A new UK study has concluded that drinking coffee is "more likely to benefit health than to harm it," giving java lovers another reason to keep up their habit.

The findings, from the University of Southampton with collaborators from the University of Edinburgh, come after many other research studies on coffee intake have also found that the drink could have benefits for a range of conditions.

For the new research the team looked at 201 studies that had included data from observational research and 17 studies with data from clinical trials across all countries and all settings.

The team found that drinking coffee is associated with a lower risk of death and heart disease when compared to not drinking coffee, with the largest reduction in relative risk of death found to be three cups a day. Drinking more than three cups a day was not associated with harm, however the beneficial effect was less pronounced.

Coffee drinking was also associated with a lower risk of several cancers, including prostate, endometrial, skin and liver cancer, as well as of type 2 diabetes, gallstones and gout. A beneficial link was also found between coffee drinking and Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and depression.

The greatest benefit was seen for liver conditions, such as cirrhosis of the liver.

Although there was less evidence for the effects of drinking decaffeinated coffee, the drink was found to have similar health benefits for a number of conditions.

However, the team cautioned against drinking coffee in pregnancy, which may be harmful rather than beneficial, and also noted that drinking coffee is potentially linked to a very small increased risk of fracture in women, but not men.

They also pointed out that as they included studies which used mainly observational data, no firm conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect, however they concluded that coffee drinking "seems safe within usual patterns of consumption, except during pregnancy and in women at increased risk of fracture."

The researchers are now calling for randomized controlled trials "to understand whether the key observed associations are causal" and strengthen the evidence.

In a linked editorial, Eliseo Guallar at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health commented that although the results reassure that coffee intake is generally safe, doctors should not recommend drinking coffee to prevent disease and people should not start drinking coffee for health reasons.

Too much coffee could also lead to adverse effects, as could a high an intake of sugar and fat which is often consumed with a cup of coffee.

However, even with these caveats, "moderate coffee consumption seems remarkably safe, and it can be incorporated as part of a healthy diet by most of the adult population," Guallar concluded.

The findings can be found published online in The BMJ.