Coffee's Healthy Perks - From Top To Toe (Science Backed)

Introduction

Coffee is one of the world’s favorite drinks, with Finland leading the count at 1,252 cups per capita per year while the Swedes take the second spot with 1,211 cups.

The statistics aren’t surprising.

After all, no other drink can shake off fogginess and sleepiness like coffee. Not to mention you can tweak the drink to your heart’s delight. You can drink it hot or add ice for a cool, calming effect. Others even add MCT and grass-fed butter to it, creating a bulletproof version.

But the coffee is not just an energizer. It can do wonders for your health, too!

Coffee And Brain Health

"The human brain is a wonderful organ. It starts to work as soon as you are born and doesn't stop until you get up to deliver a speech," said George Jessel.

Maybe Jessel forgot to drink a cup of coffee? :)

Coffee can wake you up or keep the mind sharp when delivering a speech, but the world’s favorite beverage does more than that. The wonder drink may be just what you need to boost your long-term memory, avoid Alzheimer’s disease, and keep your brain’s health in tip-top shape.

Boost Long-Term Memory With 200 mg Of Caffeine

The general opinion was that caffeine had no effect on long-term memory - until Michael Yassa of John Hopkins University came along.

“We report for the first time a specific effect of caffeine on reducing forgetting over 24 hours," said Yassa, who led a double-blind study published in Nature Neuroscience.

Neither the participants nor the researchers know who’s receiving treatment in double-blind studies. The double-blind procedure prevents bias due to placebo effect in research results.

The participants in the study viewed a series of images and received either a placebo or 200 mg of caffeine after 5 minutes.

The next day, they were tested on their ability to recall the study material. The test involved a standard recognition memory task, with tricky and seemingly identical items thrown in to pinpoint caffeine’s memory-boosting effects.

Members of the caffeine group showed better accuracy in identifying new images than the placebo group.

Reduces Risk Of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease impairs one’s cognitive ability - and their capacity to perform usual, day-to-day tasks. But researchers from the University of South Florida and the University of Miami bear good news.

Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60% to 80% of cases of dementia. The chronic neurodegenerative illness that starts slowly but only gets worse, affecting parts of the brain responsible for intelligence, memory, and language.

The study led by Dr. Chuanhai Cao monitored the memory and thought process of 124 patients aged 65 to 88 years old. Their findings showed what may be the first link between caffeine consumption and reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

“We found that 100% of the MCI (mild cognitive impairment) patients with plasma caffeine levels above the critical level experienced no conversion to Alzheimer’s disease,” said Dr. Gary Arendash, one of the researchers.

And take note:

Patients whose condition worsened to dementia caffeine levels below the critical level, 51% lower than patients who remained stable.

So does coffee provide 100% protection from Alzheimer’s disease? Dr. Cao warns against jumping to conclusions. But the doctor and his team stand by moderate coffee consumption as a way to reduce the risk or delay the onset of the condition.

Eases The Symptoms Of Parkinson’s Disease (PD)

Experts are aware of coffee’s inherent qualities for preventing Parkinson’s disease. But can coffee help people already afflicted by the disease?

A study led by Ronald Postuma had encouraging findings.

Parkinson’s disease is linked to the brain’s basal ganglia degeneration and dopamine deficiency. Patients with the progressive disease suffer from tremors, inflexibility, and imprecise and slow movements.

Postuma, a member of the American Academy Of Neurology, took 61 randomized PD patients and divided them into 2 groups. The first group received caffeine pills twice a day for 6 weeks, with doses equal to 4 cups. The second group received placebo.

The end of the 6-week trial saw the caffeine group coming on top. The former averaged a 5-point improvement in Parkinson’s disease severity measures, including sleepiness and motor dysfunction.

The improvement may be moderate, but the potential motor benefits of caffeine warrant a larger and longer-term trial according to Postuma.

For Ladies Only: Coffee Reduces Risk Of Depression

Depression is a devastating mental disorder, leaving patients fatigued and feeling worthless. Anyone can experience depression, but women are twice as likely to be victims.

Scientist Michael Lucas has some good news, however!

In the United States, clinical depression afflicts 40 million adults, roughly 18% of the population. Britain, on the other hand, ranks the depression as one of its most common mental disorder, with 7.8% of the population requiring diagnosis.

The study, Coffee, Caffeine, and Risk of Depression Among Women, involved 50,739 women from the United States - and 10 years of follow-up. The participants had an average age of 63 years, and everyone was free from depression symptoms when the study took off.

Lucas had many research interests, including the effects of dietary factors and lifestyle in depression. In the Harvard-led study, the participant’s daily coffee intake was put under the microscope.

The result:

Women who consumed 2 to 3 cups of caffeinated coffee decreased their risk of depression by 15%. But participants who drink, at least, 4 cups every day performed even better, reducing their risk by 20%!

Interestingly, women who consumed decaffeinated coffee didn’t reduce their risk at all.

Heavy Coffee-Drinking Can Protect Nerve Fibers From Damage

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an unpredictable and crippling condition, disrupting the flow of information between the brain and the body. About 2.5 million people around the world suffer from MS. But coffee may help reduce one’s risk, according to a study by Dr. Ellen Mowry.

Numbness, blurred vision, and poor balance are some of MS’ tell-tale signs. Multiple sclerosis happens when the immune system mistakenly attacks the protective sheath of nerve fibers, causing damage to the brain and spine.

The study, presented at one of AHA’s Scientific Sessions, involved 2 groups:

The Swedish group included 4,400 adults, while the US group had 1,165.

The end of the study saw people, who drank at least 4 cups of coffee daily, reduce their risk of MS by 30%. And take note, the Swedish study even had longer-term data, and the researchers found that high coffee intake for 5 to 10 years delivered the same protective effect.

The findings don’t mean you should drink more coffee. However, the study does strengthen the evidence from previous studies that highlight coffee’s neuroprotective properties.

Coffee - Heart

"A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination," said the late Nelson Mandela.

We’ve already looked at how coffee can improve brain health. But did you know that coffee can be good for the heart, too? From increased microcirculation to lower risk of heart muscle failure, coffee has been linked to many heart-healthy benefits.

Up To 30% Increase In Blood Flow

Dr. Masato Tsutsui led a small double-blind study, with 27 adults aged 22 to 30 years old as participants. None of the 27 are regular coffee drinkers. But everyone agreed to drink caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee for the experiment.

After gauging overall blood flow, Dr. Tsutsui found that the participants’ microvessel blood flow increased by 30% when they drank caffeinated coffee.

Microvessels are the smallest vessels inside the body, responsible for circulation. These tiny vessels distribute blood within the tissues and facilitate nutrient exchanges in the body.

The spike in blood circulation lasted for over 75 minutes, and heart rate levels remained stable. Dr. Tsutsui speculated that caffeine may have lowered inflammation and helped open the endothelium, the inner lining of the blood vessels.

Reduces Risk Of Abnormal Heart Rhythm

Do you love coffee but have been warned about its supposed link to heart rhythm disturbances? The findings of a study led by Arthur Klatsky hints that people are barking up the wrong tree!

Klatsky, a Doctor of Medicine, evaluated 130,000 members of the prepaid health care plan Kaiser Permanente. During routine health examinations from 1978 to 1985, the large group reported on their coffee intake and other habits including smoking and drinking.

Abnormal heart rhythms, called arrhythmias, come in different varieties. Some are harmless and don’t require treatment like premature atrial contractions. But others are threatening like premature ventricular contractions or “skipped heartbeats.”

Klatsky and his team observed the group until 2008. About 27% are non-coffee drinkers, 14% drank less than a cup daily, but 42% drank 3 cups of coffee as their daily routine. The rest (about 17%) are heavy drinkers who consumed 4 cups or more per day.

The results were interesting, to say the least.

The largest group, which consumed 1 to 3 cups per day, reduced their hospitalization risk due to abnormal heart rhythm by 7%. However, the men and women who had 4 cups or more lowered their risk by almost 18%!

4 European Cups Lead To 11% Lower Risk Of Heart Failure

Heart failure happens when the heart muscles’ pumping power are weaker than normal. Conditions that overwork the heart like high blood pressure and diabetes are some of its most common causes.

A weak heart is a worrying condition. But moderate coffee drinkers may let out a sigh of relief after reading about Elizabeth Mostofsky’s findings.

Swelling, fatigue, and shortness of breath even when at rest are the most obvious symptoms of heart failure. Around 900,000 patients in the UK have heart failure. In the United States, the condition afflicts 5.7 million adults, costing the nation an estimated $30.7 billion every year.

Mostofsky and her team analyzed data gathered from 5 European studies - 4 from Sweden and another from Finland. The data sources had 140,220 participants with 6,522 heart failure events in total.

The dose-response meta-analysis saw an important link between coffee and heart failure:

Individuals who consume 4 European cups of coffee (about 32oz) are 11% less likely to suffer from a failing heart than non-coffee drinkers. Those who drank less than 4 to 5 European cups didn’t experience any protective benefit.

Coffee, A Promising Anti-Cancer?

Coffee has had a terrible reputation for ages.

“Coffee stifles growth, and caffeine can reduce bone mass,” the critics proclaimed. An 80’s research even linked coffee to pancreatic cancer. Coffee’ bad reputation persisted for decades.

But after many studies concluded, coffee’s status took a positive turn - from unhealthy to energizing superfood. No, coffee doesn’t increase one’s risk for pancreatic cancer.

And the pleasant surprise:

The world’s favorite drink has been linked to cancer risk reduction!

Let’s look at different studies where coffee displayed promise in combating a host of life-threatening diseases.

Four Cups Equals 50% Reduction In Oral Cancer Risk

Do you run on coffee, consuming 4 cups or more daily?

A study by Janet Hilderbrand, an epidemiologist at the American Cancer Society, says you could be reducing your chances of dying from oral cancer.

The signs of oral cancer may be mistaken for other conditions like cold or a toothache. Symptoms of the disease include persistent mouth pain, sore throat, lump in the cheek, and even bad breath.

All 968,000 participants took part in the Cancer Prevention Study II in 1982. Hilderbrand and her team looked the coffee-drinking habits of the participants.

The end of the study found that heavy coffee drinkers are 50% less likely to develop oral cancer than occasional and non-coffee drinkers.

Lowered Endometrial Cancer Risk For Coffee-Loving Women

Women who love coffee and their spill-proof mugs could be reducing their risk of endometrial cancer, a study suggests.

Melissa Merritt from Imperial College London and her colleagues evaluated 84 foods and nutrients as risk factors for endometrial cancer. The study paid close attention and analyzed the dietary habits of 2800 women, all of which were diagnosed with the cancer.

Cases of endometrial or uterine cancer in the UK are expected to drop by 7% between 2014 and 2035. In the US, however, incidence rates are on the rise. The symptoms include bleeding between periods, pelvic pain, and abnormal, watery discharge from the vagina.

The findings confirmed observations from previous studies:

High coffee intake (4 cups or more) is linked to lowered risk of endometrial cancer by 18%.

“Coffee intake is worth investigating further to see if coffee can be used for the prevention of endometrial cancer," said Merritt. The lead author also called for more studies to isolate coffee’s components which are responsible for the risk reduction.

Coffee Reduces Risk Of Aggressive Prostate Cancer By 60%

Insulin, glucose metabolism, and sex hormones play a major role in prostate cancer’s development. And Kathryn Wilson of Harvard Medical School is well-aware of the link between the 3 risk factors and coffee.

Aggressive forms of prostate cancer grow faster than usual and affect a small percentage of men. In the UK, prostate cancer’s incidence rate is expected to increase by 12% between 2014 and 2035. Its symptoms include burning pain when urinating, hematuria, and loss of bladder control.

In a study led by Wilson and published in an online edition of the Journal Of The National Cancer Institute, the findings give heavy coffee-drinkers good reason to rejoice.

The study found that men who consumed 6 or more cups of coffee daily had about 20% lower risk of developing any type of prostate cancer. And even better, they lowered their risk for aggressive and lethal prostate cancer by 60%.

Drinking 100 ml Of Coffee Daily Reduces Risk Of Developing Glioma

No one is safe from glioma, a brain tumor that binds nerve cells and fibers together. But 100 ml of coffee can help reduce one’s risk by 34%.

The exact cause of glioma remains a mystery, but age, radiation exposure, and family history are the main risk factors. Symptoms include decline in brain function, speech and vision problems, and nausea.

Dominique Michaud of Brown University and his colleagues looked into the data from the European Prospective Investigation Into Cancer And Nutrition (EPIC) study. The cohort study is one of the largest in the world, with 10 countries involved and 521,000 participants followed for almost 15 years!

Michaud and his team also found that men who drink coffee and tea daily had greater risk reduction than women with similar drinking habits.

Increased Coffee Intake Lowers Risk Of Developing Colon Cancer

You may not be a heavy drinker. But two cups of coffee every day may be enough to reduce the risk of developing colon cancer!

Colon cancer occurs when healthy cells in the colon suffer from DNA errors. The warning signs include diarrhea or constipation that lasts more than 4 weeks, rectal bleeding, and persistent abdominal pain.

The findings came from Israel and evaluated 8,500 participants. Only 3,500 were cancer-free, while the rest had colorectal cancer. The researchers analyzed their coffee-drinking habits and linked coffee consumption to a 30%-reduction in colon cancer risk.

But what’s more interesting:

Higher intake of coffee has led to greater risk reduction.

Those who consumed a cup of coffee or two daily enjoyed 22% risk reduction, but participants who drank more than 2.5 cups daily reduced their colon cancer risk by 59%!

Researchers theorized that coffee reduces the passage time of food and other substances through the colon, so the tissues have less exposure to cancer-causing agents.

Superfood For Athletes And Fitness Enthusiasts

We’ve seen how coffee and caffeine can reduce the risk for numerous types of cancers and ease the symptoms of debilitating mental conditions.

But did you know?

Coffee’s benefits extend to perfectly healthy and active individuals!

We’re talking about athletes, runners, cyclists, and more. Many studies have linked caffeine intake to greater strength and endurance, faster recovery, and even post-workout pain relief.

Let’s take a look at the latest word from the scientific and medical community, and see how coffee can help you push your fitness to another level.

Boosts Strength And Endurance

Superman draws power from the yellow sun. Captain America got his incredible strength from the super soldier serum. But what about the average weekend warrior, college athlete, or recreational cyclist?

They can turn to caffeine to get that extra edge, says a study led by Christopher Black and Alexander Gonglach.

Ergogenic aids are substances that lend physical and mental edge when exercising or competing. Coffee and energy drinks are recognized performance enhancers. But know that not all ergogenic aids are safe and healthy.

The study had well-trained athletes as participants. The researchers put the participants through an endurance test including running and cycling, with 3 mg to 9 mg of caffeine applied for every kilogram of bodyweight.

The findings saw the strength and endurance of participants increase thanks to caffeine!

"The mechanism of caffeine’s action is likely of little interest to an athlete or a person who simply wants to perform/train at a higher level on a given day," said Black in a post at the American College Of Sports Medicine website.

If you belong to the same category, you’re more interested if caffeine delivers as a performance enhancer or not. The answer is “yes” according to Black, especially for intense activities that use large leg muscles like running and cycling.

Caffeine Can Speed Up Recovery

Caffeine has been analyzed many times, with researchers keeping an eye on its effects before and during workouts. But what happens if you drink a cup of coffee after exercise?

John Hawley from the University of Bundoora looked for answers, and his team’s findings bring good news to coffee-loving fitness enthusiasts.

What you do post-workout is just as important as your routine before and during a gym session. Energy levels are low, and the muscles are suffering from micro-tears after an intense activity. But a meal packed with protein and carbohydrates - plus a cup of coffee from the office coffee machine - can help speed up recovery.

The study, published in the Journal Of Applied Physiology, involved highly-trained participants (cyclists and triathletes) who train for 12 to 15 hours per week.

The researchers put the participants through two trials:

The first test saw the athletes ride out to exhaustion the night before the evaluation.

A low-carb diet followed the taxing exercise. And the participants took another ride to exhaustion the next morning, depleting their glycogen stores.

The participants were then given a 4-hour recovery period and fed with 4g of carbohydrates for every kilogram of bodyweight.

The second trial followed suit - depleting glycogen resources followed by a 4-hour recovery period. This time, however, the participants took 4 g of carbohydrates and 8 mg of caffeine for every kilogram of bodyweight.

The verdict:

The second trial resulted in over 60% higher glycogen stores than the first trial.

Yes, carbohydrates and protein are must-haves for proper post-exercise nutrition. But the findings suggest that adding caffeine can put more fuel (glycogen) into your tank, speeding up recovery and replenishing the energy lost.

Relieves Post-Workout Pain Better Than Naproxen And Aspirin

Don’t you find the post-workout soreness and pain frustrating? Even brushing your teeth becomes a struggle!

But did you know?

Drinking 2 to 3 cups of coffee before taking on an intense, 30-minute workout can lead to sizeable pain reduction!

Exercising pushes the muscles to work harder than usual, causing microscopic damage to the fibers. The muscles may suffer from stiffness 24 to 48 hours after workout - also known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). But don’t worry. Having DOMS only means you’re getting stronger!

Robert Motl is a professor at the University of Illinois and a former competitive cyclist. Before long-distance training rides, Motl and his teammates routinely chugged down coffee at a nearby shop.

The professor is well aware of caffeine’s link to pain reduction. And to dig deeper, Motl carried out a study involving 25 college-aged and fit males divided into 2 groups. One group had very minimal caffeine consumption, while the other consumed 400 mg of caffeine - about 3 to 4 cups of coffee - daily.

The end of the study saw the caffeine group show consistent and reliable pain reduction across all participants, regardless of exercise intensity.

Researchers from the University of Georgia echo Motl’s findings. The UGA study led by Victor Maridakis found that drinking 2 cups of coffee about 60 minutes before training reduced pain by 48%!

Coffee blew away other pain-relievers and anti-inflammatory medications like naproxen and aspirin, which could only manage 30% and 25% pain reduction respectively.

Aids Muscle Preservation And Boost Power For Elderly

Any loss of muscle is a big deal. The loss translates to reduced strength and mobility, which can lead to injuries and lower quality of life. And such is the case when we age.

Scientists are yet to explain why we lose muscle mass and power as we grow older. But Jason Tallis of Coventry University, along with a team of sports scientists, hints that caffeine can help delay the age-related muscle loss and preserve muscle tone!

People in their 30’s start to lose muscle mass and function because of age-related sarcopenia. If you are not physically active, you could be losing 3% to 5% of your muscle mass every decade after hitting age 30. But make no mistake, even people with active lifestyles still lose muscle mass.

Tallis’ study, presented at the Society For Experimental Biology, evaluated caffeine’s muscle-enhancing capabilities on mice. And while caffeine may not have an enhancing effect on developing muscles, the researchers concluded that older muscles benefit from the stimulant.

"With the importance of maintaining a physically active lifestyle to preserve health and functional capacity, the performance-enhancing benefit of caffeine could prove beneficial in the aging population," said Tallis.

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