The health benefits of coffee
I drink several cups of coffee a day because it lifts my mood and helps me to concentrate, but a report recently published by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), concludes that drinking a moderate amount of coffee on a daily basis also reduces the risk of developing a range of serious health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.
Can the findings be trusted?
The BMJ is a well-respected weekly medical journal that has been published in London since 1840. The report collated and compared the results of over 200 existing studies, in order to identify the relationship between coffee and a range of health outcomes. See the full report here:
A similar study was carried out in 2017, involving half a million people across 10 European countries, and reached similar conclusions. See the full report here:
What is coffee?
The coffee tree is a tropical evergreen shrub that grows in around eighty countries in South and Central America, the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. The two most commercially important species grown are Arabica (which accounts for three-quarters of production), and Robustas. The fruits, or cherries, mature in 7 to 10 months and contain two flat seeds; the coffee beans.
When the beans are roasted, they contain a complex mixture of over 1000 bioactive compounds which contain antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-fibrotic, and anti-cancer agents that can positively or negatively affect our health. The type of bean, how it’s roasted, and how it’s prepared, will all influence the biochemical composition of the final cup of coffee that we drink.
History of Coffee
Originally cultivated by Arab traders in 1000AD, who boiled the beans to make a drink they called ‘Qahwa’ (which translates as ‘that which prevents sleep’), coffee has become popular all over the world, with more than 500 billion cups being served annually. It is now the second most traded commodity in the world, second only to oil.
Positive v negative outcomes
The BMJ report found that moderate coffee intake had 19 beneficial health outcomes and six harmful health outcomes.
How much should I drink?
According to the report, drinking three cups of coffee a day had the greatest benefit in terms of lowering the risk of developing a range of diseases when compared with not drinking coffee.
Are the results the same for everybody?
No, the effect on our health will vary depending on our individual genotype and gut bacteria. For the majority of people, coffee can be part of a healthy balanced diet, but for a minority it may disturb sleep and raise anxiety, and is best limited to a small cup once or twice early on in the day, or by avoiding it completely if necessary.
- Cardiovascular disease: Researchers found coffee drinkers had a 19% lower risk of mortality from all causes of cardiovascular disease, 16% from coronary heart disease, and 30% from stroke, when compared to non-drinkers.
- Liver disease: Coffee drinkers also had a 29% lower risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, fibrosis (27%), and cirrhosis (39%).
- Cancer: Overall, there was an 18% lower incidence of prostate cancer, endometrial cancer, melanoma, oral cancer, leukaemia,non-melanoma skin cancer, and liver cancer associated with coffee consumption.
- Diabetes: Coffee consumption was consistently associated with a lower risk (9%) of type 2 diabetes, as well as a lower risk of renal stones and gout.
- Neurological conditions: Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and depression were also less likely to affect coffee drinkers.
- Pregnancy: There was evidence of harmful associations of coffee consumption in outcomes related to pregnancy, particularly involving low birth weight, childhood leukaemia, and pregnancy loss.
- Osteoporosis: There was an increased risk of bone fractures in women - but not men.
So, when it comes to serious health conditions, drinking a moderate amount of coffee on a regular basis can actually be beneficial for our long-term health outcomes. However, the BMJ report didn’t really pay much attention to the short-term effects on our mental health of drinking coffee, such as increased anxiety and reduced sleep quantity and quality.
What’s your opinion?
Please share your positive and negative experiences of drinking coffee.
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