Drink Your Coffee, Young Man: A Cup of Joe Isn't Considered Evil Anymore
By Kurtis Bright
Despite It’s Bad Rep, Science Says Coffee Has Plenty of Benefits
Those of us hooked on the black bean beverage can take heart: the bad news about coffee seems to finally be ending. Science now tells us that there are actually a ton of great benefits you get from drinking a regular cup of joe.
It’s been decades now that we’ve heard of vague misgivings from the medical community about coffee and the effects it might have on our health: kids were supposed to stay away from it because it might stunt their growth, there were fears it could lead to heart attacks, it was thought to contribute to hypertension.
However the latest studies say none of this is backed up by solid science.
Perhaps our distrust of coffee came from a vestigial Puritanism: that nagging North American sense that anything that makes you feel good must be evil. But these days the evidence continues to accumulate showing that not only is coffee not bad for you, it actually seems to have positive health benefits.
For instance, even if you prefer not to deal with the jitters of caffeinated coffee, the latest tests show that coffee of any sort has tremendous anti-oxidant powers. It can also improve your health in other ways:
- Performing at your peak- Even a small amount of coffee just prior to a race or other physical exercise can boost athletic performance. Cyclists who drank 150 milligrams of coffee an hour before a cycling test performed better than a placebo group, and also better than a group that drank decaf.
- Elevate your mood - For the hardest of hardcore java junkies: a National Institutes of Health study showed that people who downed four cups of coffee per day are 10 percent less likely to be depressed. (Good God, there's no TIME to be depressed when you're on that much caffeine! Too much to do!) Another study out of Harvard demonstrated that as little as two cups per day can significantly reduce the chances of suicide. The hypothesis is that caffeine works as a mild antidepressant, activating neurotransmitters like dopamine. Any coffee lover can attest to these effects--or the lack thereof, if you've ever been deprived of coffee for some reason.
- Reduced risk of heart disease - This is about as distant as we can get from the 1950s-era fears that the mildly stimulating effects of coffee might be damaging to the heart. The journal Circulation published a study that actually shows that three to four cups daily results in a LOWERED risk of heart disease. The authors believe that caffeine improves blood flow and the function of the blood vessels.
- Diabetes risk lowered - A study published in the European Journal of Nutrition demonstrated that for every two cups of regular coffee a person consumes per day, their risk for type 2 diabetes decreases by 10 to 12 percent. The greatest risk mitigation was in people who already had a healthy BMI.
- Improved brain function - Who wouldn’t like a brain that works better? One study followed participants who were 65 years of age and older who had experienced some mild cognitive loss. For those who drank three or more cups of coffee per day, these cognitive changes did not proceed on to Alzheimer’s.
But the mythos that the mild stimulant of caffeine and coffee itself are something physically threatening needs to finally be put to bed.