Millions of people wake up and enjoy a hot cup of coffee every morning. But is it good for you?
For years, health “authorities” told us that drinking coffee is unhealthy. It’s a small vice that we’d be better off quitting.
But research tells a different story. Coffee contains over 1,000 biologically active compounds. It is brimming with antioxidants. In fact, it is the greatest source of antioxidants in the American diet1 (although this probably says more about the average American diet than it does about coffee).
Numerous studies have found that coffee has an array of health benefits. According to a review by the Harvard Health Letter, coffee can help prevent heart disease, diabetes, liver disease, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.2 And a recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine says that it can actually add years to your life.3
The National Cancer Institute conducted this study. It showed a 10 percent lower risk of death in coffee drinkers during the course of the study.
Lead researcher Dr. Neal Freedman acknowledges that this may be a modest effect. “But the biggest concern for a long time has been that drinking coffee is a risky thing to do,” he says. “Our results, and some of those of more recent studies, provide reassurance for coffee drinkers that this isn’t the case.”
The study followed more than 400,000 men and women between the ages 51 and 70, for 13 years. The researchers adjusted for variables such as smoking and poor dietary habits.
The results were the same for regular and decaffeinated coffee. So perhaps it has nothing to do with caffeine after all. There must be other compounds at work here.
As always, you have to be somewhat wary of population studies. They are often based on people’s memories and truthful disclosure. And it’s more difficult to isolate variables. But Freedman’s study adds to the weight of evidence.
Another study in the Annals of Internal Medicine also showed a decreased mortality risk.4
Researchers at Harvard Medical School followed roughly 128,000 people. They tracked women for 24 years. Men – 18 years. Coffee intake was measured at the beginning of the study. Follow-ups took place every two to four years. Of course, they made adjustments for age, smoking, and other risks.
Women who drank six or more cups every day had a 17 percent lower risk of death overall, compared to those who did not drink coffee. And men had a 20 percent lower risk.
“Our data also suggest that this association was due to components in coffee other than caffeine,” says Harvard researcher Dr. Esther Lopez-Garcia.
If it’s not the caffeine, what is it?
Grinding the studies together
Coffee contains a type of antioxidant called polyphenols. Polyphenols work inside the body to combat toxic free radicals. Polyphenols also affect key enzymes that improve cellular communication.5 Poor cell signaling can lead to cancer, diabetes, and more.
These findings certainly suggest that coffee has its benefits. But we’re not suggesting that you drink six cups a day. And you definitely shouldn’t run to your local barista and order a latte with caramel syrup. If you want to get the most out of your coffee, drink it black. If you don’t like your coffee black there are healthy options.
Use stevia or another low-glycemic sweetener instead of sugar. And you should never use chemical sweeteners, like Equal or Splenda. These have a long list of harmful effects. Also, stick to cream or milk. Most non-dairy creamers contain hydrogenated oil. The Institute of Medicine says there is “no safe level” of this ingredient to consume.
If you don’t like or can’t tolerate dairy, use coconut milk or almond milk. And always buy high quality, organic coffee beans. Most commercial coffees contain pesticides.
Finally, you should avoid brewing coffee in a device with plastic parts. Most of these materials contain BPA, phthalates, and other hormone-disrupting chemicals. And the heat intensifies the leaching of these chemicals. Consider a French press, a steel percolator, or even a cold brew system.
The bottom line is that coffee can be a healthy way to start your day. Just don’t load it up with sugar and other harmful ingredients. Enjoy your morning cup without guilt. It just might add some healthy years to your life!
Editor’s Note: There are many other things you can do to add years to your life. In fact, recent studies show that the symptoms of aging are just like any others. They can be treated or eliminated. Go here to discover specific ways you can stop the clock – and even turn it back.
17% lower risk of death overall for women who drank 6+ cups every day, compared to those who did not. Click to Tweet
Coffee contains a type of antioxidant called polyphenols which combat toxic free radicals. Click to Tweet