Food & Nutrition
The Benefits of a Cup of Coffee
Does Coffee Bring Health or Harm?
Like the butter vs. margarine debate, coffee has been long-praised or demonized, depending on the study. Hardly black or white, does the answer lie simply in moderation?
Click through the slideshow to learn more about the potential benefits—and possible risks—of drinking coffee.
More Than Caffeine
According to Harvard Medical School, coffee in excess can cause problems, but having a few cups a day may lead to health benefits and help ward against a range of diseases.
While caffeine has been studied more than other ingredients in coffee, the beverage contains about a thousand substances. Some of these may cancel each other out in terms of benefits vs. risks.
Harvard Medical School reports that both human and animal studies suggest that coffee may offer some protection against Alzheimer’s disease. Beta-amyloid plaque is thought to play a causative role in Alzheimer’s. Based on preliminary evidence, coffee may help ward against this plaque. The Arthritis Foundation also states that coffee may lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
While older research seems to indicate that coffee might increase your risk for developing cancer, newer findings hold more hope for coffee drinkers by suggesting the opposite. According to Harvard Medical School, drinking coffee may lead to a lower risk for a number of cancers, including:
- endometrial cancer
- prostate cancer
- breast cancer
However, cancers such as esophageal don’t show this lowered risk.
In 2011, researchers published findings in the Archives of Internal Medicine that showed depression risk decreased in women who increased their caffeinated coffee consumption.
However, the research team concluded that further investigation is needed to conclude that drinking caffeinated coffee can reliably prevent depression. Few other studies have explored the relationship between coffee consumption and depression.
Coffee Drinking and Diabetes
Regular coffee drinking is linked with lower risk of diabetes, particularly when drinking more than three cups a day. (In fact, high intake between three and six cups daily, seems to have the biggest effects.)
While you might expect coffee’s effects on insulin and blood sugar levels to promote diabetes, Harvard Medical School notes that these effects seem to be only temporary.
Coffee Against Cardio Disease?
According to the Mayo Clinic, most recent research has generally found no connection between drinking coffee and increased risk of heart disease. However, it’s not quite that simple.
Some research shows that cholesterol levels have been found to creep up with high consumption of unfiltered coffee. Plus, two or more cups a day may increase heart disease risk in those who have a common genetic mutation that slows down your body’s breakdown of caffeine.
Parkinson’s Disease and Stroke
Harvard Medical School reports that regular coffee drinkers have a 25 percent decrease in risk of Parkinson’s disease. However, women in studies have received less benefit.
Drinking three to four cups a day has shown lower risk of stroke as well. On the contrary, you may actually have an increased risk of suffering a stroke right after you drink coffee—especially if you don’t drink coffee very often.
Work in Progress
Caffeine is the most widely used central nervous system stimulant in the world. According to the Archives of Internal Medicine, approximately 80 percent of caffeine is consumed as coffee.
Though an increasing number of studies suggest that coffee offers health benefits, the jury is still out on whether coffee consumption ultimately benefits or harms your health. If in doubt, ask your doctor to determine how drinking coffee may affect your specific medical condition.