Coffee as Health Food
Once upon a time, parents warned their kids not to drink coffee. “It’ll stunt your growth,” they’d say. While it’s not a good idea to give children caffeine, it’s time to brew up a fresh attitude towards the benefits/risks of coffee drinking among adults. Coffee is emerging as not only a favorite pick-me-up, but as an irresistible drink with numerous potential health benefits. People who “kick the coffee habit” may feel virtuous, but they’re actually missing out on some of those benefits.
In recent years, investigators have revealed that drinking coffee is associated with lower risks of developing dementia, lower rates of recurrence of breast cancer tumors that respond to treatment with the chemotherapy drug, tamoxifen, and lower risks of both endometrial cancer (in women), and aggressive prostate cancer (among men).
Another recent study concluded that men who drink 2-3 cups of caffeinated coffee daily are significantly less likely to be diagnosed with erectile dysfunction, compared to men of a similar age who drink little or no coffee. Yet another study, published in the European Journal of Nutrition, concluded “coffee and caffeine intake might significantly reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes.” This apparent benefit was strongest among women. Investigators estimated that the risk of diabetes decreases by about 12% for every two cups consumed daily. Decaffeinated coffee also showed this benefit, albeit to a slightly smaller degree.
Other researchers have shown that polyphenol compounds in coffee may encourage the “selective metabolism and subsequent amplification” of certain beneficial gut bacteria species. In other words, it appeared to encourage the robust growth of certain species known to be beneficial to human health. This may explain the observation that coffee drinkers tend to have lower rates of colorectal cancer than non-drinkers.
Finally, there is compelling evidence that people who drink lots of coffee (3-5 cups daily) in mid-life are significantly less likely to develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease later in life. The risk reduction is about 65%, suggesting that coffee drinkers may be protecting their brains while enjoying their favorite brew. However, other researchers have questioned the strength of this protective effect.
Gordon J. Troup, Luciano Navarini, Furio Suggi Liverani, Simon C. Drew. Stable Radical Content and Anti-Radical Activity of Roasted Arabica Coffee: From In-Tact Bean to Coffee Brew. PLOS ONE, 2015; 10 (4): e0122834 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0122834
Lopez DS1, Wang R, et al. Role of Caffeine Intake on Erectile Dysfunction in US Men: Results from NHANES 2001-2004. PLoS One. 2015 Apr 28;10(4):e0123547. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0123547. eCollection 2014.
Mills CE1, Tzounis X, et al. In vitro colonic metabolism of coffee and chlorogenic acid results in selective changes in human faecal microbiota growth. Br J Nutr. 2015 Apr;113(8):1220-7. doi: 10.1017/S0007114514003948. Epub 2015 Mar 26.