Is Coffee Actually Good For You?
Did you know that coffee has some pretty impressive health benefits, and is actually good for you? Read on to find out just how healthy coffee can be for you.
For years coffee we have considered to be an unhealthy component of our diets. Many of the health conscious cut back or give up coffee. And the rest of us weaker willed addicts just drink it guiltily.
But, and I hold this as proof that the universe is a friendly place – science is now coming forward with evidence to suggest that coffee is not unhealthy. In fact, the more studies which are published on the subject, the more it appears that coffee actually has an astounding range of health benefits! So many so, that if many more of these findings come out coffee may be the world’s new superfood!
Why Was Coffee Considered to be Unhealthy
If you are like me, then you probably just have a nagging idea that coffee is bad. Not healthy for me, and I shouldn’t really be drinking it. But why? What was it about coffee that made society class it as an unhealthy drink?
The top reason why coffee has long been considered unhealthy by society, is because it was on the list of carcinogenic foods. Carcinogenic foods can cause cancer as well as other types of disease resulting from free radical damage.
Also, many people drink their coffee with milk and sugar. Milk and sugar can in some cases throw out the findings of studies.
The first question this probably raises in your mind is what changed? Why is coffee all of sudden taking on superfood status? Well, the answer is actually quite simple.
In short, earlier studies done on coffee were not as refined as the newer ones which are currently being published. Many studies did not separate out cigarette smokers from the coffee drinkers who took part in the studies. Many smokers are also coffee drinkers! Which means that many of the subjects tested in the studies on the effects of coffee on the body, were suffering from carcinogenic effects from smoking.
Coffee is No Longer a Carcinogen
Something like this can seriously throw out a controlled study. And accounts for why coffee was on the list of carcinogenic foods. As the results from newer and more controlled studies came out, authorities realised that coffee is in fact not carcinogenic in the least. And authorities have since removed it from the list of carcinogenic foods.
Besides isolating smokers from test results, studies are now also taking into account other things such as sugar consumption in coffee.
And of course the reason why this all took so long to come to light is simple. Studies of these kind take many years to run their course and to be complete. Thankfully, no food or drink causes cancer in a year or two. So these studies have span a decent portion of a person’s life, in order to be the least bit accurate.
Why Coffee is Good for You
The fact that coffee is no longer a carcinogen is really great news. And it gets better. Here are some of the top reasons why coffee is actually good for you.
Coffee is a Top Source of Antioxidants
Antioxidants have become famous for the role that they play in anti-aging, cancer protection and the maintenance of flawless skin and a detoxed body. But besides these glamorous benefits, antioxidants are a vital component to a myriad of functions within the body. So many in fact that science has not yet investigated them all.
And guess what? Coffee is absolutely brimming with antioxidants. So much so that one study(1) published states that ‘Drinking two or three cups of coffee made with roasted beans ensures the daily consumption rate for antioxidants.’
Research (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) is also showing that coffee makes up the largest source of antioxidants in many people’s diets. So much so that in some cases, where consumption is around 2-4 cups per day, that coffee can constitute up to over 60% of the daily antioxidant intake.
Coffee is a Cancer Fighter
Thanks to its generous compliment of antioxidants, coffee is taking its place as a newly confirmed cancer fighter. Once of the major roles that antioxidants play in the body is to assist in fighting free radical damage. Which is associated with the development of cancerous cells.
This is quite a turn around considering we thought coffee was cancer causing!
However, the science is in on this one. And there seems to be a resounding conclusion that coffee can act as a protectant against cancer.
To begin with, in 2016 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), having reviewed all available research on cancer and coffee, stated that they ‘found no clear association between coffee intake and cancer at any body site and, in some cases, found evidence that coffee drinking is associated with a reduced occurrence of certain cancers’ (10).
Just to make you aware, of the impact that coffee can have on protecting you from certain cancers, let’s take a look at some more of the findings.
Research (11, 12) has revealed that daily coffee drinking can reduce your risk of developing liver cancer by up to 40%. Coffee drinkers have also been found (13) to show up to 15% reduced risk of colorectal cancer. Another study (14) indicates that drinking more than 5 cups of coffee per day could reduce one’s risk of brain cancer by up to 40%. And a study (15) done in 2009 states that drinking coffee everyday could result in a 20% lowered risk of endometrial cancer. With a further 7% reduction per additional cup drunk each day.
These findings show that coffee can play a significant cancer fighting role in the diet. What is more, coffee is a regular part of many people’s diets, not something most people need to ‘remember’ to include!
Coffee Can Act as a Fat Burner
If utilized correctly, and drunk in conjunction with a healthy diet – coffee can be a fat burner.
A further study (18) revealed that coffee can increase the rate at which fat is made available, to be used or burnt by the body at an increased rate of 44%.
Yes please, I’ll have some of that!
Be aware of course, that these benefits are maximised when the coffee you are drinking does not contain sugar. And also, if you time your coffee drinking with your workouts, you can up your metabolism and fat burning rate even more. Which brings us to our next area where coffee can be of benefit.
Coffee Can Ramp Up Your Workouts
Everyone knows that coffee can increase one’s energy levels for a period of time. In fact, that is probably the main reason why we love the stuff so much.
Coffee’s scientifically proven (19, 20, 21) ability to get one buzzing is the perfect game plan for maximising your workout sessions. The fact that caffeine in coffee can drastically increase one’s physical performance, by up to as much as 12% (22, 23), will optimize your workout time. Plus, the energizing effects from the caffeine can also make workouts more enjoyable.
These two points, coffee’s energizing effects and its ability to boost the body’s fat burning capacity have knock on effect when it comes to exercising. Your endurance is enhanced because of the caffeine. Which means you are going harder for longer. And, your metabolism is firing faster, and burning fat at an increased rate. What’s not to like?
Oh, and of course, having that cup of coffee can even help you to get geared up for the workout in the first place! Combine this with the next point and we have a real win win situation…
Coffee Decreases Muscle Pain After Exercise
A killer session at the gym can do wonder for one’s energy levels and mood. But having aching muscles during your session and the next day, is one part that is not so enjoyable. Thankfully, this is another area where coffee can help.
Studies (24, 25) have shown that consuming caffeine prior to exercising can dramatically reduce perceived muscle pain during and after exercise. And the effects can last up to 3 days! One of these (26) studies revealed that drinking 2 cups of coffee reduced muscle pain by up to 48%.
What’s more the effect can last for up to 3 days…. Not bad for a simple few cups of coffee.
Coffee Protects Your Liver from Damage
Yes! Yes! What we have all been waiting for. Coffee, thanks to its high concentration of antioxidants, is a liver tonic an protectant. There are many liver tonics that we know about already. Such as milk thistle extract and that kind of thing. But none as convenient and pleasurable to consume as our daily cups of java!
And what is more, the beneficial effect that coffee has on the liver is not slight. Studies (27, 28, 29) are indicating that by drinking four or more cups of coffee per day, you could reduce your risk of developing liver disease by up to 80%. That is quite a serious reduction, and it appears that it is maximised by the amount of coffee drunk and the number of years over which it is drunk. So long time coffee drinkers rejoice : ).
Interestingly, a further study (30) revealed that the protective effect of coffee seems to be from the coffee as a whole, and not from the isolated caffeine. So, for liver protection purposes, take your caffeine in the form of coffee and not in sachets or energy drinks.
Coffee Can Keep Away Depression
Coffee is the world’s immediate answer for almost every problem. “Don’t worry, we will sort this out. Let’s make a cup of coffee. ”
But who would have thought that coffee is actually scientifically proven to keep depression from knocking at the door?
A study (31) recently published by the Harvard School of Health concludes that women can effectively lower their risk of developing depression by up to 20%, by drinking 4 cups of coffee per day.
Another study (32) revealed findings that those who drank +4 cups of coffee per day were 53% less likely to commit suicide.
As of yet scientists do not know what are the underlying mechanisms behind coffee’s ability that fight depression and prevent suicide.
Perhaps it has got to do with the power of keeping busy!
Coffee Can be Beneficial to Your Heart
For a long time there has been a false premise circulating that coffee is bad for your heart because it raises the blood pressure. While this is true, the effect is quite minimal and usually reduces or goes away if one drinks coffee on a daily basis.
There is now also scientific evidence to suggest that coffee can be beneficial to the long term health of your heart. One study (33) revealed that there was no direct link between coffee consumption and heart disease. It also stated that findings indicated that women who drank coffee have a reduced risk of heart disease.
In addition, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology published findings (36) that indicate ‘habitual coffee consumption is neutral to beneficial regarding the risks of a variety of adverse CV outcomes including coronary heart disease (37), congestive heart failure, arrhythmias (38), and stroke’.
Coffee Can Guard Against Dementia and Alzheimers Disease
A few years back there was a misplaced conception that coffee could indirectly exacerbates predispositions to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This is another misconception around coffee which science is dispelling with a vengeance.
Published studies (39, 40, 41) are showing that coffee drinkers have a much lower chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in later life. And the percentage by which one’s risk chance is decreased by coffee is substantial. According to one of the studies, people who drink 3-5 cups of coffee per day from middle age onwards can have up to a 65% decreased risk factor.
There have also been studies published by researchers on the effects of coffee drinking in relation to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia for men and women. Both sexes it appears can reap the protective benefits.
A study (42) conducted exclusively on women concluded that women who consumed coffee are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia. They also stated that “The mounting evidence of caffeine consumption as a potential protective factor against cognitive impairment is exciting given that caffeine is also an easily modifiable dietary factor with very few contraindications.”
A study (43) published which analyzed male coffee drinkers and their risk factor of developing Alzheimer’s or dementia stated the following in conclusion of their findings. “Findings suggest that consuming coffee reduces cognitive decline in elderly men. An inverse and J-shaped association may exist between the number of cups of coffee consumed and cognitive decline. With the least cognitive decline for men consuming three cups of coffee per day.”
Coffee Can Lower One’s Risk of Parkinson’s Disease
Another dreaded neurodegenerative disease of the elderly is Parkinson’s disease. And it is yet another area of health where daily coffee drinking can help to lower one’s risk.
Numerous published studies (44, 45, 46, 47) have shown that habitual coffee drinkers have a significantly reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. The percentage decrease in risk ranges between 32 and 60%. These findings also seem to indicate that the rate of decreased risk depends on how many cups of coffee you drink per day. The more coffee you drink, the more your risk goes down.
Also noteworthy from these findings is that it appears that it is the caffeine which is directly to thank for the reduction in Parkinson’s risk factor. Which means that other beverages which contain caffeine, such as tea – are also beneficial if you are looking to guard yourself against Parkinson’s disease.
Coffee Can Help to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Got a sweet tooth and worried about developing diabetes? Well keeping up your daily coffee drinking could go a long way to protect you from type 2 diabetes.
A large amount of studies (48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53) have been published which conclude that daily coffee drinking can significantly reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes development. The amount by which one’s risk factor can be reduced by coffee drinking, varies between 23 and 67%.
A review and meta analysis (54) of a number of studies stated that a 7% reduction could be directly associated with each cup of coffee drunk per day.
Of course be aware that it is not a good idea to drink multiple spoons of sugar in your coffee. Particularly if you are aiming to reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes! So for those of you who are interested in this health benefit of coffee. Make sure that you are drinking it with a natural (and moderate amount of) sweetener. Or no sweetener at all.
Coffee Can Enhance Memory Function
Although scientists have yet to work out exactly how coffee enhances memory function, there is definite evidence showing that coffee consumption can boost your memory.
However seeing that coffee consumption can guard against both Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and dementia, this would indicate that coffee drinking would also have a positive effect on long term memory health. Additionally, a study (57) published in Natural Neuroscience revealed that coffee imbibement enhances what is known as memory consolidation.
Memory consolidation is the process that the brain implements when storing information for long term use. The smooth running of this process in turn optimizes long term memory abilities.
Coffee Drinking Can Increase Longevity
This may sound dramatic. But given that coffee can protect you from the diseases we have just listed, it would make sense that it could have an overall effect of lengthening one’s lifespan.
Science agrees, and there have been numerous studies revealing that daily coffee consumption can lead to increased longevity. The New England Journal of Medicine released a study (58) which found that people who drank coffee had a decreased risk of dying prematurely from diseases. Such as diabetes, heart disease and forms of cancer. A study (59) done in 2008 stated that women who drank coffee had a longer life expectancy thanks to being less vulnerable to diseases. Such as cancer, and heart disease amongst others. A study in Japan (60) revealed that among its subjects, people who drank 3-4 cups of coffee per day had approximately a 40% decreased chance of death from disease.
A further study (61) from Harvard concluded that people who drink 1-5 cups of coffee per day have a heightened chance of avoiding early death brought on by disease. And in the New England Journal of Medicine yet another study (62) was published revealing that those who drank coffee were less at risk of dying early from diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and forms of cancer.
Recently two additional big studies (62, 63) were released, one undertaken in Europe and the other in America. Both studies evaluated a large number of people. The one study analyzed 185 855 subjects and the other 520,000 subjects. The studies spanned approximately 16 years. And not surprisingly the results backed up the finding of the previous research we listed.
The study (64) conducted in the European countries concluded that men who drank +3 cups of coffee per day had a 12% decreased chance of mortality. The women who drank +3 cups of coffee per day showed a 7% decreased in chance of mortality.
The study (65) conducted in America concluded that people who drank 3 or more cups of coffee per day were 18% less likely to die early than those who drank none. Those who drank 1 cup of coffee enjoyed a 12% decreased chance of early death. The overall reasons were linked by the researchers to coffee’s ability to guard against chronic diseases. Such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, liver disease etc.
So as you can see, coffee is actually good for you! And all of these health benefits of coffee are backed by science. Is anyone in your life forever giving you a hard time about drinking coffee? If so, then the next time they get started, simply reel off a few of these studies. And just to add the right touch, you can include things like ‘in meta analysis of findings it was confirmed by researchers… ‘
Jokes aside, it is really great to know that coffee holds some serious health benefits underneath its surface. So many of us drink coffee, and love it, that knowing how good it can be for one is just fantastic news. Heck, it can even prolong your life!
I think on that note I may need to go and get a coffee. : )
- – https://www.jpain.org/article/S1526-5900(03)00635-7/abstract