The Caffeinated Chemist

Is Coffee Healthy? 6 Surprising Benefits

Is Coffee Healthy? 7 Surprising Benefits

Does drinking too much coffee cause cancer? Some say it could be (1). But wait… coffee is proven to extend life expectancy! (2) No, isn’t it causing more health problems then it’s helping? It’s hard to know what to believe; every week it seems like there is a new study that contradicts the previous one. But with over 80% of U.S. adults consuming it, what are we to believe? Hopefully, this article should clarify many of the common benefits (and risks) related to drinking your daily cup of Joe. I will attempt to back all the following claims with actual research from scientific journals to get to the bottom of this. If you ever wondered what your coffee addiction is actually doing to your body look no further. Here are 7 surprising benefits of consuming coffee.

Is coffee good for you?

Performance:

Whether you are concerned about an upcoming exam, a stressful sales pitch, or giving your best athletic performance, you need to be alert and have enough energy to get the task done. The problem is there is never enough time in the day and every hour we are awake an organic molecule called adenosine starts to build up in your body (3). As the concentration of adenosine builds up we become less alert making us want to sleep. This is where caffeine comes in. Caffeine is an adenosine antagonist which essentially blocks adenosine from building up in the adenosine receptors (4) . This lets us stay awake and focused for longer since our body is not receiving the signaling that it is time to sleep. This means that we can stay up longer to get more done while still maintaining a level of alertness and attention.

One research metanalysis found that caffeine in low to moderate doses (40-300 mg; essentially 1-3 typical coffees) improves vigilance, as well as improvement to attention-span and retention times (5). Additionally, this paper found that about 80% of reviewed research agreed that there are significant positive benefits to using caffeine to get better results for endurance exercises, such as running. Many studies also found that there were very positive affects correlated to both high-intensity workouts as well as improvements to muscle or strength training after consumption (5). Basically, if your goal to get fit, consider starting with coffee! Just make sure it doesn’t have too many calories in it first…

Coffee Memory School

 

Memory:

Okay, so we’ve decided caffeinated coffee may improve your overall performance, but what about your memory? You could cram all night for a midterm, but if you can’t remember anything you studied what’s the point? One study tested the affect caffeine has on memory by giving one group 200 mg of caffeine and the second group was not given any caffeine(the placebo group). Both groups were given lists of words and told to recall them all (6). Guess what they found? Caffeine IS correlated to a better memory! At least in recalling specific facts. 

However, this does come at a cost. They found that the caffeine group was also more likely to be led astray by critical lures, or in other words, false memories (7). So, just make sure you are on guard for any trick questions if you are drinking a gallon of coffee before an exam… What does all of this mean? Overall, it seems that the caffeine found in coffee tends to have a positive overall impact on both your cognitive and physical performance!

Mood:

Not only does the benefits of coffee extend to peak performance, it is also well known to be a positive mood booster. Again and again, studies find that drinking coffee causes stimulus of the central nervous system and improves overall mood (8). The debate whether improvement to mood is dose-dependent on caffeine level itself is still out. Instead, maybe the very act of the initial sipping of coffee may benefit your overall mood! Further study would be needed to confirm this. If caffeine has a mood boosting effect, what about such health issues as depression? Do we see any correlation between drinking coffee and decreased depression? We do. A recent study found that the amount of caffeine consumption suggests a correlation to reduced depression levels (8). The optimal rate of caffeine consumption was around 400 mL per day to protect against such health conditions. Lets say one cup of coffee has 100 mL of caffeine to make things easy. That means just drinking four cups a day could greatly improve your mood and decrease depression levels! Is there anything coffee can’t make better???,

Heart and Diabetes:

Heart Disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. with 1 person dying every 36 seconds in the country due to a heart related incident (9). It is hard to find a person that has not been directly impacted by this  devastating condition. But what if I told you that coffee can have pre-emptive and beneficial effects against heart disease? While the jury is still out whether there are direct positive effects of regular coffee drinking with cardiovascular diseases, more and more research suggests that coffee consumption may reduce hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and obesity (10); these are all conditions negatively correlated with cardiovascular diseases. However, it should be noted that drinking an excess of coffee (dependent on your average consumption) can lead to short sessions of hypertension if not consumed on a regular basis (11). Additionally, drinking 3-6 cups of coffee a day has been linked to a significant reduction in risk of developing an ischemic stroke (12). With regular intake of coffee, you may experience the benefits of decreased blood pressure, positive effects on obesity, and decreased risk of type 2 diabetes (dose-dependent manner) (13) and developing ischemic strokes (3-6 cups per day). Pretty good news for people who are already coffee lovers.

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Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. 

One of the greatest fears most of us have about aging is losing our mental faculties. This can come in many different forms including the typical forgetfulness that comes with getting older, loss of memories, or even not being able to recognize your own family. No matter the severity, its safe to say that most of us are desperate for any and every way to hold onto our identity through previous memories. The most common form of dementia is caused by Alzheimer’s disease (AD) (14). Many people afflicted with AD experience gradual, but severe decline in ability to have continuity of thought; if makes it very difficult to function independently without the care of others. Meanwhile, Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is another form of neurological decline that typically starts with increasing tremors along with slowed movement and balancing issues. Overtime PD can lead to changes in behavior and memory. So how can we reduce our chances of developing some of these tragic neurological conditions? Like nearly everything else, the answer may be coffee. One study found that consuming a normal amount of coffee (about 3-5 cups per day) may be correlated to a significant decrease in risk of developing AD/PD; up to a 65% reduction, in fact (15). That’s pretty impressive if you ask me. While the molecular mechanism for how this reduction may occur is still debated, I won’t be waiting to find out before continuing to drink my favorite beverage. 

is coffee really good for you??

is coffee really good for you??

Rather than asking what benefits drinking coffee has, the better question to ask is what benefit coffee does not have. Not only does our favorite drink bolster physical & mental performance, research suggest that it also may help prevent certain factors correlated to cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, as well as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. However, any good thing can become problematic in excess, so moderation is key. While no one knows what hidden benefits or detrimental side-effects future research will uncover surrounding coffee consumption, for now I will happily be indulging my coffee addiction.

References:

1.       Zhu, J., Zheng, W., Sinha, R., Smith-Warner, S. A., Xiang, Y. B., Park, Y., … & Sawada, N. (2019). Associations of coffee and tea consumption with lung cancer risk: A pooled analysis of 17 cohort studies involving over 1.2 million participants.

2.       Kim, Y., Je, Y., & Giovannucci, E. (2019). Coffee consumption and all-cause and cause-specific mortality: a meta-analysis by potential modifiers.

3.       Huang, Z. L., Qu, W. M., Eguchi, N., Chen, J. F., Schwarzschild, M. A., Fredholm, B. B., … & Hayaishi, O. (2005). Adenosine A 2A, but not A 1, receptors mediate the arousal effect of caffeine. Nature neuroscience, 8(7), 858-859.

4.       Bjorness, T. E., & Greene, R. W. (2009). Adenosine and sleep. Current neuropharmacology, 7(3), 238-245.

5.       McLellan, T. M., Caldwell, J. A., & Lieberman, H. R. (2016). A review of caffeine’s effects on cognitive, physical and occupational performance. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 71, 294-312.

6.       Borota, D., Murray, E., Keceli, G., Chang, A., Watabe, J. M., Ly, M., … & Yassa, M. A. (2014). Post-study caffeine administration enhances memory consolidation in humans. Nature neuroscience, 17(2), 201-203.

7.       Capek, S., & Guenther, R. K. (2009). Caffeine’s effects on true and false memory. Psychological Reports, 104(3), 787-795.

8.       Grosso, G., Micek, A., Castellano, S., Pajak, A., & Galvano, F. (2016). Coffee, tea, caffeine and risk of depression: A systematic review and dose–response meta‐analysis of observational studies. Molecular nutrition & food research, 60(1), 223-234.

9.       Heart disease facts. (2020, June 24). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

10.   O’Keefe, J. H., Bhatti, S. K., Patil, H. R., DiNicolantonio, J. J., Lucan, S. C., & Lavie, C. J. (2013). Effects of habitual coffee consumption on cardiometabolic disease, cardiovascular health, and all-cause mortality. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 62(12), 1043-1051.

11. Mesas A.E., Leon-Munoz L.M., Rodriguez-Artalejo F. and Lopez-Garcia E.: “The effect of coffee on blood pressure and cardiovascular disease in hypertensive individuals: a systematic review and meta-analysis”. Am J Clin Nutr 2011; 94: 1113

12.   D’Elia L., Cairella G., Garbagnati F., Scalfi L. and Strazzullo P.: “Moderate coffee consumption is associated with lower risk of stroke: meta-analysis of prospective studies”. J Hypertens 2012

13.   Ding, M., Bhupathiraju, S. N., Chen, M., van Dam, R. M., & Hu, F. B. (2014). Caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and a dose-response meta-analysis. Diabetes care, 37(2), 569-586.

14.       Alzheimer’s disease – Symptoms and causes. (2018, December 8). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20350447

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