Surprising Health Benefits of Coffee

Despite its ubiquitous presence in most of our lives and modern society’s dependence on it, coffee tends to get a bad rap. Many people tend to avoid it for personal or health reasons that may or may not be accurate, but whether coffee is good or bad for you is much more nuanced than you might expect.

Debunking Myths about Coffee

Many of the more common misconceptions about coffee are based on rumor rather than hard science. Far too many people believe that coffee can damage your heart partly because of the jittery effects that caffeine produces. While there is some evidence that coffee can raise blood pressure which is a risk factor for heart disease, studies show that the increase in blood pressure is very minute—only about 3 or 4 mm/Hg.

Those already with a hypertension condition should avoid caffeine because of the intense but short-term spikes in blood pressure after drinking a caffeinated beverage. Most research indicates, however, that coffee has little effect on long-term blood pressure because your body develops a tolerance to caffeine.

Another popular but baseless myth about coffee is that it raises the risk of cancer. In fact, coffee is widely considered by many health experts as an anti-cancer food, primarily because of the very high levels of antioxidants. Research has even shown that regular coffee drinkers have a lower risk for liver and colorectal cancers.

Finally, there is the somewhat flawed belief that coffee can elevate cholesterol levels. There are chemicals known as cafestol and kahweol found in coffee that can raise LDL cholesterol levels but only in very modest amounts that most healthy people can well tolerate.

Although coffee is not as bad as many people suspect, it should still only be taken in moderation. At extremely high amounts, coffee may produce the following health detriments:

  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Diarrhea
  • Addiction
  • Muscle breakdown
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination

Why a Cup or Two of Coffee May Be Good for You

Not only does coffee have fewer health disadvantages than commonly thought, mounting research suggests that it may even have powerful benefits.

  • Extended life—evidence suggests that regular use of coffee may lengthen your life. Several studies involving more than 100,000 people found that there is a minor decrease in the risk of early death. Most experts point to the high levels of antioxidants which have potent health benefits.
  • Prevents diabetes—multiple studies link coffee use with a lower risk of developing diabetes. Drinking 3 to 6 cups of coffee a day may lower this risk by 23 to 50 percent. There is some evidence that a regular coffee habit can slow the progression from prediabetes to full-blown diabetes. This is probably due to the high levels of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds and insulin-boosting chemicals found in coffee. (Although caffeinated coffee has more of these beneficial chemicals, decaffeinated coffee also has them but in lower quantities).
  • Improved heart health—despite the common misconception that coffee damages your heart, the research indicates that drinking one or more cups of caffeinated coffee a day may diminish your risk for heart failure. In a study involving more than 30,000 participants, it was found that regular coffee drinkers had healthier and better functioning hearts than those that didn’t drink coffee regularly. Another study of people with heart disease found that three cups of coffee a day lowered the risk of stroke and death from cardiovascular disease.
  • Better brain function—one study published in 2021 found that people who drank coffee had a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than those who didn’t drink coffee. The study monitored people around the age of 70 for 10 years. However, there is another study that found people who drank 6 or more cups of coffee daily had smaller brains by volume and an elevated risk of dementia.
  • Elevated mood—it is normal to feel a burst of energy and happiness following that first cup of coffee in the morning, but you may not realize how good that coffee is for your emotional health. Research from Harvard Medical School suggests that drinking coffee can lower the risk of depression by a third. Experts believe that this benefit may be related to the anti-inflammatory properties of coffee, as well as its positive effects on gut bacteria. It is recommended that you consume 4 cups of coffee a day to obtain the full emotional health benefits.
  • Boost your workout—it has been shown that coffee improves physical performance by improving blood circulation, endurance, and muscle strength. Furthermore, there is some evidence that coffee may help mitigate pain, enabling you to push yourself harder during your workouts. You may want to drink some coffee an hour before you plan on exercising to maximize your calorie-burning potential. Keep in mind, however, that coffee is also a diuretic which means it dehydrates you, so you should also drink plenty of water in addition to the coffee.
  • Fights cancer—some studies have linked coffee with a lower risk of some types of cancer. One research trial found that three cups of coffee reduced the risk of liver cancer and cirrhosis. It is believed that the high amount of antioxidants in coffee help protect the liver. Another study concluded that coffee drinkers had a 20 percent lower risk of developing skin cancers like melanoma or basal cell skin cancer.
  • Avoid strokes—although there is still ongoing debate about whether coffee provides protection against strokes, at least one study concluded that female coffee drinkers had a 25 percent lower risk of stroke, while another study found drinking coffee lowered the risk of stroke in both men and women.

There is little doubt that drinking coffee in moderation does have some health benefits for some people. That does not mean that coffee is right for everyone. If you are considering adding coffee to your daily repertoire, you should consult with your physician first. Having certain health conditions like high blood pressure may mean that it is better to avoid caffeine.

Article written by: Dr. Robert Moghim – CEO/Founder Colorado Pain Care

M.D. Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the personal views of Robert Moghim, M.D. and do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees.  The information contained in this article does not constitute medical advice, nor does reading or accessing this information create a patient-provider relationship.  Comments that you post will be shared with all visitors to this page. The comment feature is not governed by HIPAA, and you should not post any of your private health information.