About 56 percent of Americans drink coffee, with the average person downing 3.1 cups per day. For many, it is one of the first things they do after getting out of bed. Others continue to drink coffee throughout the day.
For years, there has been debate about the health advantages and potential downsides of this popular drink. Recent research suggests that the pros outweigh the cons. Here is a look at the evidence on both sides of the question.
The Health Benefits of Drinking Coffee
The large concentrations of nutrients and antioxidants in coffee are good for you in a number of ways. Just a single cup provides 11 percent of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin B2, 6 percent of Vitamin B5, and 3 percent of potassium and manganese.
- Perhaps most importantly, studies have indicated that coffee makes you less vulnerable to several potentially fatal diseases. The beverage may be particularly effective in fending off certain cancers.
- Coffee lowers the odds of liver cancer by 40 percent and colorectal cancer (affecting the colon or rectum) by 15 percent. It drops the risk of stroke by 20 percent.
- Other liver conditions – such as hepatitis and fatty liver disease – sometimes cause cirrhosis. Drinking coffee reportedly decreases the chances of that happening. In one study, people who had at least four cups daily were 80 percent less likely to contract cirrhosis.
- Type 2 diabetes is 23 to 50 percent less common among coffee drinkers, according to one study. A review of 18 other clinical trials estimated a 7 percent lower risk.
- The odds of suffering from Alzheimer’s disease are as much as 65 percent less for coffee drinkers. For Parkinson’s disease, the numbers are 32 to 60 percent.
- One study found that women who had at least four cups daily were one-fifth less apt to become depressed. Another study, in which more than 200,000 people drank the same amount, concluded that the risk was 53 percent lower.
- Because coffee helps protect you from diseases, it should come as no surprise that it promotes longevity. Male coffee drinkers are 20 percent less prone to premature death, while the risk for women is 26 percent lower.
- A major reason people like coffee is that the caffeine helps keep them alert. Many cannot imagine doing their jobs or performing other daily activities without the boost that the drug provides. Having extra energy means being more physically active, which aids the mind and body.
- Coffee enhances thinking skills, memory, and other brain functions. It promotes a more upbeat attitude and shortens reaction times.
- Caffeine is a proven fat burner. The beverage speeds a person’s metabolic rate by as much as 11 percent. As a result, fat burning increases by up to 29 percent.
Potential Coffee Health Risks
It has long been suspected that drinking coffee causes hypertension, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. While the beverage does increase blood pressure temporarily, the effect is usually brief.
- Among the dangers of coffee is drinking too much. More than six cups per day can cause anxiety, nervousness, headaches, nausea, a short temper, and other undesirable symptoms. As with most things, moderation is key. There is a risk of becoming addicted to coffee. Some people have withdrawal symptoms when they quit.
- Unfiltered coffee may raise cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which can lead to heart disease. Experts recommend using a filter.
- Pregnant women are advised to limit coffee to two cups daily because excessive caffeine can heighten the risk of miscarriages, premature births, and low birth weights.
- Caffeine might intensify bleeding disorders, adversely affect blood sugar levels for people with diabetes, worsen diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome, and put more pressure inside the eyes of glaucoma patients.
- Those who drink more than about three cups a day could be at a greater risk of osteoporosis due to the loss of calcium that results from increased urination.