There have been numerous studies on the health benefits and risks of drinking coffee over the past decade. In fact over 18,000 studies have been done, and most of the news is good for us caffeine addicts.

I know that I can't function well until I've had my first cup of coffee. I wake up around 4:15 a.m. to get ready for work, so coffee is essential for me. I even go through the ritual of loading up the coffee pot at night so it's ready to rock the next morning.

And I tend to drink about 4 cups before I head to work. So does my wife. It sure tastes good with that morning cinnamon bread.

It turns out that coffee may have a lot more pros than cons. Among the benefits:

1. Brain Health-- Several studies indicate that coffee drinkers who consume 3-4 cups a day may have a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. The studies tend to say it's the antioxidants that may prevent damage to brain cells and help our neurotransmitters click.

2. Lower Diabetes Risk-- Coffee might lower the risk of type 2 diabetes through its beneficial antioxidants, and compounds that make cells more sensitive to insulin. It might actually help regulate blood sugar.

3. Heart Benefits-- This one surprised me. Coffee's numerous antioxidants might reduce inflammation in blood vessels that lead to plaque deposits forming. Be aware however that more is definitely not better in this case. The benefit turns into a heart risk if you average more than 5 cups on a daily basis.

4. Liver Benefits-- Moderate coffee drinkers seem to have a lot less incidence of liver cirrhosis. It is also associated with a decrease in risk for liver cancer. Once again it's those antioxidants reducing inflammation.

As far as the risks, they are not too drastic, as long as you keep it to around 4 cups per day:

1. Caffeine Sensitivity-- Some of us are more sensitive to coffee's stimulant, making us jittery and shaky. That caffeine is also addictive, so if you're used to that morning joe and don't get it, you get withdrawal effects like headaches and fatigue.

2. Sleep Problems-- Obviously, drinking coffee in the evening can keep you up at night and cause interrupted sleep.

3. Cholesterol Issues-- If you drink unfiltered coffee, you can see an increase in LDL cholesterol readings. So if you're using a french press or a cappuccino machine without a coffee filter, you can be increasing that bad cholesterol. It's always a better idea to use a filter when you're brewing.

4. Pregnancy Risks-- Drinking too much coffee during pregnancy has been shown in some studies to increase the risk of miscarriage. This risk doesn't happen if you drink just a cup per day. It also gets into breast milk, so new moms should be aware that their nursing babies could get irritable and jittery.

How about you? Do you have to have your java in the morning. It's a peacekeeper and essential element of mornings at the Jones house.