?
Coffee and lemons offer a range of health benefits, mostly due to their antioxidant contents.
However, there’s no evidence to support the claim that drinking coffee with lemon relieves diarrhea or causes fat to melt away.
Suggested read: Matcha vs. coffee: Differences, benefits, pros, and cons
As for the rest of the mixture’s proclaimed benefits, you can obtain them by consuming coffee or lemon juice separately. Thus, there’s no need to mix the two if you don’t feel like it.