5 Surprising Health Benefits of Drinking Coffee

by | Updated: December 4th, 2016 | Read time: 3 minutes

Sipping a cup of joe is an essential a.m. ritual for millions of people. Without our daily dose of coffee, many of us would stumble bleary-eyed through the day. But is energy the only benefit of this brewed beverage? Emerging science says no — in fact, your morning mug might help ward of certain diseases, and possibly extend your life! Now that’s truly something to sip about.

Grab a cup, stir in your favorite sweetener and check out these 5 surprising health benefits of drinking coffee:

Pouring coffee into mug

1. Coffee provides a big boost of antioxidants

Coffee is a top source of dietary antioxidants, which help neutralize reactive oxygen that can lead to oxidative stress.

Oxidative stress is bad because it overpowers the natural defenses of an organism, causing cells to become dysfunctional, says Jennifer Bruning, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.

“Think of antioxidants as a kind of armor that cells can use to protect themselves from the bad guys,” she says.

Antioxidants have been shown to help prevent cancer, heart disease, diabetes and a whole host of age-related degenerative disorders ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to macular degeneration.

2. Coffee may reduce risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

By drinking at least three cups of coffee each day, you might reduce the risk of developing cognitive issues.

Researchers at the University of South Florida and the University of Miami examined participants 65 to 88 years old who experienced slight memory impairment.

None of the participants who drank three cups of coffee daily over a period of four years went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease. Participants who went on to develop dementia had blood caffeine levels that were on average 51 percent lower than those of participants whose memory issues remained stable.

3. Coffee may lower risk of depression in women

A 2013 study led by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that women who drank four or more cups of coffee per day had a 20 percent lower risk of depression than women who drank little or no coffee.

However, the study authors cautioned that more research is needed before recommending women drink more coffee to ward of depression. The researchers also noted that other caffeinated foods and beverages – including tea, soft drinks and chocolate – do not appear to provide protection against depression.

4. Coffee may protect against Type 2 diabetes

Many studies have found a link between regular coffee consumption and a lower risk of Type 2 diabetes. Such research generally finds that the protective effect kicks in for people who drink at least four cups a day.

Despite this steady stream of encouraging reports, medical experts say more studies are needed before they can begin recommending coffee consumption as a means of preventing Type 2 diabetes.

5. Coffee may extend your life

Finally, not only can coffee fuel your life, but it might actually extend it. A 2012 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people who drink two or more cups of coffee each day tend to live longer than those who do not.

The study found that men who drink six or more cups of coffee per day reduce their risk of death by 10 percent over noncoffee drinkers. Women’s risk of death drops even lower, by 15 percent.

Even better, the study found benefits regardless of whether one drinks caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee. Other studies have found a similar effect. For example, a 2015 study published in the journal Circulation found that people who drank three to five cups of coffee daily have a 15 percent lower risk of premature death.

A note of caution

Although coffee appears to be a magic elixir with many benefits, it is not right for everyone, Bruning says. She notes that you should limit your intake of caffeine if you are:

  • Pregnant
  • Anxious
  • Diagnosed with hypertension
  • Diagnosed with gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), and find that coffee aggravates the symptoms

“Limiting caffeine intake to around 400 milligrams a day in otherwise healthy people will allow for health benefits to be enjoyed without detrimental effects,” Bruning says.

An 8-ounce cup of coffee has about 95 milligrams of caffeine.