Good news for coffee drinkers. The research on coffee is overwhelmingly positive in terms of human health.
From improving brain function to preventing a very wide variety of diseases, coffee offers health benefits far beyond any risks it may pose.
Check it out:
1. It’s the #1 source of antioxidants for Americans.
If we didn’t drink coffee, we’d be way down in our antioxidant intake, according to a study which observed the correlation of eating various food groups with plasma antioxidants. Among the foods in the study (coffee, wine, vegetables), coffee was the greatest contributor (5).
2. Women: it helps with depression
A Harvard study that followed an impressive 50,000+ women for 10 years found that just 2 to 3 cups of joe per day did the trick. Women were 20% less likely to suffer depression (6).
3. Men: it cuts your risk of getting prostate cancer
You’ll have to drink 6 cups per day, but you’ll have a 60% lower chance of developing the worst kind of prostate cancer and a 20% lower chance of developing the milder forms (7).
4. It might help ward off Alzheimer’s Disease
OK the study was done on mice, but it shows promising implications for humans: coffee promotes growth of a compound in your brain that’s a known Alzheimer’s fighter (8).
5. It helps with right-brain activities: makes you sharper
Drinking coffee will make your brain sharper- your right brain, that is. A study found that people who drank coffee were more likely to catch errors when proofreading a document (9). This has huge implications for coffee’s effect on cognitive function of the brain: something we already knew!
6. It may reduce the risk of liver cancer
A study tracked almost 180,000 adults for 18 years and found that those who drank at least a cup of joe per day were less likely to develop liver cancer than people who only drank once in a while (10).
7. It might keep you from getting skin cancer
Research shows that more than three cups a day will result in a 9%-20% reduction in risk of basal cell carcinoma (BCC) (11). The benefit seemed to be stronger for women (20% reduction in risk) than men (9%).
Another study was even more promising, citing a 43% reduced risk of BCC (12).
8. It might keep you from getting a whole lot of other cancers, too
A meta study analyzing 59 studies found evidence that regular coffee drinkers were less likely to get bladder, breast, buccal and pharyngeal, colorectal, endometrial, esophageal, hepatocellular, leukemic, pancreatic, and prostate cancers as well (13). The implication is that coffee might just reduce your overall risk of getting any type of cancer.
9. You have less of a chance of getting Parkinson’s disease
10. It improves endurance in long-duration physical activities.
An analysis of existing research showed that the caffeine in coffee can improve performance in endurance sports by up to 17% (16).
11. It may protect you from type 2 diabetes
But, let’s look at both sides…
Then what’s with the bad reputation of coffee?
In spite of decades of good news stemming from research on coffee, people still believe they should avoid it in order to maintain optimal health. From mistaken beliefs that it stunts growth to confused notions about its effects on the heart, the truth about coffee and health has been obscured for years.
The bad rap coffee had suffered stems from three sources: its effect on people with heart condition, people who drink too much of it, and flawed studies.
Coffee and people with bad heart conditions: where the confusion begins
There have been mixed messages from research but in recent years it’s trending towards “coffee is OK”.
For people with heart conditions, doctors used to maintain that the extra stimulus that comes from drinking caffeine in large quantities is risky (1).
It used to be thought that coffee slightly raises blood pressure when consumed in large quantities (4 or more cups per day) (2). But this research is now 13 years old. Plus, keep in mind that four cups a day is considered to be beyond a moderate level of coffee intake.
Now, however, research from long-term studies is telling us that coffee may not have harmful effects on blood pressure, as previously thought (3). In fact, it may improve blood vessel elasticity in older people, whose stiffer veins often contribute to high blood pressure.
For now, the American Heart Association’s official stance is that one to two cups per day is fine (for a total of 120 mg to 300 mg). Not only that, but they maintain it may be beneficial for reducing heart failure risk (4).
Purists and extremists give coffee a bad name
Another source of coffee’s bad reputation also stems from its caffeine content but has no basis in science. People who formerly drank too much of it and became seriously addicted are fond of going cold turkey and proclaiming how much better their lives are.
They may be right, but they drank too much to begin with.
Many past studies were flawed, anyway
Many studies in the past which drew conclusions about the harmful effects of coffee on health were flawed. They found correlations between coffee drinking and bad health, and mistakenly assumed they were causal. As it turns out, many regular and heavy coffee drinkers tend to have other habits which contribute to the downgrading of their health. These things include smoking, lack of exercise, and a bad diet.
The takeaway: coffee is not bad for you, despite the outdated and irrelevant knowledge that persists
So, despite what the purist-extremists say (the ones who forsake coffee and all other forms of caffeine), coffee is good for you.
And despite what doctors used to think about its effect on people with heart conditions who drink it in enormous quantities, coffee is good for you.
And despite its correlation with bad health habits, coffee is good for you.