Coffee drinkers....you are going to love this posting. In addition to caffeine, coffee contains over 1,000 biologically active compounds such as polyphenols and antioxidants. Numerous recently published scientific studies are reporting that regular coffee consumption of provides a wide range of health benefits. In this post I am going to review some of these recent studies reporting the health benefits of coffee.
Coffee Consumption Reduces Risk of Death: A stunning epidemiological study recently reported that regular coffee drinkers had significantly lower risks of death compared to non-coffee drinkers. This study tracked over 229,000 men and 173,000 women between the ages of 50-71. The subjects were followed for 13 years, from 1995 to 2008. Overall, this represented an evaluation of 5.15 million person-years, which makes it a very powerful study. Among non-smokers, regular coffee drinkers had fewer deaths from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, diabetes, infections, injuries and accidents.
Compared to non-coffee drinkers, the reduction in the risk of dying from any cause for coffee drinkers was the following:
Risk of Dying: Men Women
Drinking 1 cup/day -6% -5%
Drinking 2-3 cups/day -10% -13%
Drinking 4-5 cups/day -12% -16%
Drinking 6 or more cup/day -10% -15%
Coffee Provides Cardiovascular Protection: Newer studies are totally reversing previous studies that suggested coffee consumption might cause or aggravate cardiovascular disease. A large meta-analysis of over 1.2 million people evaluated people's cardiovascular disease risk measured against their coffee consumption. Compared to non-coffee drinkers, individuals who drank an average of 1.5 cups/day had 11% reduction in their risk for cardiovascular disease while individuals who consumed an average of 3.5 cups/day had an overall 15% reduction in cardiovascular risk.
Endothelial dysfunction is one of the primary causes of high blood pressure and overall cardiovascular disease risk. The endothelium is thin layer of cells that line the blood vessels. Endothelial cells produce nitric oxide and other biochemical signals which regulate the blood vessel's ability to relax and dilate or to constrict and contract. Thus, the endothelium regulates blood pressure and blood flow throughout the body.
One of the problems I have with prescription drug blood pressure medications is that they do lower blood pressure, but they DO NOTHING to correct the underlying endothelial dysfunction. Thus, blood pressure-lowering medications give a false sense of security because they treat the symptoms while allowing the underlying problem to continue to worsen.
In a study with elderly adults, regular consumption of boiled caffeinated coffee resulted in a 49% improvement in endothelial function. Although the polyphenols in coffee are known to have cardiovascular benefits, one study reported that ingestion of 200 mg of caffeine (equivalent to about 2.5 cups of coffee) provided 160% improvement in endothelial function in patients with coronary artery disease and 121% improvement in endothelial function in healthy individuals.
Decaffeinated coffee has also been shown to improve endothelial function. In one study, one hour after consumption of 2 cups of decaffeinated Italian espresso coffee, endothelial function improved by 46% while endothelial function improved 23% one hour after consuming 1 cup of the same Italian espresso coffee. Since this study used decaffeinated coffee, it confirms that compounds other than caffeine in coffee are also responsible for producing positive benefits to endothelial function.
Coffee Protects Against Metabolic Syndrome & Type 2 Diabetes: Metabolic Syndrome and diabetes are health disasters of epidemic proportions. Metabolic syndrome encompasses abdominal obesity, hypertension, abnormal blood lipids, and insulin resistance resulting in elevated blood sugar levels. The incidence of metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes continue to escalate at an alarming rate along with corresponding risks for heart disease, cognitive decline and some forms of cancer.
Recent studies indicate that coffee regular coffee consumption helps reduce the risks of developing both metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Results from a study in Japan, where the rate of metabolic syndrome has been rising dramatically, revealed that metabolic syndrome developed less frequently in coffee drinkers compared to non-coffee drinkers.
Other studies show similar protective effects against metabolic syndrome. For example, an epidemiological study published in 2013 reported that individuals drinking from 1.5 to nearly 3 cups of coffee per day had a 49% reduction in the risk of developing high blood sugar.
The results of animal studies help explain how coffee helps protect against metabolic syndrome. In one study, rats were fed a high fat/high sugar diet. They rapidly developed metabolic syndrome which led to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and damage to their hearts. However, when some of these rats were also supplemented with coffee extract, the unhealthy effects of their “bad” diet were dramatically reduced and their blood sugar and blood pressure improved.
In another study, mice fed a high-fat diet rapidly increased abdominal fat deposits and gained weight. However, when mice were fed the same diet supplemented with coffee (either decaf or regular) they had lower fat stores and lower body weight. Coffee also reduced markers of inflammation and the incidence of liver damage.
Both Caffeinated And Decaf Coffee Protect Against Diabetes: The results of a 2014 meta-analysis involving over one million individuals reported that both types of coffee protect against type II diabetes. Compared with little or no coffee consumption, individuals drinking from 1 to 6 cups of caffeinated or decaf coffee daily had reduced risk of developing type II diabetes of 8, 15, 21, 25, 29 and 33%.
In another million-person meta-analysis, individuals consuming the largest amount of regular coffee had a 29% reduced risk of developing type II diabetes while the largest consumers of decaffeinated coffee had a reduced risk of 21%. This study also revealed that for each additional two cups/day, diabetes risk was reduced by 12% in regular coffee drinkers and 11% reduced risk in decaf drinkers.
Coffee Also Protects Your Brain: Studies indicate that higher consumption of caffeine reduced the risk of developing both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Also, in people with mild cognitive decline, those consuming higher levels of caffeine have a slower rate of progression into full-blown dementia.
Animal studies show that coffee and caffeine help prevent Alzheimer’s-like cognitive decline and also reduce the accumulation of a protein in the brain called Abeta which is associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Caffeine has also been shown to elevate levels of a specific growth factor called granulocyte-colong stimulating factor of GCSF which is associated with improved memory. GCSF is thought to stimulate the formation of new brain cells and new synaptic connections between brain cells.
Beyond Caffeine: While coffee is known to contain over 1,000 bioactive compounds, studies reveal that a compound named chlorogenic acid is one of coffee’s most important health-promoting compounds. Chlorogenic acid provides powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. This translates into reduced cardiovascular risks for congestive heart failure, strokes and heart attacks. Chlorogenic acid has also been shown to provide improved blood sugar regulation, improved memory, reduction in diabetic neuropathy, and enhanced rates of wound healing.
Coffee--To Drink or Not To Drink: Coffee is not for everyone. For some people, coffee produces heart-burn or gastric irritation. It can also produce jitteriness or anxiety and for some people it causes sleep problems. It is always important to monitor yourself. Individuals who experience negative effects from coffee should minimize or avoid it. And yes, coffee and caffeine can be addictive. Withdrawal symptoms can include headaches, fatigue, irritability and depression.
Some studies report negative effects of coffee consumption such as slightly elevated levels of homocysteine, insulin resistance, cholesterol and blood pressure. However, my purpose in writing this article was to summarize the significant and growing body of scientific literature which indicate that caffeine and other compounds in coffee produce substantial health benefits.