National Coffee Day: Let’s Celebrate the Health Benefits of Coffee

It’s National Coffee Day! And there are many healthy reasons to reach for that daily cup of coffee. Coffee may curb depression symptoms in women, a recent Harvard Medical School study found. The researchers used data from 50,739 American women who were part of the Nurses’ Health Study. The 10-year study followed women whose average age was 63 and had no depression at the start of the study in 1996. The women who drank four cups of caffeinated coffee a day in a study had a 20 percent decrease in relative risk of depression, while no such connection was found with decaffeinated coffee.

This is not the first good news we’ve had about coffee either. In recent years, much research has been done into coffee consumption. When it comes to coffee, the bulk of research supports that regular coffee intake among healthy people — even up to the 2 to 5 cup per day range — is associated with a variety of positive health outcomes compared to lower (or no) intake of coffee. Here are five surprising health benefits:

1. Improved Athletic Performance: Research suggests, caffeine is effective for improving athletic performance. Caffeine can improve performance in endurance sports like running, swimming and cycling. It also may help you recover from exercise. The optimal window to consume caffeine is 30 to 60 minutes before exercise, although it has sometimes been shown to improve performance as quickly as 15 minutes prior. Keep in mind, caffeine works at low-to-moderate doses (about 3 to 6 mg caffeine per kg of body weight) and does not provide greater benefit at higher doses (9 mg/kg). Remember, even the low end of the range is sufficient, so 16 oz. of home-brewed coffee is enough for most people.

2. Cancer Prevention: Dark roasted coffee is known to have certain antioxidant qualities. In order to understand the source and mechanism of this quality, a study was conducted to look into the chemical nature of roasted coffee, with respect to its antioxidant properties. The chemical components obtained from roasting coffee beans at high temperatures were analyzed and quantified. The results showed that in roasted coffee, compounds called Maillard reaction products (MRPs) had high antioxidant properties. Antioxidants help protect cells from free radicals and oxidative stress, which may help prevent cancer.

3. Reduce Risk of Gout: New research shows that long-term coffee consumption is associated with reduced risk of gout in women. The significant risk reduction in this study was seen with more than four cups per day. Gout, a condition characterized by painful inflammatory arthritis, has historically been considered a male disease. Up until now, most of the research on gout prevention and treatment has been focused on men exclusively and a 2007 study revealed that regular coffee consumption was linked to a significantly lower incidence of gout among men.  However, this new study shows that women who drink even just one cup a day can lower their risk of gout by 22 percent.

4. Lower Coronary Heart Disease Risk: If drinking coffee  has become part of your daily routine, you might wonder what it’s doing to your long-term heart health. New research from Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, a journal of the American Heart Association, found that high tea consumption and moderate coffee consumption may be associated with decreased rates of death from coronary heart disease (CHD).  For coffee drinkers, more moderate consumption levels (2 to 3 cups per day) were associated with the greatest risk reduction for death from heart disease (21 percent) compared to drinking less than one cup of coffee per day.

5. Reduce Risk of Diabetes: Drinking coffee might reduce the risk of diabetes, but when it comes to reaping the health benefits of java, timing is everything. A new study of nearly 70,000 women without diabetes found that those who drank more than one cup of coffee at lunchtime were 34 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than non-coffee drinkers. The women in the group who drank at least three cups of coffee a day were 27 percent less likely to develop the disease compared to women who drank no coffee at all. However, when the researchers examined the data more closely, they discovered that the specific timing of coffee intake was the factor associated with the protective effect: only those women who drank more than one cup of coffee every day at lunchtime reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes, by 34 percent, compared to women who drank no coffee at lunchtime.

There is a downside to coffee drinking.

There are some people, however, for whom regular or higher coffee intake may cause more harm than good, either because of its acidity or caffeine content.   These include people who regularly experience acid reflux/heartburn, insomniaheart palpatations, or caffeine sensitivity.  For migraine sufferers, caffeinated coffee may demonstrate a dose-dependent effect: higher intakes (more than a cup or two of coffee per day) may trigger headaches, while lower doses can actually have a headache-relief effect.  Also, pregnant women are advised to moderate their coffee intake, although one caffeinated beverage per day appears to be perfectly safe.

Finally, new research suggest that coffee may make getting pregnant harder. So if you’ve been struggling to conceive, it may be wise to ditch the morning cup of joe.


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