For many people, coffee is an essential part of their daily routine. Whether it's a morning pick-me-up or an afternoon boost, coffee is a popular beverage around the world. But is coffee actually good for you? Let's take a closer look at the science behind this beloved drink.
What are the Health Benefits of Coffee?
Studies conducted in the past have suggested that coffee could negatively affect human health. This has led to coffee garnering a bad reputation. For example, it was believed for a long time that coffee had the potential to cause cancer. However, in 2016 the International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that coffee is not carcinogenic (unless drunk above 65C), and the World Health Organisation has taken coffee off the possible carcinogen list.
Despite this, more recent, larger-scale studies show that coffee, when drank in moderate amounts, can have numerous significant health benefits.
Increases energy levels
Coffee contains caffeine, a stimulant that works by altering levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. This can lead to increased energy and alertness, due to caffeine blocking the effects of a neurotransmitter called adenosine which causes exhaustion and drowsiness.
Furthermore, caffeine can help to fight depression and improve mood, as the molecules in caffeine bind to dopamine receptors in the brain. This increases the effects of the neurotransmitter dopamine, causing you to feel more positive and motivated.
Caffeine has also been found to reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease among other neurodegenerative disorders.
In addition to increasing energy and alertness, caffeine has been shown to improve cognitive function and enhance focus and concentration.
Supports weight management
According to several studies, increased coffee intake could be linked to a decrease in body fat. Some research has suggested that coffee helps boost metabolic rate and burn fat, leading to speculations about the potential of using coffee in the treatment of obesity.
Another study that was conducted with people who drank one to two cups of coffee per day found that coffee drinkers were more likely to be physically active than non-coffee drinkers.
Lowers risk of type 2 diabetes
Numerous studies suggest that coffee (both caffeinated and decaffeinated) could reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. In fact, one review of 30 studies found that each cup of coffee people consumed per day was linked to a 6% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This could be due to coffee containing antioxidants which may reduce internal inflammation as well as insulin resistance, which can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes.
Researchers believe filtered coffee or espresso is most effective at risk reduction.
Could lead to a longer lifespan
Due to its many potential health benefits, it is believed that people who drink coffee are less likely to suffer an early death than those who do not: one study, conducted in 2012 with around 400,000 participants aged between 50 and 71 found that those who drank more coffee were less likely to have died during the 12–13-year period in which the study took place, with other studies that took place more recently showing similar results.
It is believed that coffee lowers the risk of dying due to heart disease, stroke and cancer among other conditions.
Currently, it is unclear as to what the precise long-term effects of coffee on our health are, though ongoing research continues to provide a better understanding of how coffee can benefit people. With more studies being conducted into the effects of coffee all the time, we are discovering more and more about the effects coffee has on human health.
How much coffee is safe to drink?
Despite being associated with several health benefits, drinking too much coffee can cause problems such as an increase in cholesterol (especially if drank with a lot of sugar or cream) and higher blood pressure. Individuals who are sensitive to caffeine may experience jitters, anxiety, or irritability after consuming coffee. It's important to listen to your body and moderate your coffee intake accordingly.
A daily caffeine intake of up to 400 milligrams a day (about 4 cups) is safe for most people, although certain people, for example children, pregnant people and those with certain health conditions should limit their caffeine intake to a greater extent.
A study done by the New England Journal of Medicine found that drinking 4 cups of coffee a day is most effective at reducing the risk of early death. The study also found that even just drinking one cup a day was associated with a lower risk of early death compared to those who did not drink coffee at all.
The Bottom Line
Coffee can be a part of a healthy diet when consumed in moderation. It offers several health benefits, including antioxidant protection and improved cognitive function. However, excessive consumption can have negative effects on health. It's important to listen to your body and be mindful of your coffee intake. As with any food or beverage, moderation is key.