It seems as though science changes its mind about coffee every few months. One minute it boosts your health… and the next, it’s off limits.
The story usually turns out to be that the media have blown some new study out of proportion. That may be good for headlines, but it’s confusing. How can you know the real story?
Well, if you drink coffee – as most Americans do – here’s the scoop. And based on recent research, the news is good.
For example, regular coffee drinking appears to support mental sharpness.
Researchers in Finland followed more than 1,400 people aged 65 – 79 for an average of 21 years. They found that people who drank coffee at mid-life stayed sharper far longer than people who didn’t drink coffee. The biggest benefit went to those who drank 3 – 5 cups a day. (1)
All that caffeine may do more than give you a buzz, too. In test-tube studies, caffeine is very effective at mopping up free radicals. In other words, coffee may be a powerful antioxidant. (2)
And coffee may also support healthy blood sugar levels.
Japanese scientists gave diluted coffee to a group of mice with unhealthy blood sugar levels. Other mice got plain water. After 5 weeks, the mice getting the coffee had healthier blood sugar levels. The coffee drinkers also showed lower levels of fat in their livers. (3)
Of course, animal studies don’t always predict effects in humans. But human studies often do confirm results of animal studies. So this study points to possible good news for coffee drinkers.
Recent news from the Harvard School of Public Health is more solid. Researchers there reviewed health information on almost 128,000 Americans. Their data covered 18 years of follow-up on men and 24 years on women.
The researchers found that coffee drinkers tend to stay healthier longer than people who don’t drink coffee. And the main reason appears to be that coffee supports better heart health. Coffee with caffeine has the strongest effect. But decaf also showed some heart benefit. (4)
A more recent Dutch study had similar results. This review of 37,514 people found coffee and tea both appear to support better overall heart health. The biggest benefit from coffee was from drinking 2 – 3 cups per day. Tea drinkers benefitted most if they drank 6 or more cups daily. (5)
For some people, even 2 cups of coffee can be a problem. About 1 in 5 people have acid problems when they drink coffee. But there may be an answer…
European scientists have discovered some coffees are easier on the stomach.
There hasn’t been much research on what substances in coffee cause stomach problems. But two European researchers working on the problem made an accidental discovery.
They found that a substance in coffee – N-methylpyridium (NEM) – appears to inhibit stomach cells’ ability to make acid. (6)
They also found that certain types of coffee are much higher in NEM than others. Dark roasts, such as French roast and espresso, have more NEM than lighter roasts… so they may be much easier on your stomach.
This is great news, because the latest research seems to show that drinking a moderate amount of coffee could boost your health in several ways.
Best Life Herbals Wellness Team
Best Life Herbals
(1) Eskelinen, M.H., et al, “Midlife coffee and tea drinking and the risk of late-life dementia: a population-based CAIDE study,” J Alzheimers Dis. 2009;16(1):85-91.
(2) León-Carmona, J.R. and Galano, A., “Is caffeine a good scavenger of oxygenated free radicals?” J Phys Chem B. Apr 21, 2011;115(15):4538-46.
(3) Yamauchi, R., et al, “Coffee and caffeine ameliorate hyperglycemia, fatty liver, and inflammatory adipocytokine expression in spontaneously diabetic KK-Ay mice,” J Agric Food Chem. May 12, 2010;58(9):5597-603.
(4) Lopez-Garcia, E., et al, “The relationship of coffee consumption with mortality,”Ann Intern Med. Jun 17, 2008;148(12):904-14.
(5) de Koning Gans, J.M., et al, “Tea and coffee consumption and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality,” Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. Aug 2010;30(8):1665-71.
(6) Somoza, V. and Hofmann, T., “Brewing up a gentler java: Dark-roasted coffee contains stomach-friendly ingredient,” 239th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. March 21, 2010.