Coffee isn't just tasty and energizing — it may also be extremely good for you.
In recent years and decades, scientists have studied the effects of coffee on various aspects of health. Their results have been nothing short of amazing.
Here are 7 reasons why coffee may actually be one of the healthiest beverages on the planet.
Coffee doesn't just keep you awake — it may also make you smarter.
The active ingredient in coffee is caffeine, which is a stimulant and the most commonly consumed psychoactive substance in the world.
Caffeine works in your brain by blocking the effects of an inhibitory neurotransmitter called adenosine.
By blocking the inhibitory effects of adenosine, caffeine actually increases neuronal firing in the brain and the release of other neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine (1, ).
Many controlled studies have examined the effects of caffeine on the brain, demonstrating that caffeine can temporarily improve mood, reaction time, memory, vigilance and general brain function (3).
For more information on the potential benefits of coffee for brain health, check out this article.
Summary Caffeine blocks an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, which has a stimulating effect. Controlled studies show that caffeine improves both mood and brain function.
There's a good reason why you will find caffeine in most commercial fat-burning supplements.
Caffeine, partly due to its stimulant effect on the central nervous system, both raises metabolism and increases the oxidation of fatty acids (, , ).
It can also improve athletic performance in several ways, including by mobilizing fatty acids from the fat tissues (, ).
Summary Caffeine raises metabolic rate and helps mobilize fatty acids from fat tissues. It can also enhance physical performance.
Type 2 diabetes is a lifestyle-related disease that has reached epidemic proportions. It has increased 10-fold in a few decades and now afflicts about 300 million people.
This disease is characterized by high blood glucose levels due to insulin resistance or an inability to produce insulin.
In observational studies, coffee has been repeatedly associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. The reduction in risk ranges from 23% all the way up to 67% (, , 13, ).
A massive review article looked at 18 studies with a total of 457,922 participants. Each additional cup of coffee per day lowered the risk of type 2 diabetes by 7%. The more coffee people drank, the lower their risk was ().
Summary Drinking coffee is associated with a drastically reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. People who drink several cups per day are the least likely to develop diabetes.
Not only can coffee make you smarter in the short term, but it may also protect your brain in old age.
Alzheimer's disease is the most common neurodegenerative disorder in the world and a leading cause of dementia.
In prospective studies, coffee drinkers have up to a 60% lower risk of Alzheimer's and dementia (16).
Parkinson's is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder, characterized by the death of dopamine-generating neurons in the brain. Coffee may lower your risk of Parkinson's by 32–60% (17, , 19, 20).
Summary Coffee is associated with a much lower risk of dementia and the neurodegenerative disorders Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
The liver is a remarkable organ that carries out hundreds of vital functions in your body.
It is vulnerable to modern dietary pitfalls, such as consuming too much alcohol or fructose.
Cirrhosis is the end stage of liver damage caused by diseases like alcoholism and hepatitis, where liver tissue has been largely replaced by scar tissue.
Summary Coffee appears to be protective against certain liver disorders, lowering the risk of liver cancer by 40% and cirrhosis by as much as 80%.
Many people still seem to think that coffee is unhealthy.
This isn't surprising, since it is common for conventional wisdom to be at odds with what studies say.
But coffee may actually help you live longer.
In a large prospective, observational study, drinking coffee was associated with a lower risk of death by all causes ().
This effect is particularly profound in people with type 2 diabetes. One study showed that coffee drinkers had a 30% lower risk of death during a 20-year period ().
Summary Drinking coffee has been associated with a lower risk of death in prospective observational studies, especially in people with type 2 diabetes.
Coffee isn't just black water.
Many of the nutrients in the coffee beans do make it into the final drink, which actually contains a decent amount of vitamins and minerals.
One cup of coffee contains (28):
- 6% of the RDA for pantothenic acid (vitamin B5)
- 11% of the RDA for riboflavin (vitamin B2)
- 2% of the RDA for niacin (B3) and thiamine (B1)
- 3% of the RDA for potassium and manganese
It may not seem like much, but if you drink several cups of coffee per day then it quickly adds up.
But that’s not all. Coffee also contains massive amounts of antioxidants.
Summary Coffee contains a decent amount of several vitamins and minerals. It is also one of the biggest sources of antioxidants in the modern diet.
Even though moderate amounts of coffee are good for you, drinking way too much of it can still be harmful.
Also, keep in mind that some of the evidence is not strong. Many of the above studies were observational in nature. Such studies can only show association, but cannot prove that coffee caused the benefits.
If you want to ensure the potential health benefits of coffee, avoid adding sugar. And if drinking coffee tends to affect your sleep, don't drink it after two in the afternoon.
But in the end, one thing holds true: coffee may just be the healthiest beverage on the planet.