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Health Benefits of Coffee

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Can’t live without your morning (and midday and afternoon) cups of steaming espresso? No need to feel guilty anymore – this oftentimes much-needed pick-me-up drink may actually do more than simply perk you up. So grab a venti, sit back and discover some of the amazing health properties of coffee!

1. Coffee May Increase Lifespan

An exciting new study involving 229,119 men and 173,141 women revealed that compared to those who didn’t drink coffee:

  • Women who drank 1; 2 or 3; 4 or 5; and 6 or more cups of coffee per day had a 5%, 13%, 16% and 15% greater survival rate respectively.
  • Men who drank 1; 2 or 3; 4 or 5; and 6 or more cups of coffee per day had a 6%, 10%, 12% and 10% lower risk of dying respectively.

What’s the miracle component? Caffeine? Nope: an earlier study observed similar protective effects with both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee2. The award here goes to polyphenols, especially chlorogenic acid, a bioactive compound found in both raw and brewed coffee.

 2. Diabetes

Regular coffee consumption can significantly slash your risks of type 2 diabetes3!

Here’s how coffee exerts its anti-diabetic effects:

  • Chlorogenic acid suppresses the pathway of glucose-6-phosphatase, a glucose-regulating enzyme4. Put simply, this polyphenol interferes with glucose production and release in the blood and prevents intestinal glucose absorption5, thus reducing blood glucose concentrations.
  • Chlorogenic acid also decreases the rise in blood glucose concentrations that follows ingestion of a carbohydrate4. This results in enhanced insulin sensitivity and a decreased accumulation of adipose tissue (body flab) which increases risks of type 2 diabetes.
  • Caffeine and other unidentified compounds in coffee (i) boost the anti-diabetic effects of chlorogenic acid; (ii) lower storage of glucose by 35% 6; and (iii) ameliorate insulin sensitivity7.

How much coffee are we talking about?

Studies’ findings differ as follows:

  • One study found a 13% and 47% decreased risk when subjects drank 1 cup and 4 cups daily, respectively8.
  • In another study, consumption of 12 cups of coffee per day appeared to reduce risks of type 2 diabetes by 67%3.
  • And a meta-analysis involving a combined total of over 450,000 individuals found a 5 to 10% decrease in diabetes risk for every extra cup of coffee (either caffeinated or decaf) consumed9.

 3. Coffee is Heart Healthy

Hold on! hasn’t coffee been shown to increase blood pressure?!?’

Nope: a 2011 comprehensive study showed that long-term coffee intake did not increase blood pressure or cardiovascular risk10. In fact, breaking research now demonstrate that coffee consumption is highly protective against stroke (both the ischemic and hemorrhagic types) and heart failure11. Weirdly enough, previous studies which showed a link between hypertension and coffee intake failed to consider the smoking status of the participants! And as you probably know, smokers are often avid coffee consumers.

Chlorogenic acid is once again involved. Researchers found that this polyphenol improves endothelial function and hence, enhances blood flow through the arteries. It also increases the availability of nitric oxide, a compound that relaxes arteries and counteracts any increase in blood pressure triggered by the caffeine12.

That’s not all; chlorogenic acid also decreases inflammation12; increases blood levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol12 and decreases coronary calcification13.

How much coffee are we talking about?

Again, findings vary.

Consumption of one cup of coffee can reduce blood clot formation by suppressing platelet stickiness within one hour14.

Drinking 3 to 4 cups of coffee per day may reduce risk of15:

  • Cardiovascular disease by 21%;
  • Coronary heart disease by 22%
  • Stroke by 23%.

A daily intake of 5 to 6 cups of coffee may reduce risk of:

  • Cardiovascular disease by 30%;
  • Coronary heart disease by 30%;
  • Death from a stroke by 36%15;
  • Venous thromboembolism (obstruction of a blood vessel by a blood clot) by 33%16.

 4. Coffee May Reduce Cancer Risks

Being a potent antioxidant, chlorogenic acid can protect cells against cellular damage that promotes aging and tumor growth. Coffee consumption also appears to increase blood levels of glutathione, another powerful antioxidant.17

Here’s what studies found:

Men who consumed over 6 cups of coffee daily experienced an 18% reduced risk of prostate cancer and a 40% lower risk of aggressive prostate cancer18. Researchers hypothesized that the improved insulin sensitivity may play a major role in slowing cancer progression19.

Consumption of at least 5 cups of coffee per day reduced20:

  • the risk of breast cancer by 29%;
  • Hard-to-treat estrogen receptor-negative tumors by 59%,
  • Postmenopausal breast cancer by 37%.

Researchers speculate that, by increasing levels of 2-hydroxyestrone, a protective estrogen metabolite, and decreasing 16-hydroxyestrone, a dangerous estrogen metabolite, coffee creates a hormonal milieu which is not favourable for breast cancer development21.

  • Compared to women who didn’t consume coffee, those who did were about 30% less likely to develop endometrial cancer22.
  • Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C positive individuals who drink at least 3 cups of coffee a day can cut their risks of liver cancer by up to 39%23.

5.  Protect the Brain

The principal way in which coffee exerts powerful brain protection is by preventing type 2 diabetes, a known risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. Coffee consumption also appears to improve brain energy metabolism24. Scientists also found that the caffeine content of 5 cups of coffee can reduce the amount of proteins that are used to synthesize Abeta, also known as “Alzheimer’s protein”25,26. Caffeine also reduces levels of Abeta in the blood and brain tissue.

Here’s what studies found:

A roasted coffee rich in chlorogenic acid derivatives can significantly improve survival of brain cells following exposure to severe oxidative stress27.

Consuming at least 5 cups of coffee per day has been linked to:

  • Reduced risks of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia28;
  • Reversal of some of the brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s in as little as 5 weeks25.
  • A 60% lower risk of Parkinson’s disease – subjects who drank less than 4 cups per day experienced a 47% reduced risk of the disease29.

How much polyphenols are there in regular coffee?

Unfortunately, standard roasting destroys most of coffee’s polyphenol content. To get a coffee with a high concentration of chlorogenic acid, look for one made from coffee beans that have been soaked and drained before being roasted. The beans are then placed back in the liquid in which they were originally pre-soaked for the polyphenols to ‘return’ to the beans. Analysis of these polyphenol-retaining coffees revealed that they contain 186% more chlorogenic acid than conventional coffee30.

Remember: Indulging in dessert-like coffees which are loaded with cream and tons of sugar will definitely counteract the health benefits of coffee!

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations are to keep to 3 – 5 eight-ounce cups of coffee a day. Excessive coffee increase heart rate, blood pressure, anxiety, and sleep problems.

30 sources

  1. Freedman ND, Park Y, Abnet CC, Hollenbeck AR, Sinha R (2012). Association of coffee drinking with total and cause-specific mortality. N Engl J Med. 17;366(20):1891-904.
  2. Lopez-Garcia E, van Dam RM, Li TY, Rodriguez-Artalejo F, Hu FB. (2008) The relationship of coffee consumption with mortality. Ann Intern Med. 17;148(12):904-14.
  3. Zhang Y, Lee ET, Cowan LD, Fabsitz RR, Howard BV. (2011) Coffee consumption and the incidence of type 2 diabetes in men and women with normal glucose tolerance: The Strong Heart Study. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. ;21(6):418-23.
  4. Hemmerle H, Burger HJ, Below P, et al. (1997) Chlorogenic acid and synthetic chlorogenic acid derivatives: novel inhibitors of hepatic glucose-6-phosphate translocase. J Med Chem. 17;40(2):137-45.
  5. Tunnicliffe JM, Eller LK, Reimer RA, Hittel DS, Shearer J. (2011) Chlorogenic acid differentially affects postprandial glucose and glucose-dependent insulinotropic polypeptide response in rats. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab.;36(5):650-9.
  6. Greer F, Hudson R, Ross R, Graham T. (2001) Caffeine ingestion decreases glucose disposal during a hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp in sedentary humans. Diabetes;50(10):2349-54.
  7. Arnlov J, Vessby B, Riserus U. (2004) Coffee consumption and insulin sensitivity. JAMA.  10; 291(10):1199-201.
  8. van Dam RM, Willett WC, Manson JE, Hu FB. (2006) Coffee, caffeine, and risk of type 2 diabetes: a prospective cohort study in younger and middle-aged U.S. women. Diabetes Care.; 29(2):398-403.
  9. Huxley R, Lee CM, Barzi F, et al. (2009) Coffee, decaffeinated coffee, and tea consumption in relation to incident type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Arch Intern Med. 14;169(22):2053-63
  10. Mesas AE, Leon-Munoz LM, Rodriguez-Artalejo F, Lopez-Garcia E. (2011) The effect of coffee on blood pressure and cardiovascular disease in hypertensive individuals: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr.; 94(4):1113-26.
  11. Butt MS, Sultan MT.  (2011)  Coffee and its consumption: benefits and risks. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr.;51(4):363-73.
  12. Zhao Y, Wang J, Ballevre O, Luo H, Zhang W. (2012)  Antihypertensive effects and mechanisms of chlorogenic acids. Hypertens Res.;35(4):370-4.
  13. Mesas AE, Leon-Munoz LM, Rodriguez-Artalejo F, Lopez-Garcia E. (2011 ) The effect of coffee on blood pressure and cardiovascular disease in hypertensive individuals: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Clin Nutr.;94(4):1113-26.
  14. Natella F, Nardini M, Belelli F, et al. (2008)  Effect of coffee drinking on platelets: inhibition of aggregation and phenols incorporation. Br J Nutr.;100(6):1276-82.
  15. Bidel S, Hu G, Qiao Q, Jousilahti P, Antikainen R, Tuomilehto J. (2006) Coffee consumption and risk of total and cardiovascular mortality among patients with type 2 diabetes. Diabetologia.;49(11):2618-26.
  16. Enga KF, Braekkan SK, Hansen-Krone IJ, Wilsgaard T, Hansen JB. (2011) Coffee consumption and the risk of venous thromboembolism: the Tromso study. J Thromb Haemost.;9(7):1334-9.
  17. Bakuradze T, Boehm N, Janzowski C, et al. (2011) Antioxidant-rich coffee reduces DNA damage, elevates glutathione status and contributes to weight control: results from an intervention study. Mol Nutr Food Res.;55(5):793-7.
  18. Wilson KM, Kasperzyk JL, Rider JR. (2011) Coffee consumption and prostate cancer risk and progression in the health professionals follow-up study. J Natl Cancer Inst. 8;103(11):876-84.
  19. Loopstra-Masters RC, Liese AD, Haffner SM, Wagenknecht LE, Hanley AJ. (2011) Associations between the intake of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee and measures of insulin sensitivity and beta cell function. Diabetologia.;54(2):320-8.
  20. Lowcock EC, Cotterchio M, Anderson LN, Boucher BA, El-Sohemy A. (2013) High Coffee Intake, but Not Caffeine, is Associated with Reduced Estrogen Receptor Negative and Postmenopausal Breast Cancer Risk with No Effect Modification by CYP1A2 Genotype. Nutr Cancer.;65(3):398-409.
  21. Klug TL, Bageman E, Ingvar C, Rose C, Jernstrom H. (2006) Moderate coffee and alcohol consumption improves the estrogen metabolite profile in adjuvant treated breast cancer patients: a pilot study comparing pre- and post-operative levels. Mol Genet Metab; 89(4):381-9.
  22. Je Y, Giovannucci E. (2011) Coffee consumption and risk of endometrial cancer: Findings from a large up-to-date meta-analysis. Int J Cancer. 20.
  23. Inoue M, Kurahashi N, Iwasaki M, et al. (2009) Effect of coffee and green tea consumption on the risk of liver cancer: cohort analysis by hepatitis virus infection status. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev.;18(6):1746-53.
  24. Ho L, Varghese M, Wang J, et al. (2012) Dietary supplementation with decaffeinated green coffee improves diet-induced insulin resistance and brain energy metabolism in mice. Nutr Neurosci.;15(1):37-45.
  25. Arendash GW, Cao C. (2010) Caffeine and coffee as therapeutics against Alzheimer’s disease. J Alzheimers Dis.; 20 Suppl 1:S117-26.
  26. Cao C, Cirrito JR, Lin X, et al. ‎(2009)‎ Caffeine suppresses amyloid-beta levels in plasma and brain of Alzheimer’s disease transgenic mice. J Alzheimers Dis.;17(3):681-97.
  27. Chu YF, Brown PH, Lyle BJ, et al. (2009)‎ Roasted coffees high in lipophilic antioxidants and chlorogenic acid lactones are more neuroprotective than green coffees. J Agric Food Chem. 28;57(20):9801-8.
  28. Eskelinen MH, Ngandu T, Tuomilehto J, Soininen H, Kivipelto M. ‎(2009)‎ Midlife coffee and tea drinking and the risk of late-life dementia: a population-based CAIDE study. J Alzheimers Dis.;16(1):85-91.
  29. Hu G, Bidel S, Jousilahti P, Antikainen R, Tuomilehto J. (2007) Coffee and tea consumption and the risk of Parkinson’s disease. Mov Disord. 15;22(15):2242-8.
  30. US Patent Publication No. US2010/0183790 A1. Publication Date July 22, 2010. Method for Enhancing Post-Processing Content of Beneficial Compounds in Beverages Naturally Containing Same.

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