More Than a Pick-Me-Up: the Dramatic Health Benefits of your Daily Coffee
The Takeaway First
About 50% of Americans drink coffee every day, but far fewer Americans know that regular coffee drinking has substantial health benefits. According to several studies published over the past two years, coffee has an effect on your heart, your brain, your bones, and your risks of diseases over the lifetime. Despite the benefits, the potential drawbacks from coffee’s caffeine content are worth considering. Know thyself, as they say, and drink carefully.
A German study (Bakuradze et al., 2014) found that four weeks of regular coffee consumption increased feelings of satiety after eating. This and the subjects’ loss of body fat suggests that coffee might help with weight loss or chronic overeating.
The same study found that drinking coffee tended to protect DNA from harmful mutations that could lead to cancer (Bakuradze et al, 2014). And an updated study supports the notion of coffee protecting DNA integrity. (Bakuradze et al, 2015).
A broad review article found that regular coffee consumption reduced the risk of diabetes mellitus, hypertension, obesity, and depression (O’Keefe et al., 2013). The same article reports that coffee either has no effect or a positive effect on cardiovascular health.
O’Keefe et al. (2013) also found that coffee reduced the risk of neurodegenerative disease.
A Brazilian study found that drinking coffee in very low doses reduced hepatic fibrosis in adults with Hepatitis C (Machado et al., 2013).
In one meta-analysis (analysis of many studies already published), regular coffee consumption decreased the risk of fractures by almost 25% in men (Lee et al., 2014).
A study of Spanish adults found that regular coffee consumption had no significant adverse effects on health-related quality of life (Lopez-Garcia et al., 2013).
An older study found that regular coffee consumption had no effect on long term risk of coronary heart disease specifically (Wu et al., 2009).
My Take on Coffee and Health
Coffee, like most naturally occurring mixtures, is not just water, caffeine, and coffee molecules. Well, in some sense it is, but “coffee molecules” consist of countless and diverse chemicals, from methylxanthines to diterpine alcohols to chlorogenic acids to antioxidants, all of which combine to give coffee its complex effect. The effect we all know is the mental effect of increased alertness and decreased feelings of sleepiness.
Besides this effect are numerous side-effects, though. Side-effects are not necessarily bad, as we can
see from the scientific findings that I noted above. Living longer with less disease is nothing to complain about. However, I want to remind you that every food, coffee included, has complex and far-reaching consequences for the body and for the rest of the lifestyle. Drinking coffee, for instance, might wake you up in the morning, but it can also keep you from sleeping at night. A poor sleep schedule leads to more fatigue, and more fatigue makes that second (or third, or fourth) cup of coffee smell awfully delicious, and pretty soon you’re a wreck every morning unless you drink five cups of coffee. This is not only excessive but expensive, depending on your source.
People who drink coffee daily need to know their limits. Too often in New York I see people more high-strung and stressed out than I ever thought possible, and then I see a quivering cup of coffee in their hand and think, “Hm.” Coffee affects your entire body, but most importantly it affects your brain. And by this point in your life you have come to terms with the fact that you’re not invincible. All this is to say, be aware of the benefits of coffee, but also remember that adding caffeine to your diet changes your wake-sleep patterns, your feelings of tiredness, and your appetite. You can live a happy, healthy life with or without coffee.
What You Should Do
I value your independent thinking, so I won’t give you a prescription for Starbucks. But I will say this: consider the place of coffee in your lifestyle. Nutritional science tells us that adding any substance to your diet has numerous effects on your body chemistry. Coffee contains caffeine, which tends to create a chemical dependency, so drink carefully. Know your own mind; avoid coffee if you’re prone to anxiety or panic attacks. Limit caffeine after noon to avoid insomnia. Also, counterbalance coffee consumption with a good amount of water. Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it will make you eliminate fluids more frequently. With so many benefits, it’s worth a shot.
Bakuradze, T., Parra, G. A. M., Riedel, A., Somoza, V., Lang, R., Dieminger, N., . . . Richling, E. (2014). Four-week coffee consumption affects energy intake, satiety regulation, body fat, and protects DNA integrity. Food Research International, 63, Part C(0), 420-427. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foodres.2014.05.032
Lee, D. R., Lee, J., Rota, M., Lee, J., Ahn, H. S., Park, S. M., & Shin, D. (2014). Coffee consumption and risk of fractures: A systematic review and dose–response meta-analysis. Bone, 63(0), 20-28. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bone.2014.02.007
Lopez-Garcia, E., Guallar-Castillon, P., Leon-Muñoz, L., Graciani, A., & Rodriguez-Artalejo, F. (2014). Coffee consumption and health-related quality of life. Clinical Nutrition, 33(1), 143-149. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2013.04.004
Machado, S. R., Parise, E. R., & de Carvalho, L. (2014). Coffee has hepatoprotective benefits in Brazilian patients with chronic hepatitis C even in lower daily consumption than in American and European populations. The Brazilian Journal of Infectious Diseases, 18(2), 170-176. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bjid.2013.09.001
O’Keefe, J. H., Bhatti, S. K., Patil, H. R., DiNicolantonio, J. J., Lucan, S. C., & Lavie, C. J. (2013). Effects of Habitual Coffee Consumption on Cardiometabolic Disease, Cardiovascular Health, and All-Cause Mortality. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 62(12), 1043-1051. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jacc.2013.06.035
Wu, J.-n., Ho, S. C., Zhou, C., Ling, W.-h., Chen, W.-q., Wang, C.-l., & Chen, Y.-m. (2009). Coffee consumption and risk of coronary heart diseases: A meta-analysis of 21 prospective cohort studies. International Journal of Cardiology, 137(3), 216-225. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijcard.2008.06.051