The health benefits of coffee


by Aliza Marogy

The health benefits of coffee

For years, coffee had a reputation for being unhealthy, and while that may be true for people with certain health conditions such as hypertension (high blood pressure) and some with digestive disorders, in recent years there have been several studies showing that coffee isn't as bad as we used to believe. In fact, it’s been shown to promote several health benefits which may be attributed to it's caffeine and high polyphenol (antioxidant) content. Here's a summary of the conditions coffee may improve.

Parkinson's Disease

Many studies show that drinking coffee daily may help reduce or slow the risk of developing Parkinson's disease. Coffee consumption has also been found to benefit patients with existing Parkinson's. In 2012, a small Canadian study of 61 Parkinson's patients demonstrated  small but noticeable improvement in helping the patient to control movement and was the first study to show clear benefit in those who already had developed the disease. 

Liver Disease

Studies show that regular coffee consumption may help to reduce death by cirrhosis of the liver by up to 66% with another study of 125,000 people showing that coffee could reduce the incidence of cirrhosis of the liver by 22% in alcohol drinkers. That doesn't mean that binge-drinking espresso martini's in place of wine will magically protect you against liver disease, but it does demonstrate that coffee has hepatoprotective (liver-protecting) qualities.  Interestingly, it may not be the caffeine within the coffee that's working the magic, as one study using decaffeinated coffee also showed similar benefits. 

Liver Cancer

More evidence that regular coffee consumption is good for your liver, with one study showing a 40% reduction in risk of developing the disease. 

Type 2 Diabetes

It's common knowledge that the development of Type 2 diabetes is strongly linked with excess carbohydrate consumption and a sedentary lifestyle, though I know first hand as someone who has strong genetic tendencies towards the disease that despite following all the 'right' diet and lifestyle advice, some people will go on to develop the disease regardless. However, I find it comforting to know that my morning cup of freshly brewed coffee might be doing more than just helping me wake up. Studies have shown an inverse association between coffee consumption and diabetes, with one study demonstrating an 11% reduced risk of developing the disease when coffee consumption was increased over a 4 year period.

How much coffee should we drink? 

Well, it depends. If you have health issues such as high blood pressure, suffer from insomnia or react badly to stimulants, then I'd steer clear of coffee and drink green tea instead, which also is packed full of antioxidants and is much lower in caffeine. In studies, benefits were observed in those who drank one to four cups of coffee per day. Because of the high caffeine content, I wouldn't recommend personally recommend drinking more than two cups per day. To get the maximum benefits, make sure that you're drinking high quality freshly ground coffee - the kind you'll find in specialist coffee shops - and avoid instant coffee or adding sugar. Always seek the advice of your doctor if you have a medical condition and are thinking of introducing caffeine to your diet.  

References: 

  1. "Coffee, cirrhosis, and transaminase enzymes." Klatsky AL, Morton C, Udaltsova N, Friedman GD. Arch Intern Med. 2006 Jun 12;166(11):1190-5.

  2. "Coffee Reduces Risk for Hepatocellular Carcinoma: An Updated Meta-analysis" Francesca Bravi, Cristina Bosetti, Alessandra Tavani, Silvano Gallus, Carlo La Vecchia. Volume 11, Issue 11 , Pages 1413-1421.e1, November 2013

  3. Caffeine for treatment of Parkinson disease" Ronald B. Postuma, MD, MSc, Anthony E. Lang, MD, Renato P. Munhoz, MD, Katia Charland, PhD, Amelie Pelletier, PhD, Mariana Moscovich, MD, Luciane Filla, MD, Debora Zanatta, RPh, Silvia Rios Romenets, MD, Robert Altman, MD, Rosa Chuang, MD and Binit Shah, MD. doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e318263570d August 1, 2012

  4. "Association of coffee and caffeine intake with the risk of Parkinson's disease" G. Webster Ross, MD; Robert D. Abbott, PhD; Helen Petrovitch, MD; David M. Morens, MD; Andrew Grandinetti, PhD; Ko-Hui Tung, MS; Caroline M. Tanner, MD, PhD; Kamal H. Masaki, MD; Patricia L. Blanchette, MD, MPH; J. David Curb, MD, MPH; Jordan S. Popper, MD; Lon R. White, MD, MPH. JAMA. doi:10.1001/jama.283.20.2674. 2000;283(20):2674-2679

  5. "Coffee and caffeine consumption in relation to sex hormone-binding globulin and risk of in post menopausal women" Atsushi Goto, Yiqing Song, Brian H. Chen, Jo. Ann E. Manson, Julie E. Buring, and Simin Liu. Diabetes. doi:10.2337/db10-1193. 2011 January; 60(1): 269–275

Post author

Aliza Marogy

Nutritional Therapist, ND & Founder of Inessa