Integrative Nutrition Blog

The Caffeine Controversy: Studies Show the Health Benefits of Coffee

May 13, 2015

In the wellness world, it’s impossible to shake the unhealthy stigma that surrounds coffee. Having trouble losing weight? Not sleeping well at night? Suffering from anxiety? Feeling run down? Many experts would point to your cup of joe as the potential culprit. 

Yet according to a recent article in the New York Times, coffee doesn’t deserve its bad rep – and may in fact offer a surprisingly wide array of health benefits. Here are just a few of the findings: 

1. Coffee seems to improve heart health: Combined data from 36 studies shows that people who drink three to five cups of coffee a day were at the lowest risk for cardiovascular disease. 

Another meta-analysis found that two to six cups of coffee a day was associated with a lower risk of stroke compared to those who drank none. Surprisingly, people had to drink about 10 cups of coffee a day before any bad associations were observed! 

2. Coffee may reduce the risk of cancer: Increasing coffee consumption by two cups of a day was associated with a lower risk of liver cancer by more than 40%. A study looking at all cancers suggested it may be associated with a reduced incidence overall. 

3. Coffee might protect against neurological disorders: Coffee was associated with lower risks of Parkinson’s disease, improved cognitive function, and may even protect against Alzheimer’s disease. 

4. Coffee reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes: Regular coffee consumption significantly reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes, with a reduction of one-third in those who drank six to seven cups a day. The more coffee you drank, the less likely you were to have diabetes. 

Of course these studies focused on the benefits of black coffee, not caramel frappucinos that are loaded with whipped cream and refined sugar. 

So what do you make of these findings? Is coffee a cure-all elixir of health? Not necessarily – many nutrition experts still argue that coffee is an addictive substance that taxes the adrenals, causes digestive upset, and raises blood pressure, especially when consumed in excess. 

This points to what Integrative Nutrition Founder Joshua Rosenthal calls a “post-modern” approach to nutrition. Nutrition is still a fledgling science, and it’s fascinating that for every claim, there are at least two studies that disprove each other. Scientists unanimously agree that water is made of two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, but when it comes to answering the simple question of “is coffee healthy or not?”, the jury is still out. 

In the end it comes down to what we call bio-individuality – there’s no one-size-fits-all diet, and what works for one person might not work for the next. Many people love their morning cup of coffee ritual, and everyone has different limits as for how much is too much. Some people do fine with multiple cups of coffee throughout the day, and some people are extremely sensitive to even small amounts of coffee. It’s important to experiment and find out what works for you. 

We’d love to hear about your experience with coffee. Are you a coffee drinker? How does it make you feel? Let us know in the comments below!

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