Most of the time, when we debate a topic regarding addictive foods or drinks, we debate the merits and risks of alcohol. “It’s good for us, in moderation!” some say. “But still. . .” others say. But you know what, there is another group of beverages that really warrant a lot of debate these days — and the pace has been picking up for a decade or so. The drink is coffee, not the cream or the sugar often mixed with it, but the actual coffee itself.
Non-drinkers, perhaps tea drinkers, enjoy pointing out the negative health consequences of getting too much caffeine in one’s daily diet. While the argument isn’t entirely incorrect, it doesn’t paint the true picture of coffee. A string of studies over the past 10 years or so has put coffee in a new light — a disease-preventing light. Among those problems: diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, and even heart disease.
It would be easy to dismiss these if the proof weren’t so compelling. Last year, the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published a study that addressed the mounting body of evidence looking into the positive diabetes link — which is the strongest among coffee’s various health benefits. After reviewing all previous studies into the matter, it concluded that people who drink coffee habitually have a significantly lower risk of Type 2 diabetes. And the more cups you drink, the lower the risk.
Drifting in a cup of coffee are a healthy dose of antioxidants that protect the body’s cells from damage caused by free radicals, which is the type of damage that leads to serious disease. Also inside is chlorogenic acid, which lowers the concentration of sugar in your blood. Whatever the case may be, coffee’s link to diabetes is well known now, with one study finding that those who drank four to six cups a day had a 28% lower risk, and those who drank more than six cups a day had a 35% reduced risk.
In the Iowa Women’s Healthy Study on 27,000 women, researchers found that one to three cups of coffee a day lowered the risk of heart disease by 25%. People who did not drink coffee had no reduced risk. Those antioxidants may, in this case, prevent inflammation and the disorders that stem from it. Other researchers have found the level of antioxidants in coffee to be stunningly high, greater than a glass of grape juice or a serving or blueberries, oranges, or raspberries — fruits that are virtual legends in the antioxidant category.
The anti-inflammatory actions could explain coffee’s beneficial effects on the liver. Many studies, beginning first in 1992, found that habitual coffee drinkers have a lower risk of cirrhosis (an alcohol-related liver disease) and liver cancer. While all these positives sound rewarding, it would be unwise to try and lower your risk of disease by drinking more coffee. For now, it serves as a nice bundle of proof for those of us who like to enjoy coffee-fueled mornings. Take that, tea drinkers.