Find out the health benefits beyond why you should be drinking coffee.
Over 18,000 studies have looked at coffee use in the past few decades. Lately more and more are reporting real health benefits for coffee drinkers—but they must be balanced against the brew's possible bitter effects, especially in higher, caffeinated doses. An ideal "dose" of java is hard to determine, since people’s perceptions of "a cup of coffee" vary as widely as coffee-mug sizes do. But the good news is that many of the benefits are associated with around two to four (8-ounce) cups a day—"and that’s what most Americans drink anyway," notes , Ph.D., a coffee expert at the , Pennsylvania. Some intriguing findings:
Health Benefit 1. Brain Gains
Moderate coffee drinking—between 1 and 5 cups daily—may help reduce risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as Parkinson’s disease, studies suggest. How? Coffee’s antioxidants may prevent some damage to brain cells and boost the effects of neurotransmitters involved in cognitive function, say experts. Preliminary studies have noted that as coffee (or tea) intake rises, incidence of glioma, a form of brain cancer, tends to drop. Some researchers speculate that compounds in the brews could activate a DNA-repairing protein in cells—possibly preventing the DNA damage that can lead to cells becoming
Health Benefit 2. Defeating Diabetes
Studies link frequent coffee consumption (4 cups per day or more) with a lowered risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Scientists suspect that antioxidant compounds in coffee—cholorogenic acid and quinides—may boost cells’ sensitivity to insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar. While most of the research didn’t assess whether the brews were caffeinated, decaf may be even better, since other studies have found that caffeine tends to blunt the insulin-sensitivity boost.
Health Benefit 3. Hearty Benefits
Some studies show that moderate coffee drinkers (1 to 3 cups/day) have lower rates of stroke than non-coffee-drinkers; coffee’s antioxidants may help quell inflammation’s damaging effects on arteries. Some researchers speculate that the compounds might boost activation of nitric oxide, a substance that widens blood vessels (lowering blood pressure). More java isn’t better: a 5-cup or more daily habit is associated with higher heart . Researchers believe excessive caffeine may sabotage the antioxidants’ effects.
Health Benefit 4. Liver Lover
Though the research is limited at best, it appears that the more coffee people drink, the lower their incidence of cirrhosis and other liver diseases. One analysis of nine studies found that every 2-cup increase in daily coffee intake was associated with a 43 percent lower risk of liver cancer. Possible explanation: caffeine and antioxidant chlorogenic and caffeic acids in coffee might prevent liver inflammation and inhibit cancer cells.
Now, if they could just find some major health benefits from eating bacon!