The health benefits of drinking coffee have been hotly debated for decades, but newer research has revealed that for many people, coffee can be greatly beneficial for a healthy body. It is chock full of antioxidants, which serve to protect the body from damage due to bad nutrition and environmental toxins. In addition, the caffeine itself can also provide health benefits for most people.
Antioxidants appear to be present at similar levels in both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffees. Vitamin E and glutathione are two substances that are present in coffee that help the body to operate optimally. A new study showed that dark roasted coffee increased circulating levels of these two antioxidants, more so than a light roast. Coffee also provides high levels of polyphenols and hydrocinnamic acids.
Coffee for health
Coffee consumption has been shown to be a protective factor against cancers of the liver, kidneys, prostate and colon. It aids in keeping the liver healthy and free of disease (or slowing of disease, as with hepatitis C). Parkinson’s disease and type II diabetes are also less commonly found in those who drink coffee. Cardiovascular health is widely touted as a benefit of drinking coffee–stroke, heart rhythm issues and pulmonary malfunction are all diminished with coffee use. Even the small intestine, also known as the gut, can benefit from coffee, as beneficial bacteria have been found to increase in those who start drinking coffee.
It is widely known that the caffeine in coffee can aid in mental alertness, and studies have shown that it can also protect against Alzheimer’s disease. Coffee drinkers may have a decreased chance of depression as well.
Know the risks
Some folks have a genetic mutation that makes caffeine take longer to metabolize in the body, and two or more cups per day can increase the risk of heart disease in this population. These people tend to react to coffee by not being able to sleep at night when drinking coffee late in the day, or having longer lasting effects from coffee, like mental stimulation that lasts many hours. These can indicate that the body breaks down the caffeine slowly. Some studies have shown that those who drink unfiltered coffee may have a slightly elevated risk of higher cholesterol. Drinking a large amount of coffee may have adverse cardiovascular effects in young people, according to some of the literature. Adding sugars, creamer and other condiments to the coffee can lead to its own problems and may negate the health benefits.
How much coffee is too much?
There is no conclusive answer to this, as different health benefits are derived from varying amounts of coffee. Anywhere from one to more than four cups of coffee have been discussed in medical literature. Coffee and its caffeine affect people differently, so each person must do a trial to see how it makes him or her feel and take note of any perceived and actual health benefits (blood work can indicate whether coffee drinking is having positive or negative cardiovascular effects, for example). Many medical practitioners recommend one or two cups of coffee a day for optimal health.