Believe it or not, coffee has a healthy new image. Recent studies show that coffee, for years considered objectionable to your health, may actually provide health benefits for a variety of conditions.
What happened? Newer and better research involving large studies over an extended time period has washed away the validity of older studies identifying coffee as being harmful to health. Old research also failed to consider those unhealthy habits like cigarette smoking, and less healthy lifestyles that often went hand in hand with drinking the plant-based beverage.
During the past few years scientists have discovered that the coffee bean’s unique complex fruit containing many nutritionally supercharged compounds exerts a multitude of direct biological actions on the body. Like tea, coffee is a great source of antioxidants which are useful in ridding the body of harmful free radicals. No wonder mounting evidence suggest a link between drinking multiple cups of coffee daily and a significantly reduced risk of many chronic diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and others.
Although brewed coffee (not instant) is a rich source of antioxidants, coffee should not be considered a replacement for berries, nuts, legumes, and other fruits and vegetables that supply antioxidants together with dietary fiber, vitamins, and other health protecting compounds. Additionally, much of the positive research is still fairly new that something as easy as drinking coffee may lower the risk of chronic disease. More studies are needed.
Here are a few of the documented large scale multiyear studies on coffee and health:
Combined data on over 450,000 people showed that every cup of coffee consumed lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes by 5% to 10%. Drinking four cups reduces the risk by 30% compared to non-drinkers. Archives of Internal Medicine; December 2009.
An eleven year study of 28,812 postmenopausal women found that women who drank six or more cups of coffee per day had a 22% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Archives of Internal Medicine; June 2006.
A 20 year study of 47,911 men reported that consumption of six or more cups of coffee daily resulted in an 18% lower risk of developing prostate cancer compared to non drinkers. The risk of aggressive or lethal prostate cancer was 40% lower. Journal of the National Cancer Institute; May 2011.
Nearly 6,000 postmenopausal women who drank five cups of coffee daily were found to be associated with a significant decrease in estrogen-receptor (ER)-negative breast cancer. Breast Cancer Research; May 2011.
A study with 67,470 females, lasting 26 years, found that drinking at least four cups of coffee per day is linked to a 25% reduced risk for endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus) compared to those who drank less than one cup per day. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention; November 2011.
A 15 year study among 41,836 postmenopausal women showed that a daily intake of one to three cups of coffee cuts the risk of death from heart disease compared with those drinking no coffee. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; May 2006.
According to a study involving 34,670 women found that those who drank one or more cups of coffee a day had a 22% to 25% lower risk of stroke compared to non-drinkers. Journal of the American Heart Association, Stroke; March 2011.
Study consisting of 50,739 women found that subjects who drank two or three cups of caffeinated coffee daily exhibited a lower risk of depression by 15% compared to non-drinkers. Those who drank four cups daily were 20% less likely to develop depressive symptoms than non-drinkers. Archives of Internal Medicine; Sept 2011.
A 22 year study of 125,580 people found that a daily cup of coffee reduced the incidence of alcoholic cirrhosis, a condition that destroys liver tissue, by 20%. Two or three cups reduced the risk by 40%, and four cups lowered the risk by 80%. Archives of Internal Medicine; June 2006.
Even with all the good news, drinking multiple cups of coffee daily is not for everyone. People who deal with heartburn or other digestive problems, are encouraged to avoid or strictly limit coffee consumption. Those with insomnia, anxiety or stress disorder should stay away from caffeinated coffee. The same holds true for people who are sensitive to the stimulating effect caffeine has on the nervous system such as briefly boosting heart rate and blood pressure. However, for most people, this does not develop into any long term increases. Those who feel jittery or anxious when they begin consuming caffeinated beverages often find the effects decrease as they get use to the caffeine. High coffee intake may increase the risk of miscarriage for pregnant women.
Joe Smulevitz is a Chartered Herbalist, a Master Herbalist, a nutritional researcher, and author of numerous health articles.