Are you someone who likes to enjoy a cup or two of coffee each morning? Or perhaps you’re someone who essentially needs it to feel like a functioning human being if you have to get up before 9 am. Either way, you’re probably used to hearing people say that coffee is bad for you and that you should try cutting it out. Well, before you try to cut out the one thing that gets you out of bed in the morning, read this. Science suggests that a moderate amount of coffee each day not only isn’t bad for you, but it’s also actually good for your health. Here’s why.
Research Says These Kinds of Coffee Will Improve Your Health
Peter Kistler is head of clinical electrophysiology research at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute and head of electrophysiology at Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Australia. He and his team of researchers decided to take a look into coffee to try and settle the debate as to whether or not it is good or bad for our health. What they found will make those who love waking up to a cup of joe happy: It is. (1)
The researchers looked at the ground, instant, and decaffeinated coffee and found that all three of them benefit the body. They found “significant reductions” in the risk of coronary heart disease, congestive heart failure, and stroke. Interestingly, caffeinated ground coffee and instant coffee also reduced the risk of arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), but not decaf. These aren’t the first studies to find evidence that coffee can be (and maybe even should be) included in a healthy diet.
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The researchers used data from the United Kingdom BioBank. This database has coffee consumption data of almost 450,000 adults, all of which had no arrhythmias or cardiovascular disease at the start of the study (2). They divided these people into ground coffee drinkers, instant coffee drinkers, decaf drinkers, and those who didn’t drink coffee at all. About 12.5 years later, they looked at medical and death records for reports of arrhythmia, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and death. Before drawing any conclusions, they adjusted for other lifestyle factors such as smoking, age, diabetes, ethnicity, high blood pressure, obesity, obstructive sleep apnea, sex, and tea and alcohol consumption. What they found was that coffee consumption was associated with a reduction in death from any cause.
One thing that is important to note is that the coffee was beneficial regardless of whether or not it had caffeine in it or not. This, doctors and nutritional scientists note, means that the benefits likely don’t have much to do with caffeine at all. Rather, they are linked to something else that exists in the coffee.
“Caffeine is the most well-known constituent in coffee, but the beverage contains more than 100 biologically active components,” said study author Peter Kistler, head of clinical electrophysiology research at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute and head of electrophysiology at Alfred Hospital in Melbourne. “It is likely that the non-caffeinated compounds were responsible for the positive relationships observed between coffee drinking, cardiovascular disease and survival,”
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Let’s Get Specific
Other studies, too, have found benefits for drinking dark brew. The first important thing to note is the quantity of coffee the studies are looking at. They all are focused on a moderate amount. The Australian study mentioned above says two to three cups each day. Keep in mind these are not super-sized, extra grande cups. Other studies defined moderate consumption as three to five cups per day. Again, many of these studies are from Europe and Australia, where coffee sizes are much smaller than in the United States. It’s safe to assume when they say “cup” they are referring to an American small, or at most a medium.
A UK study found that drinking three to five cups of coffee each day reduced the risk of a number of diseases. This included lowering the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, type 2 Diabetes, liver disease, and prostate cancer. Many researchers remind us, however, that these are observational trials and can’t prove cause and effect.
“Does coffee make you healthy or do inherently healthier people consume coffee?” questioned UK-based nutritional sciences professor and researcher Charlotte Mills. “Randomized controlled trials are needed to prove the relationship between coffee and cardiovascular health.”
More Research Needed
All researchers who have studied coffee can agree on one thing: That more research is needed. There are so many factors that influence our health and how certain foods and compounds react within our bodies. Not only that, but those reactions can be different for everyone. Some people can seemingly drink it almost as if it is water and at any time of day without issues. Others have to keep strict rules of when they drink coffee so that they are able to sleep at night. Still, others avoid it altogether, saying that it makes them feel anxious rather than focused, yet other caffeinated drinks like green tea don’t have that effect. (3)
On top of all of this, how you take your coffee can impact how healthy it is for you. For example, if you drink your coffee black or with a bit of milk or cream, you’re doing okay. If you load it up with lots of cream and sugar, however, suddenly a low-calorie, the healthy drink becomes high-fat and high-sugar. I won’t even get started on other kinds of syrup and whipped cream-loaded coffee drinks. So the bottom line is, if you are a regular coffee drinker who consumes coffee in moderation with no sugar and little or no added milk or cream, you can likely keep on doing that without risking your health. In fact, you might even improve it.
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- “Coffee lowers risk of heart problems and early death, study says, especially ground and caffeinated.” CNN. Sandee LaMotte. September 29, 2022.
- “The impact of coffee subtypes on incident cardiovascular disease, arrhythmias, and mortality: long-term outcomes from the UK Biobank” European Journal of Preventive Cardiology. September 27, 2022.
- “Coffee.” Harvard. Accessed October 3, 2022.