The invigorating aroma of freshly brewed coffee eases you from slumber better than anything else—alarm clock, rooster’s crow, or dog’s tongue in the face. Taken black or with cream, at sunrise or sunset, coffee holds a sacred place in society.
The countless studies to ascertain its virtues (or vices) reflect that. Yet the seemingly contradictory results these studies have produced, have coffee lovers wondering whether they’re drinking divine nectar or the devil’s brew. The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in between the saintly and the sinful, and you’ll have to measure coffee’s pros against its cons before deciding what’s best for you. To help you do that, here’s what you need to know about that next cup o’ joe.
Coffee is rich in antioxidants and caffeine as well as riboflavin (vitamin B2), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), manganese, potassium, magnesium and niacin. Drinking coffee has both advantages and disadvantages, which are proven scientifically. One of the most important benefits that has always been in the limelight is that coffee lends to a longer life. Along with extending your life, there are many more benefits linked to coffee consumption. However, to enjoy these benefits, you must stick to black coffee and not more than four to five cups a day.
Here are some ways in which coffee helps you live longer and benefits your health.
1. Coffee and Longer Life
Given that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of many common, deadly diseases (and suicide), it makes sense that coffee could help you live longer. There is actually some good evidence to support this. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2012 looked at the habits of 402,260 individuals between 50 and 71 years of age. In this study, people who drank coffee had a much lower risk of dying over the 12-13 year study period: The sweet spot seems to be at 4-5 cups per day, with men having a 12% reduced risk and women a 16% reduced risk.
Coffee protects your body due to its potent antioxidant properties. Antioxidants work as warriors fighting and protecting against free radicals within your body. These free radicals can weaken your immunity and make you more prone to illness. As java drinkers are less likely to suffer from many diseases, it makes sense that this beverage adds years to their lives.
- A 2008 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine reports that decaffeinated coffee intake was associated with a small reduction in all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality.
- Furthermore, a large 2012 prospective study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that coffee consumption was inversely associated with total and cause-specific mortality. This is even true in people having poor lifestyle habits, such as eating red meat and skipping exercise.
- In a recent 2015 study published in Circulation, researchers found that regular coffee drinkers (people who drank less than five cups of coffee in a day) have a lower risk of dying early from a number of different causes, including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, neurological diseases and suicide. This study was conducted by the American Heart Association.
2. Protects Against Cancer
The antioxidants in coffee are the reason why coffee is associated with reduced risk of several types of cancer. Coffee contains biologically active compounds, such as caffeine and phenolic acids, showing potent antioxidant activity that affect glucose metabolism and sex hormone levels. This plays a key role in preventing prostate cancer.
- A 2011 study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found a strong inverse association between coffee consumption and risk of lethal prostate cancer. The association appears to be related to non-caffeine components of coffee.
- A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Nutrition shows that coffee intake is inversely associated with colon cancer, particularly proximal tumors.
- Coffee is also beneficial at preventing skin cancers due to its caffeine content. A 2014 study published in the European Journal of Cancer Prevention shows that caffeine from coffee leads to a 43 percent reduced risk of basal cell carcinoma in coffee drinkers as compared with non-consumers of coffee.
- In a recent 2016 issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, which is published by the American Association of Cancer Research, it was found that even moderate coffee intake leads to a 26 percent reduction in the odds of developing colorectal cancer after adjusting for known risk factors.
3. Keeps Your Liver Healthy
The liver is an incredibly important organ that has hundreds of different functions in the body. It is very sensitive to modern insults like excess alcohol and fructose intake. The end stage of liver damage is called Cirrhosis, and involves most of the liver being replaced with scar tissue. Coffee drinkers have up to an 84% lower risk of developing cirrhosis, with the strongest effect for those who drink 4 or more cups per day. Liver cancer is also common… it is the second leading cause of cancer death worldwide. Coffee drinkers have up to a 40% lower risk of liver cancer.
Limited coffee consumption is linked to better liver health. For liver health, filtered coffee is more hepatoprotective, meaning it prevents certain harmful substances like kahweol and cafestol from reaching your body.
- A 2013 study published in Hepatology suggests that increased caffeine intake may reduce fatty liver in people with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Caffeine stimulates the metabolization of lipids stored in liver cells and decreased the fatty liver of mice that were fed a high-fat diet. It even reduces therisk of primary sclerosing cholangitis, a rare autoimmune disease of the bile ducts in the liver. When suffering from fatty liver disease, do not drink unfiltered coffee as it can worsen the symptoms.
- A 2001 study published in the Annals of Epidemiology reports that coffee, but not other beverages containing caffeine, may inhibit the onset of alcoholic and nonalcoholic liver cirrhosis. Another study published in the same journal the next year confirms the inverse association between coffee consumption and liver cirrhosis.
- Later, a 2006 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine reports that coffee drinking was related to lower prevalence of high aspartate aminotransferase and alanine aminotransferase levels. This in turn protects against cirrhosis, especially alcoholic cirrhosis.
Not just liver cirrhosis, coffee consumption is even linked to a lower risk of liver cancer. A 2005 study published in the International Journal of Cancer found that higher coffee consumption was significantly associated with a lower risk of liver cancer. Similarly, a meta-analysis published in Gastroenterology in 2007 also suggests that an increased consumption of coffee may reduce the risk of liver cancer.
4. Protects Your Heart
Reasonable consumption of coffee, say up to 3 to 5 cups a day, is associated with better heart health. This is mainly due to its caffeine content. It may also be related to naturally occurring compounds in coffee beans, such as phytochemicals that may help reduce inflammation, which is important for your heart health.
A 2007 meta-analysis of 21 prospective cohort studies published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases reports that moderate intake of coffee reduces the risk of coronary heart disease.
Later, a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health in 2011 found that coffee as well as green tea, black tea and oolong tea consumption reduced the risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease in Japanese men and women. Coffee is even linked to reduced stroke risk. A 2009 study published in Circulation reports that long-term coffee consumption was not associated with an increased risk of strokes in women. In contrast, the data suggests that coffee consumption may modestly reduce stroke risk.
5. Helps Prevent Diabetes
The antioxidants in coffee improve insulin sensitivity and lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Caffeine also affect insulin sensitivity. A 2004 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that caffeine intake from coffee and other sources was associated with a statistically significantly lower risk for diabetes in both men and women.
Type 2 diabetes is characterized by elevated blood sugars due to resistance to the effects of insulin. This is a very common disease… it has increased 10-fold in a few decades and now afflicts over 300 million people. Interestingly, coffee drinkers appear to have a significantly reduced risk of developing this disease, some studies showing that coffee drinkers are up to 23-67% less likely to become diabetic. In one large review study that looked at 18 studies with 457,922 individuals, each daily cup of coffee was linked to a 7% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
- A 2009 study published in Diabetologia reports that a total consumption of at least three cups of coffee or tea per day may lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes. However, this cannot be explained by magnesium, potassium, caffeine or blood pressure effects.
- A 2013 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition analyzed the intake of caffeinated and caffeine-free beverages with respect to the development of Type 2 diabetes in 74,749 women. It shows that caffeinated coffee reduced Type 2 diabetes risk by 4 percent and decaffeinated reduced the risk by 7 percent.
- A 2015 study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that coffee intake is associated with reduced risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes.
Once sweetener is added to coffee, it reduces the benefits of diabetes prevention. In fact, it can actually increase your risk of developing diabetes and hence should be avoided. Also, while coffee is beneficial for protecting against diabetes, it may pose dangers to people who already have this disease.
6. People Who Drink Coffee Are at a Much Lower Risk of Depression
Depression is an incredibly common problem. It is the world’s most common mental disorder and leads to a significantly reduced quality of life. In one Harvard study from 2011, people who drank the most coffee had a 20% lower risk of becoming depressed. In one review of 3 studies, people who drank 4 or more cups of coffee per day were 53% less likely to commit suicide.
- As a general rule, avoid coffee after 3 p.m. to protect against insomnia from the caffeine. Most people do better drinking coffee first thing in the morning, before breakfast.
- During times of anxiety, opt for herbal teas, since coffee sets off the stress response—which is the last thing you need when you’re already stressed.
- Rather than having a coffee dependency (where you have to have it at a certain time each day), enjoy your coffee as a social or personal ritual, while sitting down with friends or relaxing, so that you savor each sip.
- Keep track of what time of day (and for women, when in your cycle) you take your coffee. Then record how it makes you feel the rest of the day. Also, consider foregoing coffee for a couple months to see if it changes your day-to-day vibrancy (not counting the initial symptoms of withdrawal, of course).
- For those especially sensitive to caffeine, remember that “decaffeinated” coffee doesn’t let you off scot free. Decaf has 1 to 5 mg of caffeine per 8 ounces versus 80 to 115 for regular coffee. If you opt for decaf, choose a Swiss water process variety—it will contain fewer artificial ingredients. You can be found it at specialty coffee shops and better grocery stores.
- If coffee just doesn’t settle with you—but you love the taste—try alternative beverages like Inka Naturalis, dandelion blend, and Teeccino that give you the flavor you want, without the negative effects. Nicky Billou is president of the fitness program. Tranz4m, which markets the 23-minute Champions workout.