Coffee provides numerous health benefits because it is very high in antioxidants, and the caffeine in coffee can improve athletic performance and increase work capacity. New research provides a long list of benefits from coffee including all of the following: less risk of diabetes, protection from aerobic induced oxidative stress, less chronic inflammation, cancer prevention, Alzheimer’s prevention, and better mood.
Coffee contains caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid, which are super rich in antioxidants. These antioxidants can neutralize free radicals that cause oxidative stress and lead to chronic inflammation, which is a major player in elevated disease risk and earlier death. Plus, it’s well established that coffee improves the cell’s sensitivity to insulin, which is important for a healthy metabolism and to prevent diabetes. Coffee can also help you maintain energy levels because it means it is easier for the body to burn fuel when it needs it. One recent study showed that with each cup of coffee participants consumed daily, the risk of type 2 diabetes dropped by 7 percent.
A new study in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers, and Prevention provides convincing evidence that coffee can prevent estrogen-related cancers such as endometrial cancer, which is cancer of the endometrial lining of the uterus. A large-scale study of over 67,000 women demonstrated that women who drank four or more cups of coffee per day had a 25 percent lower risk than those who did not drink coffee regularly. The study showed the greatest benefits from regular coffee—a 30 percent lower risk of cancer—but decaffeinated also produced a 22 percent lower risk.
Researchers think that cancer was prevented in part due to the reduced oxidative stress from the high antioxidant activity provided by coffee, but that coffee also upregulates the expression of enzymes in the liver that help metabolize estrogen down the healthiest C-2 pathway. This is a much preferred pathway for detoxifying extra estrogen from the body and would likely play a role in preventing related sex organ cancers such as breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer in men.
Many people wonder if coffee and caffeine cause more trouble than they are worth since caffeine does raise blood pressure and can elevate heart rate. It’s true caffeine can temporarily boost heart rate and blood pressure, but for most people this does not result in long-term increases.
People vary in their response to coffee and caffeine. Some feel jittery or anxious from caffeine that is derived from coffee and do better drinking green tea, which also contains a nice dose of antioxidants. Decaf coffee or green tea are an option, but there is concern that the chemical process of removing caffeine from coffee or tea leaves a chemical residue that may cause cancer—decaf probably is more trouble than it’s worth.
Unless you are very sensitive to caffeine, coffee-drinking appears to be neutral in relation to the development of coronary heart disease, and it is known to improve endothelial health—a primary component of the vascular system, so you may want to include it in your diet. Cases in which you may want to cut out coffee are if you take prescription drugs, or are a woman at risk of osteoporosis because caffeine may inhibit bone building.
Liu, S., Chen, C., et al. Caffeine Enhances Osteoclast Differentiation from Bone Marrow Hematopoietic Cells and Reduces Bone Mineral Density in Growing Rats. Journal of Orthopedic Research. 2011. 29(6), 954-960.
Cheng, B., Liu, X., et al. Coffee Components Inhibit Amyloid Formation of Human Islet Amyloid Polypeptide in Vitro: Possible Link between Coffee Consumption and Diabetes Mellitus. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2011. 59, 13147-13155.
Je, R., Hankinson, S., et al. A Prospective Cohort Study of Coffee Consumption and Risk of Endometrial Cancer over a 26-Year Follow-Up. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. 2011. 20, 2487-2495.