For many years coffee has had a very bad reputation. It has been blamed for everything from stunting your growth to causing cancer. More in depth research has recently revealed that there are actually more health benefits of drinking coffee than there are health risks.
The studies could not find any direct connection between drinking coffee and an increase in your risk of developing heart disease or cancer. The “stunting your growth” theory has been dis-proven years ago. Many people that started drinking coffee at a young age grew to be average or above average height. It is not know where this theory came from or what made people believe this in the first place.
It might have just been a story mothers told their children to encourage them to drink more milk. Although coffee is not bad for a growing child, there is strong evidence that drinking milk is much better. Milk helps more with the child’s development and builds stronger teeth and bones. Whereas coffee does not provide a child with any nutrients at all.
Researchers realized that earlier studies hadn’t taken into account other aspects of people’s behavior, such as lack of physical activity or the fact that the person was a smoker. Once they added these factors into the equation, it became clear that the health problems coffee drinkers were experiencing had more to do with these other factors than the coffee.
However, heavy coffee drinkers do still face some health risks. Consuming large amounts of unfiltered coffee could increase “bad” cholesterol levels. And people that are unable to easily metabolize coffee could be at risk for heart disease if they drink more than three cups of coffee per day.
The Health Benefits
Over the past few decades there have been nearly 20 000 studies on the effects of coffee. More and more researchers are finding that coffee has several health benefits when consumed in moderation. The ideal amount of caffeine is difficult to determine, but most experts agree that two to four average sized cups of coffee per day will provide the most benefits. And that is about how much the average coffee drinker drinks anyway.
Other factors such as height, weight and age could also affect how much coffee is too much for a particular person. A person’s metabolism and diet is also a factor to take into consideration. For example, if you consume a lot of other foods or drinks high in caffeine, the amount of coffee you can safely drink will be less than if you do not eat or drink anything else with caffeine.
#1 Health Benefit – Increased Brain Power
Studies show that drinking between two to four cups of coffee per day may greatly decrease your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, as well reduce the effects of Parkinson’s disease.
Coffee has powerful antioxidants that may prevent the damage these diseases cause to brain cells. These antioxidants may also boost the function of neurotransmitters to improve cognitive activity. Experts have found that the increase in coffee intake lowers the possibilities of glioma, a type of brain cancer, from developing.
It is believed that the compounds found in coffee are able to activate proteins in the cells, giving them more power to repair any damage that may exist. This can then prevent further damage that may lead to diseases, including cancer.
#2 Health Benefit – Healthier Heart
Research indicates that people who drink two to four cups of coffee per day have fewer strokes than people who do not drink coffee at all. Again it is the antioxidants in coffee that provide the benefits.
The antioxidants help to reduce or eliminate the damaging effect the inflammation has on the arteries. Researchers involved in these studies speculate that the compounds coffee contains might increase the nitric oxide activity. That is the substance responsible for widening the blood vessels, allowing for better blood flow and thereby lowering your blood pressure. When you keep your blood pressure under control, you reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Increasing the amount of coffee you drink will have the reverse effect. Drinking five or more cups of coffee per day increases your risk for heart disease. Researchers believe that too much caffeine may interfere with the effects of the antioxidants, and cause more damage than good.
#3 Health Benefit – Fighting Diabetes
Studies show there may be a direct link between drinking four or more cups of coffee per day and lowering your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Studies indicate that the antioxidant compounds, quinides and cholorogenic acid found in coffee, are helpful in boosting the sensitivity of cells to insulin. This then helps the body regulate blood sugar levels.
#4 Health Benefit – Helps the Liver
Studies on coffee and its effects on the liver are still very limited. However, in the studies that have been done so far all show strong evidence that people who drink more coffee seem to have less liver problems.
Coffee drinkers had fewer cases of cirrhosis and other liver diseases. Researchers in nine different studies found that more coffee was better. In fact, with every increase in the amount of coffee a person drank, the lower the risk was for developing liver problems. Two extra cups per day decreased the risk by about 45%.
It is believed the antioxidants and caffeic acids that coffee contains could contribute to preventing the liver from becoming inflamed and thereby reducing the chance of the cells becoming cancerous.
Studies have also been done on the different types of coffee. Filtered coffee, the type that you make with a regular drip coffee maker, not the fancy “pod” type or “k cup” type of coffee makers, are the best for you.
Much more research is being done, and much more still needs to be done before scientists will truly understand how coffee affects the body. At least now coffee drinkers can have a little satisfaction knowing that some studies show that there are indeed health benefits of drinking coffee.