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12 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Coffee

Coffee is one of America's favorite drinks, but can it actually improve your health? Our team of Registered Dietitians break down the science and health benefits of coffee.

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Coffee is the most popular beverage in the world with more than 400 billion cups consumed each year.

And for many, the day starts when the coffee is brewed. But the caffeinated beverage has the ability to provide more than just a morning jolt and afternoon pick-me-up.

Besides, these science-backed benefits of coffee trumps the question of, “Is black coffee good for you?” and will keep that coffee pot in use!

12 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Coffee

1. Coffee Supplies A Bounty of Nutrients

In terms of calories and macros, the nutritional profile of coffee looks relatively bare. In fact, the calories in black coffee are next to none, or about 5 calories per cup.

But probe a little deeper, and coffee is overflowing in essential nutrients the body needs to carry out critical metabolic processes.

Prominent vitamins and minerals found in a cup of joe are potassium, magnesium, manganese, riboflavin, and niacin.

2. Coffee Is the Number One Source of Antioxidants

Coffee is said to provide the richest antioxidants amongst all foods and beverages, especially in the Westernized diet.

According to a public release by the American Chemical Society, coffee is the number one source of antioxidants in the U.S. diet.

The research was conducted at the University of Scranton, in which study leader Joe Vinson PhD states, "Americans get more of their antioxidants from coffee than any other dietary source. Nothing else comes close."

Why is this important? Because a coffee cup full of antioxidants may help prevent from a number of diseases.

Antioxidants are protective chemicals that fight against free radicals. Free radical sources include pollutants, sugars, and medications just to name a few.

If free radicals are unprotected from antioxidants, the body can become damaged and develop medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease, and cancer.

3. Coffee Can Increase Energy and Cognition

A typical cup of black coffee provides upwards of 100 milligrams of caffeine, which is the most commonly used stimulant to increase energy and improve mental alertness.

Besides, John Hopkins research proves coffee to be an effective long-term memory enhancer.

Furthermore, the research demonstrated caffeine enhanced certain memories at least up to 24 hours after it was consumed.

4. Coffee Can Improve Physical Performance

In addition to the subjective feelings of more pep in the step following its consumption, studies do suggest coffee benefits and improves physical performance.

After examining the effects of caffeine ingestion in 40 studies, a meta-analysis found endurance exercise significantly improved thanks to its ergogenic effects, which are used purposely to enhance physical performance, stamina, and/or recovery.

What’s more, a cup of black coffee proves to be a beneficial, safe pre-workout drink when compared to untested, expensive pre-workout drinks.

5. Coffee May Help with Weight Loss

The high caffeine content in coffee has the ability to suppress the appetite and reduce the risk of calorie overconsumption.

Coffee also revs metabolism by stimulating thermogenesis, which is the process in which the body digests food and burns calories.

But it is important to not dress the coffee up with sugars, syrups, and creams. Those hidden additions can turn a plain, black coffee cup with approximately five calories to a whopping 300 to 500 calories.

6. Coffee May Lower the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

While maintaining a healthy weight lowers the risk of diabetes, there is additional evidence suggesting habitual coffee consumption further protects from the condition.

Published in the Current Diabetes Reviews, researchers unveiled those who drank 4 to 6 cups and more than 6 to 7 cups of coffee per day had a lower risk of type 2 diabetes compared with those who drank less than 2 cups per day.

Additional research shows an inverse relationship between coffee and type 2 diabetes, meaning as coffee consumption increases, the development of the chronic disease decreases.

The data further shows that every additional cup of coffee consumed in a day was associated with a 7 percent risk reduction.

7. Coffee Can Defend from Depression

One of the most noted mental benefits of coffee is its potential to defend from and reduce depressive feelings.

A large longitudinal study, which following almost 51,000 women over a 10-year timespan, found that depression risk decreases with increasing caffeinated coffee consumption.

But here is the caveat: there is an increase in tense arousal, including anxiety, nervousness, jitteriness at high doses.

8. Coffee May Lower Dementia Risk

Not only are the mental benefits of coffee almost instantaneous, but may be expressed in the long-term.

Research published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found people who drank three to five cups daily decreased their risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s by 65 percent.

A 2016 meta-analysis also suggests higher coffee consumption is associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

There is a bounty of research to explain the benefits of coffee on brain health, including its caffeine and its potent compounds such as phenylindanes.

9. Coffee Can Protect from Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that nerve cell (medically known as neurons) in the brain.

As Parkinson’s advances, a loss of dopamine can compromise efficient movement, coordination, and mobility. Like many complex conditions of the brain, the cause of PD is unknown but speculated to be influenced by genetics and environmental factors.

However, a study published in Geriatrics & Gerontology International suggests coffee may play a role in its prevention, as researchers found a decreased PD risk caffeine consumption.

10. Coffee May Reduce the Likelihood of Some Cancers

As the cure for cancer continues, researchers remain curious on whether or not the coffee-cancer connection gives hope.

The American Cancer Society proposes that recent studies may lower the risk of several types of cancer, including head and neck, colorectal, breast, and liver cancers thanks to its biologically active compounds.

However, they also encourage healthy other lifestyle habits to minimize cancer risk, including limiting alcohol consumption, stopping smoking, being physical active, and maintaining a healthy body weight.

11. Coffee Can Reduce Stroke Risk

Although the mechanism of decreased stroke risk is unclear, consistent coffee consumption shows to minimize stroke risks.

In a meta-analysis including 9 studies, researchers found coffee consumption of 4 cups or more per day showed a preventive effect on stroke.

Research published in the journal Stroke further details women who consume 2 to 3 cups of coffee per day had a 19 percent lower risk of stroke compared to those with the lowest consumption, and drinking 4 cups of more had a 20 percent lower stroke risk.

12. Coffee May Add On Years of Life

That’s right, reaching for a cup of joe may mean adding on more years of precious life.

Research published in JAMA Internal Medicine suggests coffee drinking is inversely associated with mortality (or death).

More specifically, the study details drinking coffee, even more than 8 cups of day, is linked to a lower risk of death within a 10-year follow-up period.

While association does not mean causation, or that drinking coffee leads to longevity, the study provides further evidence that coffee drinking can be part of a healthy diet and offers reassurance to the millions of coffee drinkers.

Written By Sarah Asay, RDN. Published on January 08, 2016. Updated on January 29, 2019.

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