Coffee is not traditionally thought of as anti-carcinogenic, but it has been linked specifically to the prevention of two types of cancer – liver and colorectal cancer, which are the 3rd and 4th deadliest forms of cancer, respectively. It has also shown good results in preventing the occurrence of melanoma in people who consume it regularly. Research says that coffee drinkers have 43% lesser risk of cancer than those who do not drink it.
More recent research has shown the opposite. Drinking coffee is now associated with a lower risk of diabetes, stroke, and cognitive issues like depression. One reason may be that coffee is rich in powerful antioxidants, and researchers now think it’s particularly good at reducing inflammation. One recent study showed older people who consumed more caffeine showed much lower levels of inflammation than those who didn’t. Another recent large study of over 200,000 people found coffee drinkers may live longer.
If you’re working 80 hours a week, getting three hours of sleep a night, and have no energy because you’re living on carb-heavy takeout, drinking coffee non-stop during the day is a problem. It’s not the coffee; it’s the fact that you’re using the coffee as a crutch. Craving a steaming hot cup or two is fine, being totally dependent on coffee to function isn’t.
Let's take a quick jog down memory lane about how the research behind the benefits of coffee has changed over the years: In 1991, the World Health Organization classified the beverage as a “possible carcinogen.” Then, in 2016, the organization found that there was “no conclusive evidence for a carcinogenic effect of drinking coffee.” And in between, most of the news about coffee was largely positive: That, instead of being harmful to your health, regular coffee consumption (in moderation, of course), is actually good for you.
And those antioxidants? Although researchers have yet to determine the exact mechanisms behind some of the disease-preventing effects, it is important to keep in mind that these compounds may be exerting other beneficial effects, such as acting as an anti-inflammatory. Coffee also contains small amounts of some nutrients, including potassium, niacin and magnesium.
When a group of volunteers received a dose of 100 milligrams (mg) of caffeine, about as much contained in a single cup of coffee, Austrian researchers found a surge in the volunteers’ brain activity, measured by functional magnetic resonance imagery (fMRI), as they performed a memory task. The researchers noted that the memory skills and reaction times of the caffeinated volunteers were also improved when compared to the control group who received a placebo and showed no increase in brain activity.
Other studies have tried to tease apart which ingredients in coffee contribute to its health benefits. Those might include its antioxidants, which can combat cancer, and anti-inflammatory compounds, which can reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart conditions and even neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s, as well as the risk of liver diseases like cirrhosis and cancer.
“Milk, lactose-free or not, will provide essential vitamins and minerals,” Meyer says. “By adding 1/4 cup milk to your morning joe, you'll get 2 grams of protein, 8 percent of the daily value of calcium, and 6 percent of the daily value of vitamin D, riboflavin, and phosphorus... essential for bone health, red blood cell production, and metabolism.” So no matter where you are—or whether or not you’re fully awake—there’s a way to add a little boost to your daily cup.
Studies have shown that there is an ingredient in coffee that protects against a liver disease called cirrhosis. If you have never heard of cirrhosis before, it a condition where your liver tissue is damaged and replaced with scar tissue. It can develop several ways like from infections, obesity, and other conditions, but especially from drinking too much alcohol. Drinking coffee on a regular basis has been shown to be a natural detox to help protect against the onset of cirrhosis, especially alcoholic cirrhosis. (8)
Don’t feel bad about those days you drink a little too much coffee: A 2016 study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry found drinking a high consumption—we’re talking more than four a day—can help reduce your risk of multiple sclerosis, a disease that causes the immune system to attack the protective covering of the nerves in the brain, spine, and eyes. And not just a little—by 31 percent.
There’s no need to try anything crazy; the only performance enhancer you really need is coffee. Research has shown its ability to give workouts a boost and increase athletic performance, and that’s exactly why you’ll find so many Olympians drinking it: One report from the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism found the majority of the 20,686 Olympic athletes analyzed had caffeine in their urine.
"My guess is that they're working together to have some of these benefits," Harvard researcher Walter Willett, who authored a similar study that found a link between coffee consumption and lower risk of early death, told NPR in 2015. “The coffee bean itself is loaded with many different nutrients and phyto-chemicals,” many of which aid in insulin resistance and inflammation reduction.
Are you in pain during the course of a typical workday? It’s not that unusual. But, what is surprising is the degree to which many people feel rejuvenated following a coffee break—there’s a reason why. Norwegian researchers observed 48 people performing office work and found those who consumed coffee only declared a pain-intensity level of 41, whereas participants who didn’t drink any coffee reported having a score of 55.
Already think the benefits of coffee are endless? Well they pretty much are: It can even strengthen your DNA. A small 2014 study published in the European Journal of Nutrition found drinking coffee regularly significantly reduced the oxidative damage in the body’s white blood cells, which can hurt your DNA. Instead, the coffee—dark roast, in this case!—helped keep the DNA strong.
In fact, coffee shows more antioxidant activity than green tea and cocoa, two antioxidant superstars. Scientists have identified approximately 1,000 antioxidants in unprocessed coffee beans, and hundreds more develop during the roasting process. Numerous studies have cited coffee as a major — and in some cases, the primary — dietary source of antioxidants for its subjects.
Coffee is 99% water. While this may seem obvious, we often don’t take into account the quality of that water when brewing a morning cup. Start with the highest quality ingredients, and you will ensure that best coffee possible. This goes for the beans, too. Always opt for organic, and spend the extra dollars if you have to. Coffee is the most heavily sprayed crop in the world, pesticide-wise, so you really don’t want to go with beans of dubious quality.
""The Impact of Green Tea and Coffee Consumption on the Reduced Risk of Stroke Incidence in Japanese Population" Yoshihiro Kokubo, MD, PhD, FAHA, Hiroyasu Iso, MD, PhD, Isao Saito, MD, PhD, Kazumasa Yamagishi, MD, PhD, Hiroshi Yatsuya, MD, PhD, Junko Ishihara, PhD, Manami Inoue, MD, PhD and Shoichiro Tsugane, MD, PhD. Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.111.677500. March 14, 2013. Abstract. Accessed 15 December 2013.
John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.
Coffee beans have important nutrients like the B-family vitamins, including riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and niacin, as well as other nutrients like potassium, manganese, and magnesium. Perhaps most importantly, they contain antioxidants and caffeine, which have a wide range of health benefits when consumed in moderation and at right times during the day.
If you are already a coffee drinker, it should be reassuring that after decades of research, no strong link can be found between coffee intake and cancer and, to the contrary, a number of health benefits seem to accompany coffee consumption. But, I’m not sure the evidence is powerful enough to recommend an increase in your daily habit. One reason is that we don’t know for sure that coffee consumption actually caused the health benefits observed in these studies. Some other, unmeasured factor could be responsible. Another reason is that the overall effect was small. And, it’s worth noting that some people are quite sensitive to the side effects of coffee.
Want to add even more antioxidants to your coffee and control your blood sugar? I thought so. How exactly does one do that? It’s simple: just add a pinch of cinnamon to your cup! Interestingly, cinnamon has a fairly long history of use as both a spice and a medicine. While it can be used at any time of year, it no doubt tastes best during the cold, winter months.
Sure, coffee isn’t going to do as much good as sunscreen when it comes to protecting your skin, but it still has some benefits. A 2014 study published by the American Association for Cancer Research found drinking coffee can help reduce the risk of melanoma, which according to the American Cancer Society causes a large majority of skin cancer-related deaths.