Coffee tends to be shunned by the wellness chasers, brushed aside for golden lattes and frothy iced matchas and even artisanal kombucha tonics. But before you put the clutch on your coffee klatch, there are some good reasons to have another cup of coffee—or three.
Not so long ago, coffee was considered a carcinogen, linked to an increased risk of heart disease or cancer. But in 2016 the World Health Organization (WHO) officially lifted coffee from the list of potentially carcinogenic foods. It went on to designate coffee as potentially protective against cancer of the uterus and liver—in other words, coffee was acknowledged as being good for you.
In fact, several studies support the idea that coffee may even help you live longer. Plus, a growing body of research suggests that coffee consumption can also help with type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, depression, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
The Health Benefits of Coffee
So why coffee’s dramatic change of status? Earlier studies didn’t always take into account that known high-risk behaviors, such as smoking and physical inactivity, tended to be more common among heavy coffee drinkers.
Still, for coffee doubters, the pleasant tasting, mildly addictive beverage has trouble shaking its bad-for-you reputation. It may be one of the most widely consumed drinks in the world, but people have long assumed that coffee was an unlikely health elixir. (This could be connected to the dollops of milk or cream or spoons full of sugar that many people add to their coffee, just saying.) Although scientists have yet to fully ascertain just how coffee works, the caffeine and polyphenols in coffee account for most of its stellar effectiveness.
Here are six of coffee’s most impressive perks.
Boosts overall health
As you stumble toward your first cuppa of the day, you can bask in the knowledge that coffee contains a motherlode of antioxidants, compounds that help our bodies combat cell damage. Although fruits and vegetables are generally promoted as the best sources of antioxidants, a spate of studies suggest that the antioxidants in coffee might be more efficiently absorbed by our bodies. A 2005 study found that your morning cup of joe was the number one source of antioxidants in the U.S. diet.
Reduces the chances of developing diabetes
Coffee may offer significant protection from type 2 diabetes. An analysis of 28 studies, published in Diabetes Care in 2014, followed more than 1 million healthy people for 10 months to 20 years. While 45,000 developed type 2 diabetes while in a study, the likelihood of a diabetes diagnosis was 21 percent lower in people drinking three cups a day versus none. And for those drinking six cups daily, the risk was a whopping 33 percent lower. And in case you were wondering: Both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee was associated with reduced diabetes risk.
Lowers rates of depression
Don’t underestimate coffee as a viable physical—and emotional–pick me up. A 2011 study of more than 50,000 women in the US found that, those who drank more than three cups of coffee per day were found to have a 20 percent lower risk of developing depression later. And this is not simply because of the caffeine. Several studies suggest other caffeinated beverages, like sodas, are more likely to increase depression rather than combat it.
Counteracts liver damage
The most common cause of liver damage is excess alcohol consumption, which can eventually lead to liver cirrhosis and even liver failure. One study of over 125,000 people found that for each cup of coffee they drank per day, participants were 22 percent less likely to develop alcoholic cirrhosis.
Protects against heart disease
Several studies suggest coffee offers modest protection against heart disease and might also fend off blood clots. A 2010 study found that coffee drinkers were 29 percent less likely to have a stroke as coffee avoiders.
Diminishes the risk for gallstones
The most recent bit of landmark coffee research discovered that those who drank coffee, compared to those who drank none, had a 7 to 23 percent reduced risk for gallstones, depending on how much they drank. This 2019 study conducted in Denmark followed 104,493 men and women for eight years and found that that every additional cup a day of coffee, up to six cups, resulted in a 3 percent lower risk for gallstones.
But before you start upping your coffee intake, know that moderation is key. For healthy adults, the U.S Food and Drug administration currently cites 400 milligrams a day—about four cups of coffee—as an amount considered not to have dangerous, negative effects. However, people differ widely on how sensitive they are to the effects of caffeine and how easily they can metabolize it.