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? Some experts would point to your cup of joe as the potential culprit.
According to several comprehensive studies, coffee doesn’t deserve its bad rep – and may in fact offer a surprisingly wide array of health benefits.
Five Health Benefits of Drinking Coffee
While many studies show the benefits of coffee consumption, it’s important to note that by and large, they focused on plain, black coffee. Adding milk, non-dairy creamers, sugars, or other types of sweeteners raises both the caloric value of the drink and often negates any benefits.
1. Coffee seems to improve heart health
One 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. Another review of 36 studies involving more than one million participants, research found that people who drank three to five cups of coffee per day had a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Bad associations with coffee consumption were only observed after ten cups of coffee per day – much higher than the average person’s daily caffeine intake.
2. Coffee may reduce the risk of cancer
Researchers have been investigating the link between cancer and coffee for decades, and 2018 research findings from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) couldn’t determine whether drinking coffee causes cancer. This isn't to say there hasn’t been research into whether coffee can prevent certain cancers. In fact, the IARC says that coffee consumption may reduce the risk of developing endometrium (uterine lining), liver, head, neck, colorectal, and breast cancers.
One study also found that increasing coffee consumption by two cups of a day was associated with a lower risk of liver cancer by more than 40%.
3. Coffee might protect against neurological disorders
Moderate coffee consumption is also associated with lower risks of Parkinson’s disease, improved cognitive function, and lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease. A study from the American Academy of Neurology found that drinking coffee may be associated with a lower risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS). While accounting for age, sex, smoking, BMI, and sun exposure, people who didn’t drink coffee were “about one and a half times more likely to develop [MS] than those who drank four or more cups of coffee per day in the year before symptoms started to develop the disease.”
4. Coffee reduces the risk of developing 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. This wasn’t true for people who already have type 2 diabetes: caffeine can impact the way your body regulates blood sugar, and as little as two cups of coffee can lower or raise insulin levels.
5. Coffee may help you live longer
Combined data from 201 studies shows that people who drink three to four cups of coffee a day were at the lowest risk of “all cause mortality,” meaning any cause of death. The research specifically notes that higher consumption of coffee was associated with a lower risk of cancer, as well as “neurological, metabolic, and liver conditions.”
The Bottom Line
So, is coffee a cure-all elixir of health? Not necessarily – many nutrition experts still argue that coffee is an addictive substance that can tax the adrenals, cause heartburn and digestive upset, increase risk of dehydration, and raise blood pressure, especially when consumed in excess.
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.