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Why coffee is healthy for you

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What do we know about the positive or adverse health effects of coffee? Many years of scientific literature show us that coffee, overall, is quite healthy for us. On the other hand, when I look at the health effects of man-made drinks containing caffeine, I find quite the opposite. Let me show you what I have learned.

Coffee Is Loved… And Has Plenty Of Health Effects, Too

For many, a warm cup of joe in the morning is the one thing they count on to start the day. That’s because it is warming and filling, and it tastes good. Even with creamer or non-dairy milk, plus stevia as a sweetener, coffee is far healthier than a cup of hot chocolate (loaded with refined sugar).

Now, add to this comforting sensation the fact that moderate coffee consumption comes out a winner for positive health benefits all around. For starters, a number of scientific studies [1][2][3] have consistently demonstrated that regular, moderate coffee consumption (one or two cups daily) reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. There are a few possible mechanisms for this, including the fact that caffeine in coffee can increase metabolism to use sugar somewhat like exercise does. Also, coffee contains components that improve insulin sensitivity, resulting in improved glucose metabolism. It’s not so difficult to understand this when you consider that the coffee bean has antioxidants that make it through the brewing process and into your cup of coffee.

Consistent Findings

What about other health conditions and coffee consumption? The scientific literature is quite consistent with the finding that coffee consumption universally lowers rates of liver cancer [4] and improves liver function.[5] However, it required several studies to clarify coffee’s effect on heart disease and blood pressure.

Small studies indicated a beneficial effect of coffee. Then there was a larger prospective cohort study reported in a 2006 Circulation article [6] in which 44,005 men (followed for 14 years) and 84,488 women (followed for 20 years) had no increased or decreased effect on heart attack rates from coffee consumption. Researchers adjusted for age, smoking and other heart disease risk factors and all amounts of cumulative coffee consumption.

A cohort of smaller studies reported in 2007 in Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Diseases [7] revealed that three or more cups of coffee daily can be associated with a slightly increased heart disease rate in men (but not women). Another large, 10-year prospective cohort study of 85,747 U.S. female nurses ages 34 to 59 reported in JAMA [8] in 1996 demonstrated that coffee consumption in women is not a cause of heart disease.

Coffee Protection

A more recent analysis of findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found a strong protective effect from high blood pressure in older-age coffee drinkers. This finding was corroborated in the Framingham Study on 1,354 subjects aged 65 to 97 years. There was a significant 43 percent reduction of coronary heart disease deaths among caffeinated coffee consumers who had blood pressures below 160/100mmHg. This lowered risk appears to be primarily attributable to a protective relationship between caffeinated-coffee use and the onset of heart valve disease. [9]

Contrast coffee with the effects of man-made soda pop. Soft drinks and colas contain artificial colorings, flavorings, preservatives, lots of refined sugar (or artificial sweeteners), caffeine, excess phosphorus and a very acidic pH. Some brands use an addition of synthetic vitamins or herbal ingredients for marketing advantage. These “energy” drinks are so loaded with stimulants that they are essentially drug “uppers.” And if you search the literature, it will not take long to discover there are no health benefits provided by these drinks (except, perhaps, for a temporary mood lift). Yet their adverse effects are many and very real.

These drinks increase your chances of:

It was enlightening for me to learn this; and I hope it was beneficial to you, too. Furthermore, I’d like to share more about the health effects of various foods in my future articles. To feeling good all your life,

Michael Cutler, M.D.
Easy Health Options

[1] Van Dam RM, Willett WC, Manson JE, Hu FB. Coffee, caffeine, and risk of type 2 diabetes: a prospective cohort study in younger and middle-aged U.S. women. Diabetes Care. 2006 Feb;29(2):398-403

[2] Salazar-Martinez E, Willett WC, et. al. Coffee consumption and risk for type 2 diabetes mellitus. Ann Intern Med 2004 Jan 6;140(1):1-8

[3] Pereira MA, Parker ED, Folsom AR. Coffee consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: an 11-year prospective study of 28,812 postmenopausal women. Arch Intern Med. 2006 Jun 26;166(12):1311-6

[4] Bravi F, Bosetti C, Tavani A, et. al. Coffee drinking and hepatocellular carcinoma risk: a meta-analysis. Hepatology. 2007 Aug;46(2):430-5

[5] Cadden IS, Partovi N, Yoshida EM. Review article: possible beneficial effects of coffee on liver disease and function. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2007 Jul 1;26(1):1-8.

[6] Lopez-Garcia E, van Dam RM, Willett WC, Rimm EB, Manson JE, Stampfer MJ, Rexrode KM, Hu FB. Coffee consumption and coronary heart disease in men and women: a prospective cohort study. Circulation 2006 May 2;113(17):2045-53.)

[7]Sofi F, Conti AA, Gori AM, Eliana Luisi ML, Casini A, Abbate R, Gensini GF. Coffee consumption and risk of coronary heart disease: a meta-analysis. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2007 Mar;17(3):209-23.

[8] Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Manson JE, et. al. Coffee consumption and coronary heart disease in women. A ten-year follow-up. JAMA 1996 Feb 14;275(6):458-62.

[9] Greenberg JA, Chow G, Ziegelstein RC. Caffeinated coffee consumption, cardiovascular disease, and heart valve disease in the elderly (from the Framingham Study) American Journal of Cardiology. 2008;102(11):1502–1508.)

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