coffee beans

Health Benefits of Coffee Drinking

It seems every other day there’s a new report about whether drinking coffee is good for you or not.

Now, a review of more than 200 scientific studies has given weight to the idea that a cup a day — or even three — could actually have health benefits.

Although researchers don’t know why.

Coffee can be a controversial beverage for the health conscious, thanks to conflicting studies and health claims. For every person who swears off it for fears it will dehydrate them or give them cancer there’s someone else using it to supercharge their naps, mixing it with butter in a bid to lose weight or trying to stave off heart attack and stroke.

The review, published today in the BMJ, aimed to dispel some of that confusion, synthesising the evidence from 218 previous studies and drawing out common themes.

The verdict: researchers found drinking coffee was consistently associated with a lower risk of death from all causes and a lower risk of several cancers, as well as type 2 diabetes, gallstones and gout.

Liver conditions, such as cirrhosis, saw the greatest benefit associated with coffee consumption.

There also seemed to be beneficial associations between coffee consumption and Parkinson’s disease, depression and Alzheimer’s disease.

As for how many long blacks you should glug to get these benefits, researchers found three cups a day was the sweet spot when it came to relative risk of death compared with coffee abstainers.

Drinking more than that wouldn’t harm you, they found, but the beneficial effect was less pronounced.

But, before you run out to the cafe …

But before you race out for another foam-topped shot, the researchers found there were some groups of people who should approach coffee with caution.

While the review was extensive, it’s not the final word on the benefits or otherwise on coffee drinking. Rather, it’s a gateway for more research.

GIF:The review found no link between coffee consumption and demi-god status.

The authors called for randomised controlled trials to understand the cause-and-effect of coffee drinking and the health benefits that have been observed.

And not all experts are completely sold on coffee enhancing health.

In an editorial linked to the review, Eliseo Guallar at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health writes that people shouldn’t start drinking coffee simply to prevent disease, given that some people are at higher risk of adverse affects and there is still uncertainty in the data.

The sugary, fatty snacks that go so well with coffee could undo any health benefits conferred by coffee and more besides, he said.

Having said that, “moderate coffee consumption seems remarkably safe, and it can be incorporated as part of a healthy diet by most of the adult population”, Dr Guallar said.

coffee cup

Good News for Heavy Coffee Drinkers

Although coffee in moderation is widely considered to be good for our health, questions remain — such as what about people who are sensitive to caffeine or who drink large quantities? A new study investigates.

Coffee in a cup

New research into coffee confirms, and widens the scope of, its benefits.

Coffee is among the most commonly consumed beverages on earth.

Because of its popularity, it has attracted a great deal of research over the years.

After all, something that permeates society so thoroughly must be studied for its pros and cons.

Scientists have now stacked up a fair amount of evidence proving that coffee, when consumed in moderation, can protect against certain diseases and may even extend lifespan.

Studies have now shown that moderate coffee consumption might protect against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease, to name but three.

Gaps in our knowledge

But the findings to date leave some unanswered questions. For instance, “moderate consumption” — which usually means three to five cups per day — depending on the study, seems to be of benefit, but many people drink six or more cups each day.

So, do they still enjoy coffee’s protective powers?

Also, certain people have genetic variations that alter the way in which they metabolize, or break down, caffeine. How are these individuals affected? Similarly, does the type of coffee — ground, instant, or decaffeinated — make a difference to health outcomes?

Other studies have attempted to answer the questions above, but, because fewer people fall into these categories, it has been difficult to make robust conclusions from the available data.

Recently, researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Rockville and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, both in Maryland, set out to get some answers.

Their work, which includes the data of more than half a million people in the United Kingdom, is published today in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Reopening the coffee question

The scientists found that, as predicted, coffee drinkers had a lower risk of death over the course of the follow-up. They also found that this reduction in risk extended to people who drank eight or more cups each day.

It also affected people who metabolize caffeine slower or faster than normal, and it worked across all coffee types (although the benefits were slightly less pronounced for instant coffee).

The fact that individuals who process caffeine differently and those who drink decaffeinated coffee also saw benefits hints that caffeine is not the main player in this beneficial relationship. Coffee consists of hundreds of different chemicals, making this a tricky code to crack.

One group of chemicals that scientists have been interested in is polyphenols, which are found in reduced levels in instant coffee. Much more work will be needed to understand how they fit into the bigger picture, though.

The new study is based on observational data, but because of the large number of participants used, the authors conclude:

[T]hese results provide further evidence that coffee drinking can be part of a healthy diet and may provide reassurance to those who drink coffee and enjoy it.”

With its unwavering popularity, research into coffee is guaranteed to continue. The authors hope that future studies focus more on how the preparation of coffee influences health outcomes.

For now, it seems firmly established that coffee has a raft of health benefits.

Although coffee in moderation is widely considered to be good for our health, questions remain — such as what about people who are sensitive to caffeine or who drink large quantities? A new study investigates.

Coffee in a cup

New research into coffee confirms, and widens the scope of, its benefits.

Coffee is among the most commonly consumed beverages on earth.

Because of its popularity, it has attracted a great deal of research over the years.

After all, something that permeates society so thoroughly must be studied for its pros and cons.

Scientists have now stacked up a fair amount of evidence proving that coffee, when consumed in moderation, can protect against certain diseases and may even extend lifespan.

Studies have now shown that moderate coffee consumption might protect against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease, to name but three.