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Top 10 Health Benefits of Coffee

Coffee can do much more than help you wake up or power you through an afternoon.

Medically reviewed by: Stephanie Curreli, MD, PhD
Last Updated: Feb 6, 2022
Coffee Benefits

The average American drinks about three cups of coffee per day, amounting to roughly 146 billion cups per year. Being one of America’s most popular beverages, coffee now surpasses beer and tea after its overall consumption has increased by 5% across the nation since 2015.¹ Not only does coffee taste great, but studies have shown that it also possesses health benefits such as lowering the risk of diabetes, burning fat, improving energy levels, and more. Here are the top 10 ways coffee can benefit your health.

Jump to:

1. Coffee helps burn fat
2. Coffee may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes
3. Coffee may lower the risk of Parkinson’s disease
4. Coffee helps improve energy levels
5. Coffee can help fight depression
6. Coffee helps lower the risk of liver disease
7. Coffee may help lower the risk of cancer
8. Coffee helps improve cognitive function
9. Coffee is rich in antioxidants and essential nutrients
10. Coffee may help you live longer
The Bottom Line
Sources

1. Coffee helps burn fat

A study by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that caffeine increases the maximal fat oxidation rate (MFO) and aerobic capacity, thus leading to increased fat burn.² The results of this experiment led to the conclusion that drinking strong coffee or taking a dose of caffeine thirty minutes before an aerobic activity (such as running or cycling) increases fat oxidation. In addition, exercise intensity, fat oxidation, and maximum oxygen uptake were all found to be higher in the afternoon than in the morning. Basically, caffeine can help burn more fat if consumed in the afternoon, half an hour before a workout.

2. Coffee may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes

Consuming coffee habitually has a robust association with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.³ Studies have shown that an increase of daily coffee consumption by at least one cup was associated with an 11% lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Alternatively, a decrease in consumption was associated with a 17% higher risk of type 2 diabetes. There are other lifestyle factors to consider of course, such as sleeping habits, diet, and smoking, but overall there is fair evidence that coffee can do more good than harm when it comes to decreasing the general risk of diabetes.

3. Coffee may lower the risk of Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is one of the most common neurodegenerative disorders, second to Alzheimer’s. While unfortunately a cure still hasn’t been discovered, data suggests that drinking coffee reduces the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by up to 30%. Most studies recommend three cups of coffee as the beneficial dose.⁴ In addition, some coffee components, such as phenylindane and caffeine combined with EHT (a fatty acid molecule derived from serotonin), have been shown to prevent the formation of the toxic protein aggregates (alpha-synuclein) associated with the development of Parkinson’s.

4. Coffee helps improve energy levels

After staying up all night studying or having to wake up extra early for a meeting, many people would grab a cup of coffee to give them that extra boost of energy and alertness for the day. Caffeine is a natural chemical that helps us “wake up” by stimulating the central nervous system and speeding up messages between the brain and body. For an average adult with a healthy, balanced diet and regular physical activity, it is recommended to consume 400mg of caffeine per day, which is roughly 3-5 eight-ounce cups of coffee.⁵ It is also advised to avoid tons of added sugar and syrups to maximize caffeine’s health benefits while also maintaining a lower daily sugar intake.

5. Coffee can help fight depression

Depression is one of the most common mental disorders worldwide, affecting hundreds of millions of people each year. With over 1,000 bioactive compounds, one of which is caffeine, coffee can have a positive impact on mental health due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties. Caffeine itself is a psychostimulant that can increase alertness and motivation, thus potentially helping to alleviate some depressive effects. Caffeine also has the ability to block adenosine receptors in the central nervous system, which prevents them from causing a cellular response that leads to a depressed, fatigued mood. By binding to these adenosine receptors but not activating them, caffeine increases the amount of dopamine that binds to dopamine receptors in the forebrain. Coffee essentially helps make the brain’s dopamine chemical more effective, and is strongly associated with decreased risk of depression.⁶

6. Coffee helps lower the risk of liver disease

After a long night of drinking alcohol, recharging your body with a nice cup of coffee can actually help you and your liver feel better. Research has shown that 1-3 cups of coffee per day may help in slowing down fibrosis, cirrhosis, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and liver disease. When the body digests caffeine, it creates a chemical (paraxanthine) that slows the growth of scar tissue involved in fibrosis. As a result, this may help fight liver cancer, non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease, and alcohol-related cirrhosis.

7. Coffee may help lower the risk of cancer

Cancer is one of the world’s leading causes of death. Thankfully, coffee is brewed from beans that are rich in antioxidants, which may have protective effects against cancer. Newer studies have linked coffee consumption to a lowered risk in certain cancers, including liver cancer, prostate cancer, and colorectal cancer.⁷ However, it is important to note that the additional fat and calories from cream and sugar may increase cancer risks. Therefore, the best way to reap the health benefits of coffee is to take it plain.

8. Coffee helps improve cognitive function

According to a recent study, 92% of college students consume caffeine.⁸ Not only is coffee known to keep you awake throughout the long hours of studying, but coffee can also help your cognitive performance, perfect for students and adults alike. A British study of approximately 9,000 adults reported an improvement in cognitive performance associated with higher levels of coffee consumption. They observed that higher caffeine intake improved reaction times, visuo-spatial reasoning, and incidental verbal memory.

Another study by Johns Hopkins University indicated that caffeine may enhance long-term memory.⁹ Participants who were given 200mg caffeine tablets were better at distinguishing a series of images they were told to memorize the prior day, as compared to those who did not take the tablets.

9. Coffee is rich in antioxidants and essential nutrients

Without all of the added sugars and creamers, coffee is actually one of the healthiest beverages available to us. In fact, coffee contains more antioxidants than green tea and cocoa, two drinks that are known for their antioxidant properties. Some other great ingredients found in coffee include magnesium, potassium, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and niacin (vitamin B3). Coffee has been cited as a major dietary source of antioxidants, especially for those who consume a standard Western diet. So go ahead, pour up another cup of joe.

10. Coffee may help you live longer

Studies show that people who drink up to eight cups of coffee per day are linked with a 14% lower risk of early death than those who don’t drink any coffee.¹⁰ Many factors play into this, but overall, drinking coffee has been linked to lower risks of colon cancer and liver cancer, as well as respiratory disease, strokes, and diabetes. Additionally, many people attribute a small part of their happiness to coffee, whether it is trying out new local spots, going to grab a cold brew with some friends, or just finding a nice place to sit down, sip on a cup of joe, and unwind. And as we all know, happiness can be linked to longevity.

The Bottom Line

Coffee is one of the most healthy, beneficial drinks you can consume. Not only is it packed with antioxidants, but it has various properties that help lower the risk of certain serious diseases, such as Parkinson’s, liver disease, and depression. As long as you avoid adding tons of sugar and creamer, regular coffee consumption can be a part of a healthy diet.

Sources

[1] NCA releases Atlas of American Coffee

[2] Caffeine increases maximal fat oxidation during a graded exercise test: is there a diurnal variation?

[3] Coffee and Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: Arguments for a Causal Relationship

[4] Can coffee consumption lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease? A literature review

[5] Does coffee really give you more energy?

[6] Coffee and caffeine consumption and depression: A meta-analysis of observational studies

[7] Can Coffee Lower Cancer Risk?

[8] Intake of caffeine from all sources and reasons for use by college students

[9] Caffeine Has Positive Effect on Memory

[10] Association of Coffee Drinking With Mortality by Genetic Variation in Caffeine Metabolism