Benefits of Coffee

5 Most Surprising Reasons to Drink Coffee
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Feeling jittery about whether to drink coffee? Percolate on this: Coffee's benefits considerably outweigh its negatives, researchers now believe. Although caffeine can cause anxiety and insomnia in some people, the beverage's unique properties -- such as more powerful antioxidants than from any other source in the American diet, including fruits and vegetables -- can do a lot of good. Just be sure to spring for organic coffee, says Beth Reardon, director of nutrition for Duke Integrative Medicine, since coffee beans are among the most heavily sprayed crops (all those chemicals can undo the benefits).

Here are the five surprising reasons to sip coffee:

1. Coffee Slashes Your Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes

The health benefit: The more coffee you drink, the less likely it is you'll develop type 2 diabetes, numerous studies have shown. For example, postmenopausal women who drink at least four cups of coffee a day are less than half as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as those who don't drink coffee, according to a 2011 study of more than 700 women by the UCLA Schools of Public Health and Medicine.

In fact, every additional cup is thought to reduce the excess risk of type 2 diabetes by 7 percent, according to Australian researchers in a 2009 Archives of Internal Medicine meta-analysis of 18 different studies, which linked coffee drinking and diabetes prevention.

How it works:
Coffee is thought to improve the body's tolerance to glucose by speeding metabolism and improving insulin tolerance.

The UCLA researchers discovered one possible molecular mechanism for this. Coffee consumption increases blood levels of a protein called sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), which seems to offer protection against type 2 diabetes in those who have a certain type of genetic mutation. (Decaf coffee didn't show this effect, however.)

If you're already showing signs of prediabetes, of course, you'll want to refrain from dunking doughnuts in that joe.

2. Coffee Can Counter Cancerous Cell Damage

The health benefit:
Coffee was once believed to cause cancer -- but that was before researchers factored in such related behaviors of frequent sippers as smoking and drinking alcohol. Today, there's mounting evidence that coffee may be protective against certain cancers, possibly by enhancing DNA repair.

Some of the best evidence concerns liver damage and liver cancer, which strikes more than 18,000 Americans a year. Multiple studies have found an inverse relationship between coffee consumption and liver cancer risk, including a 2007 meta-analysis of nine different studies.

Cancer-prevention researchers are finding similar benefits of coffee drinking versus other forms of the disease. In 2011, for example, a Harvard team found that women who drink several cups of coffee a day (caffeinated or decaf) have a lower risk of endometrial cancer. Another 2011 Harvard study reported that for men who consumed six cups of coffee a day, their risk of lethal prostate cancer was fully 60 percent lower than lesser coffee drinkers, and their risk of any kind of prostate cancer was 20 percent lower.

Other studies have linked coffee drinking to a reduced risk of colon cancer, rectal cancer, oral cancer, and esophageal cancer.

How it works:
Coffee contains hundreds of chemical compounds -- among them antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that can decrease markers for the damaging process of inflammation. The highly active antioxidant compound methylpyridinium, for example, is found almost exclusively in coffee (both caffeinated and decaf types), due to the beans' roasting process. Espresso has two to three times the amount of this anticancer compound as a medium-roast coffee, according to the German researchers who identified it in coffee.

3. Coffee May Lower Your Risk of Dementia

The health benefit:
Scientists still don't fully understand what causes the brain changes associated with Alzheimer's disease, but they're learning more about risk factors for dementia -- and a hearty coffee-drinking habit seems to lower the risk.

When researchers in Sweden and Finland tracked coffee consumption in a group of more than 1,400 middle-aged subjects for an average of 21 years, they found a clear connection. Those who quaffed three to five cups a day were 65 percent less likely to have developed dementia than the two-cups-or-fewer crowd. (Drinking five or more cups a day also seems to reduce the risk, although this group was too small to allow researchers to draw statistically significant results.)

How it works:
Researchers believe the antioxidant properties of coffee may work to reduce vascular forms of dementia. Drinking coffee is already known to be protective against type 2 diabetes, a chronic disease that raises the risk of dementia. (Having diabetes together with depression, for example, doubles dementia risk.)

Another theory: Animal studies indicate that the caffeine in coffee may improve the efficiency of the blood-brain barrier, thwarting the negative effects of high cholesterol on cognitive functioning. Caffeine added to rats' water improves their cognitive functioning and reduces by half the amount of abnormal amyloid protein in their brains, which has been linked to Alzheimer's disease.

It's also possible that coffee drinkers simply have more energy and move more; researchers point out that exercise is protective against dementia, too.

4. Coffee Protects Against Parkinson's Disease

The health benefit:
It seems pretty clear that coffee helps lower the odds of developing Parkinson's disease. When researchers looked at almost 305,000 participants in the National Institutes of Health - AARP Diet and Health Study, they found that those who consumed the most caffeine had the lowest risk of Parkinson's, echoing earlier studies.

They also ran a meta-analysis of previous studies and found that this held true for both men and women. (Some earlier research had claimed a gender difference, with more benefit to men, probably due to smaller numbers of people studied.)

Why it works:
Researchers aren't sure what the protective mechanism at play is, or even whether it's the caffeine or other protective compounds that are behind the benefit. Genetics may play a role: One 2011 study found that subjects who carried certain types of a gene called GRIN2A received more neuroprotective benefits against Parkinson's from coffee (although coffee drinkers with all forms of the gene still had a lower risk of developing the disease).

5. Coffee May Buffer Depression

The health benefit:
Another large study links long-term coffee use with a reduced risk of depression. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health tracked 50,000 nurses in the Nurses' Health Study for more than a quarter century. In 2011, they reported that those who drank four cups of coffee or more per day had a 20-percent lower risk of developing depression, compared with those who rarely or never drank it. Those who downed two to three cups a day had about a 15-percent lower risk.

A much smaller study in Finland linked coffee consumption to a decreased risk of suicide in men when 7 or less cups a day were consumed. (Then the risk went up after 8 cups a day. There's also some evidence that coffee protects against depression, too.

How it works:
Nobody's sure, but one theory is that coffee drinking causes a short-term boost to energy and mood. The caffeine in coffee is probably the substance causing this effect -- the Harvard researchers saw a similar decrease in depression among those who drank caffeinated soft drinks and ate chocolate, both of which contain caffeine.

Brain receptors that respond to caffeine are found in the basal ganglia, the part of the brain where neurotransmitters critical to depression are concentrated. Repeated low-dose stimulation of these receptors may help protect against the development of depression.


over 2 years ago, said...

Thought it a great article the only thing I would add is that be sure to drink ORGANIC FAIRTRADE coffee. Conventional coffe is the crop which has the most pesticides poured onto it.


over 2 years ago, said...

Since this article is being circulated via email in 2014, it would be helpful if the article origination date was posted. This goes for all of your articles. We don't know the original dates the research is derived from, nor if info has been updated. Both would be helpful--visibly date the articles AND visibly date any updates. Thank you--I love the articles but never know if the info contained is current.


almost 3 years ago, said...

I'm confused. I have diabetes 2 and I love coffee. The doctors says NOOO. What to do? Thank you. Maru.


almost 3 years ago, said...

Some new information. Thanks.


almost 3 years ago, said...

Good , real data.


almost 3 years ago, said...

Does coffee here refer only to the brewed ones? Does coffee in sachet packs have the same benefits as the brewed ones?


almost 3 years ago, said...

Scientifically credible. Never again will coffee drinkers doubt the benefits of coffee. Let's quaff to that!


almost 3 years ago, said...

i am coffee person in hole family from my grek grek grandma all coffee person, and they are live until 110 years old, good hair, never sick and still actived, they are pass way just sleep not because sick...........just because she was old.and we everiday drink tea too.


almost 3 years ago, said...

I wouldn't serve coffee in schools until we know what the effects of the 'drug' have on the developmental growth of kids. In other words, caffeine and other substances found in coffee beans possibly could have detrimental effects on the normal development of kids across the board or in certain developmental stages of their physical and cognitive growth. Once again, stringent studies must be conducted, somehow, to determine how this plays out. Would monkeys at different stages of development provide some of that information?


almost 3 years ago, said...

Petkoff... Caffeine is apparently at the low end of the "speed spectrum" that includes methamphetamine, dexadrine, etc., often used as hunger suppressors for fat loss and as street drugs. These drugs alter mood so that we feel more confident (sometimes to insane levels of grandiosity... smile) and therefore more competent. So in terms of the article, this quality in coffee can be very beneficial.


almost 3 years ago, said...

It appears coffee is quite a valuable staple in any diet if a few cups help against T-2 diabetes, cancer, dementia, Parkinsons and dementia too, so It should be served daily in elementary schools through high schools!


almost 3 years ago, said...

The negative news about coffee has been out for some time, including that it can counter the beneficial effects of other foods, incl veggies and fruit. Well, if this is still true, then this factor may be somewhat countered by drinking coffee between meals, that is, around 5-6am about 2 hours before breakfast and 2-3 in the afternoon, a couple hours or more before supper. Some older studies also suggested that too much caffeine use can cause cancer. If still true, then moderation is called for. Other news is that the cpffee residues in French pressed coffee can be harmful. So just don't drink that dark brown sediment on the bottom of the cup.


almost 3 years ago, said...

But is it the caffeine that does the work or the coffee bean with or without caffeine??????


about 3 years ago, said...

Do the given benefits of coffee apply to decaffeinated coffee or only caffeinated coffee? What is the most significant difference between the two for health purposes?


over 3 years ago, said...

Since I am a huge coffee drinker and have had so many tell me that I am ruining my health and now I can relax and drink my favourite brand every morning! HURRAH!


over 3 years ago, said...

I love to Coffee on morning only one strounge cup is it enaf ?


over 3 years ago, said...

Knowing the 5 best reasons were why was helpful!


over 3 years ago, said...

I love coffee but limit the amount I drink -- and SUFFER! So glad to read of its benefits :)


almost 4 years ago, said...

Aleluya! Thank you for making me less guilty. Coffee now!


almost 4 years ago, said...

Coffee: It's not just for breakfast anymore...


almost 4 years ago, said...

I'm an almost 83 years old -- I mean young woman -- & I am still in very good health (so far). I enjoy at least 4-5 cups of coffee a day. I am happy to hear that I'm doing the right thing.


almost 4 years ago, said...

Thanks Paula for the article. More reasons for me enjoy taking coffee... and more cups!


almost 4 years ago, said...

Does instant coffee work as well?


almost 4 years ago, said...

After hearing all the bad news about coffee, this article makes me feel less guilty about my coffee "addiction". :-)


almost 4 years ago, said...

Does decaf coffee work as well?


almost 4 years ago, said...

1. Coffee Slashes Your Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes 2. Coffee Can Counter Cancerous Cell Damage 3. Coffee May Lower Your Risk of Dementia 4. Coffee Protects Against Parkinson's Disease 5. Coffee May Buffer Depression BOOM! I knew drinking Coffey would pay off someday! Whats that I hear? Ahhh... another pot of Coffee just finished brewing! Ta-Ta!


almost 4 years ago, said...

Even more reasons to enjoy my favourate cuppa ;) Thanks so much for this...great news :)


almost 4 years ago, said...

It made me feel less guilty about enjoying my coffee.


almost 4 years ago, said...

guthnec, Go to www.coffeechemistry.com One doesn't drink 6-8 oz. of espresso, so less caffeine. There are also books on espresso vs regular coffee. One I have says that because of the way espresso is made - hot steam moving quickly through the grounds you don't get all the "acids" made with regular coffee. All I know is it works for me.


almost 4 years ago, said...

OK, what exactly IS the difference between regular coffee and espresso? I always thought espresso was just super strong coffee, and that if I drank it I'd never be able to sleep! Is it just way stronger, or if now, what makes it better? I have another friend who lives on the stuff!


almost 4 years ago, said...

If coffee bothers you, try espresso. I had to stop drinking regular coffee because it bothered my heart. I changed to espresso and no problem. I drink two cups a day and enjoy immensely. Bought an espresso machine and love it.


almost 4 years ago, said...

I'm home all day and drink a LOT of coffee!!! My doctor says I have dementia, but I'm over 67 1/2 and don't think so. My epilepsy just slows me down a wee bit. I live a really happy and active life!!! It's the way I want to be! mlharvilleusa@yahoo.com Michael L. Harville, Fort Worth, TX 76131