You may have heard that coffee can have adverse effects on your health, including raising your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. While this may be true for some people, recent research has thrown a curve ball that turns this notion on its head. According to some studies, if coffee is consumed in moderation, the coffee drinker may actually see a number of health benefits, and these advantages may outweigh certain risks.
What's the Scoop on Coffee?
Coffee contains caffeine, a bitter substance that is known for stimulating your central nervous system. For many people, drinking two to three cups of coffee per day is not harmful. In fact, some scientific research would suggest that coffee can benefit us in the following ways:
- Decreased Mortality. According to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study of older people (aged 50 and above) over a period of 12 years, those who drank three cups of coffee a day demonstrated a 10 percent lower risk of death from injuries and accidents, as well as from ailments like respiratory disease, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and infections.
- Disease Protection. Coffee consumption may decrease your risk for several diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, liver cancer, liver disease, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer, colon cancer, endometrial cancer, oral cancer, skin cancer, prostate cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease, among others. Some of the disease-fighting power may come from caffeine, but may also come from other natural properties in the coffee beans, like antioxidants and antibacterials.
- Mental Wellness. Drinking coffee has been shown to enhance mental wellness. Caffeine is a psychoactive substance that is absorbed into the bloodstream, then transported to the brain. While in the brain, caffeine works to block an inhibitory neurotransmitter known as Adenosine, which allows other neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine to increase and for neurons to fire off more rapidly and effectively. Some researchers believe that as a result coffee can improve brain function, including memory and mood. This may translate into a decreased risk for dementia, Alzheimer's disease and depression.
- Metabolism Boost. NIH research shows that caffeine can stimulate the metabolic rate by 3 to 11 percent. But caffeine isn’t the only component of coffee that has been shown to increase metabolism. Also found in coffee are chlorogenic acid, theobromine, and theophylline--all three of these substances have been found to increase metabolism and help burn fat.
- Antioxidant Power. Coffee is a great source of antioxidants. In fact, a study out of the University of Scranton concluded that coffee is the number one source of antioxidants in the average U.S. diet. Antioxidants have been connected to a number of health benefits, including their ability to fight disease and, possibly, to lower blood glucose levels.
These are just five of several potential health benefits linked with coffee consumption. Many other benefits of coffee consumption are still being studied, including improved skin health and stronger muscles! So, if you’re looking for a reason to keep up your coffee habit (let's be honest, you never planned to give it up), look no further than the scientific research findings that demonstrate the numerous health benefits of coffee. But if you are not a regular coffee drinker and/or plan to up your intake, you should consult with your physician first, as some conditions, such as a genetic mutation that slows the breakdown of caffeine in the body, can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.