People are really confused about coffee, according to a new survey from the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC).

"We are increasingly seeing consumers obtain health information from the Internet and media sources rather than from qualified healthcare professionals," Lluís Serra-Majem, one of three panelists ISIC invited to discuss the survey results, said in a press release. "We need to improve access to information for all parties, as in my experience healthcare professionals sometimes impart their own opinions to patients, even if this is only based on personal experience, not scientific fact."

The survey, which was given to coffee and non-coffee drinkers alike, suggests the main reason consumers are confused about the potential health benefits of coffee is because they receive information that's "not always in line with the latest research." So the ISIC invited Serra-Majem and two other experts to review and discuss the latest scientific research on coffee and health in an attempt to set the record straight.

Turns out, nearly 50 percent of survey respondents believed coffee causes health problems. Fifty-six percent of the respondents who believed coffee increases risk for heart disease said they got this information online, in a newspaper or magazine, or on TV. Perhaps surprisingly 16 percent said they got their information from a doctor, nurse, or dietician.

But in reality, recent studies have shown drinking three to five cups of coffee a day can improve alertness, as well as reduce risk for type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive decline.

"Key dietary messages such as 'consume five portions of fruit and vegetables a day' and 'eat less fat, salt and sugar' are well known, [but] many remain unaware of the potential health benefits of coffee," panelist Chris Seal, professor of food and human nutrition at Newcastle University, said. "Helping people to understand how regular daily consumption of 3 to 5 cups of coffee might reduce their risk of certain diseases and long-term health conditions could prompt behavior change."

Based on scientific evidence, panelists believe coffee can be part of a healthy balanced lifestyle. The beverage provides small amounts of the nutrients potassium, magnesium, and niacin — all of which are good for heart and bone health. This is true for breastfeeding and pregnant women, too: Studies find women can drink two cups of coffee (200 milligrams) a day without harming the fetus or infant.

Panelists concluded both consumers and health care professionals need more "up-to-date, science-based information" when it comes to drinking coffee.

"Coffee is often drunk to accompany or conclude a meal therefore it's important that consumers understand the value of what they're drinking as well as eating," panelist Dr. Agnès Giboreau, research director at the Institut Paul Bocuse in France, said. "Personal habits, such as the way someone takes their coffee, are often based on experiences and cultural backgrounds, and so changing behavior must be consistent with culture, beliefs and typical habits."