If you are like the typical adult American, you drink around one and a half cups of coffee daily. For years, people have dismissed coffee as a beverage good only for its stimulant properties. Although current research suggests that moderate coffee drinking is safe, and even healthy, many people avoid caffeinated coffee due to the perceived health risks associated with caffeine’s stimulating effect. Recently a number of respected sources, including Harvard, have released reports and studies that show moderate coffee consumption carries many possible benefits as well as some risks. In fact, more than 19,000 scientific studies seem to suggest there are many perks to moderate coffee consumption.
Among regular coffee drinkers, the risk for type 2 diabetes is lower than for those who do not drink coffee. It may also reduce the risk of developing colon cancer, gallstones and Parkinson’s disease. Coffee also seems to increase motility in sperm, leading to an increase in male fertility. Among those at high risk for liver disease, moderate coffee consumption may also lower that risk of liver damage. As one might expect, other studies have shown coffee can improve cognitive function and improve endurance in long-term physical activities.
Moderation is the key to healthy coffee consumption. Spreading coffee consumption over a longer period of time may help those fighting sleep deprivation stay awake and alert better than those who drink one large cup in the morning and no more later. The idea serving seems to be no more than 2 or 3 ounces (generally the size of a double shot of espresso) every hour or so. A recent study at Harvard University showed that men who drank six or more cups of coffee (roughly 36 ounces) a day reduced their risk of diabetes by 54%, so moderate consumption of coffee may be far more than you once thought.
Caffeine is a mildly addictive stimulant that can increase heart rate, blood pressure and occasionally cause an irregular heartbeat. The majority of health problems stemming from coffee consumption are due to excessive consumption, not from one or two 16-ounce servings per day. The caffeine present in coffee seems to be tied to the health benefits, although not the only source. One study suggested other caffeinated beverages did not offer the same benefits, decaffeinated coffee also offered fewer benefits and decaffeinated tea offered none at all. In general, the benefits to drinking caffeinated coffee far outweigh the hazards.
The key to many of these benefits seems to be due to a very high level of antioxidants found in coffee. Green coffee (unroasted) seems to contain some 1,000 antioxidants and the brewing process contributes another 300. Darker roasts, and robusto beans, seem to offer the biggest benefit, although the actual method of brewing and duration the ground coffee bean is exposed to water also seems to impact the level of antioxidant protection. Some studies have even suggested this level of antioxidants found in coffee is higher than any other food found in the typical American diet. Tea is also noted for high levels of antioxidants, however coffee remains the king of beverages with more than four times the antioxidants found in green tea. This does not mean you should give up eating fruits and vegetables, as a variety of foods offer a variety of different antioxidants, all with their own health benefits.
In order to receive the most benefit from this daily dose of antioxidants in coffee, one should spread the consumption out over the course of the day. As with the serving suggested for remaining alert, the best amount for maintenance of good antioxidant levels is 2 or 3 ounces consumed every hour. Next time you feel your energy flagging or want to do something healthy for your body, drink a nice, hot cup of coffee!