Ask any coffee drinker and they’ll tell you: coffee has worthwhile benefits. Beyond the pleasant aroma and the morning pick-me-up, there is growing evidence that our coffee habits could actually be impacting our health… for the better!
So just how does coffee affect your well-being?
There might be a reason why a cup of coffee can turn a morning frown into a smile. There’s growing evidence that coffee boosts dopamine production in the brain. One study found that women who drank four or more cups of coffee every day were 20 percent less likely to suffer from depression. Another found that coffee drinkers were half as likely to attempt suicide.
People who drink a lot of coffee are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than people who drink smaller amounts, or no coffee at all, according to some studies. According to Harvard Medical School, this is because it contains ingredients that lower blood sugar.
It isn’t known which ingredient causes this effect. Because the effects can actually be stronger with decaffeinated coffee, it’s probably not caffeine. Some researchers suggest that it’s the antioxidants, and that brewing method plays a major role.
Two or more cups of coffee each day could protect against heart failure, according to one Harvard study. Researchers found that people who drank four cups of coffee each day had an 11 percent lower risk. Other studies have found that drinking larger intakes of coffee, as well as of green tea, can lower most people’s risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. Interestingly, this tends to be more true for women than men.
Studies have shown that the caffeine in coffee could help people who have Parkinson’s disease manage their uncontrollable movements. Others have shown that having a higher intake of coffee is associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s altogether. However, Harvard Medical School says these benefits may be limited to men.
Gallstones are painful, but coffee could help keep them at bay. A study conducted in Italy found that people who regularly drank coffee or wine, or who ate fish or whole wheat bread, were less likely to develop gallstones. However, most researchers agree that the evidence for this relationship is still murky.
Several studies have linked coffee consumption to liver health. Many researchers agree that the type of coffee you drink matters. Filtered coffee, for example, is believed to be more hepatoprotective because filters prevent substances like kahweol and cafestol from reaching your mug. These substances may cause a rise in liver enzymes, although one study seems to refute this. Espresso, meanwhile, contains sucrose, which can increase the severity of fatty liver disease.
Coffee consumption has been linked to a 50 percent reduced risk of liver cancer. Several studies confirm that coffee drinking significantly lowers your risk for liver cancer, especially if you are a man. This is thought to be partially because coffee stops the expression of genes that cause inflammation, especially in the liver.
Some studies show that the two substances mentioned above, kahweol and cafestol, may be protective against cancer. Additional studies have linked the hot beverage to reduced rates of breast, colon, and rectal cancers too.
A study that accounted for poor lifestyle habits (eating red meat and skipping exercise, for instance), found that those who drank at least one cup of coffee each day lowered their risk of dying from lifestyle-related health problems over the period of a decade.
Coffee could very well deliver a wealth of benefits, but don’t fill up just yet. Some research has tied drinking large amounts of unfiltered coffee like espresso to increased cholesterol levels, most likely due to cafestol. Also, if you’re sensitive to caffeine, jumping on the coffee bandwagon could bring unpleasant side effects like anxiousness, nausea, and headaches.