Study after study has shown that drinking coffee brings a wealth of health benefits, and it’s even been linked to living a longer life, with everything from the risk of heart problems, cancer and diabetes all decreased. And, it doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s caffeinated or decaf, according to the results of yet another recent study.
Other research, including an analysis of 20 different studies that looked into coffee consumption and “total mortality,” or death from all causes, revealed that those drinking the most had a 14 percent lower risk of premature death than those drinking the least.
A longer life is a benefit that’s really the “icing on the cake,” with the overwhelming majority of research singing the praises of the brew. Harvard researchers scrutinized data collected from three large ongoing studies which included 200,000 participants, both male and female. Their coffee consumption habits were assessed through a food questionnaire that was completed every four years over a period of about 30 years. In addition to collecting data on things like whether or not they smoked, age, and levels of exercise, participants were asked how often they drank coffee, from never or less than once a month to six or more times per day, and whether the coffee was caffeinated or decaffeinated.
The results of this study, as reported in Circulation, showed that “moderate” coffee consumption, or about three to five cups per day, was associated with a decreased risk of death from diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and neurological diseases like Parkinson’s. Similar patterns were observed in volunteers that drank decaf, which suggested the lower risks weren’t connected to the effects of caffeine. While science still hasn’t found out exactly what’s responsible, we do know that coffee is packed full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds which have been found to help prevent a variety of illnesses and diseases.
For those who follow the typical Western diet, experts say coffee may be the healthiest aspect due to its antioxidants. In fact, research has found that most people get more antioxidants from coffee than from fruits and vegetables combined.
Specific Disease-Fighting Benefits
With coffee’s ability to lower the risk of many different health problems, it makes sense that drinking it regularly can lead to a longer life, but what about a higher quality of life? Being disease and illness free not only means a lower risk of dying but the chance to fully live.
So what are some of those specific disease-fighting benefits?
Supporting liver health. Drinking coffee may help support good liver health according to research published in the journal Hepatology. The experts found that people who consume three or more cups of decaf or regular coffee each day had lower levels of abnormal liver enzymes that are considered to be a sign of damaged liver cells. Conducted by the National Cancer Institute, this study backs up previous studies which found drinking coffee may help lower the risk of developing liver disease and cirrhosis. Researchers found coffee may contain a chemical compound other than caffeine that could work to protect the liver, which is why decaf has protective qualities that may be preferred over caffeinated coffee.
The consensus among the experts is that coffee may protect against cirrhosis, with people who drink at least four cups a day enjoying an up to 80% lower risk.
Enhancing energy levels and focus. Consuming coffee can increase energy levels, obviously, due to its caffeine content which blocks an inhibitory neurotransmitter called adenosine in the brain. When the occurs, the amount of other neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and dopamine increases, leading to the enhanced firing of neurons.
Numerous studies have found that coffee improves various aspects of brain functioning like the ability to focus, memory, reaction times and mood.
Supporting weight loss. As caffeine provides a stimulant effect on the central nervous system, drinking coffee helps to raise the body’s metabolism and increase the oxidation of fatty acids, which aids one’s ability to lose weight or maintain an already ideal weight. In fact, caffeine is one of only a very few natural compounds that have been scientifically proven to enhance fat burning, with a number of studies revealing that it can boost the metabolic rate by 3 to 11%. Other research has shown that caffeine can specifically increase the burning of fat by as much as 10% in obese individuals and 29% in those who are obese.
Reducing the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease and the leading cause of dementia around the world, most often affecting older individuals, above the age of 65, however, it can even affect those who are younger too. Sadly, there is no known cure, however, following a healthy diet and drinking coffee on a regular basis may help you avoid it as a number of studies have found coffee drinkers have as much as a 65% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Lowering the Risk of Parkinson’s. Another common neurodegenerative disease, Parkinson’s falls right after Alzheimer’s and is caused by the death of dopamine-generating neurons in the brain. Similar to Alzheimer’s, there is no known cure, but drinking coffee may reduce the risk of developing it, anywhere from 32 to 60 percent. In this case, experts believe the caffeine may be responsible for those who drink decaf coffee don’t have a reduced risk for the disease.
Lower risk of diabetes. Coffee consumption is even linked to a 23 to 67% lower risk of developing diabetes, with researchers claiming that those who drink a few cups of coffee each day are less likely to develop this devastating condition. Of course, if you’re eating donuts with that coffee, despite the beverage’s powerful benefits, they aren’t so potent that they can negate the ill effects of unhealthy treats.
Fighting Depression and Improving Happiness. A longer life doesn’t mean a whole lot when you’re depressed, a condition that significantly reduces the quality of life and is unfortunately quite common. The good news is that coffee may help. A 2011 Harvard study showed that women who drank four or more cups each day had a 20% lower risk of becoming depressed, while other research found that adults who drank at least four cups per day were 53% less likely to commit suicide.