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The debates about coffee and health continue, but one thing is becoming clearer with each new study released. Coffee has many beneficial effects on health, but there are a few important warnings for people who fall into specific categories. Some of the benefits and dangers of drinking coffee seem to be connected to caffeine, but many are appearing whether coffee has caffeine or not. Many of the coffee health studies are population-based and rely on people self-reporting, but a lot of the recent studies are based on experimental research. Here are ten important – and sometimes surprising – coffee health facts every coffee lover should know.
1. Coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing diabetes.
A number of coffee studies have focused on the relationship between drinking coffee and diabetes. Study after study has shown that people who drink 3 to 4 cups of coffee daily have a significantly lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who drink less coffee or no coffee at all. The risk reduction is dose dependent, to a point — that is, those who drink more coffee have less risk of developing diabetes. In addition, women who drink coffee see greater risk reduction than men who drink coffee, and decaf coffee seems to have the same preventative effects. Scientists are delving into the possibility that certain substances in coffee improve the way the body handles insulin.
2. Coffee drinkers have a reduced risk of heart disease.
A number of studies have shown that coffee drinkers are less likely to suffer from heart rhythm disturbances. In a large Kaiser Permanente study, people who drank 1 to 3 cups of coffee a day were 20% less likely to be hospitalized for heart arrhythmias than those who drank no coffee at all.
3. Women who drink coffee have a smaller risk of having a stroke.
Coffee seems to have some benefits that may be stronger in women or even unique to women. In a 2009 study, researchers reported that women who drank 1 to 3 cups of coffee daily were 20% less likely to have a stroke than those who drank no coffee. This was true even if the women had high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes or high cholesterol, all risk factors for stroke.
4. Coffee drinkers have a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease.
It has been established for years that people who drink coffee have a lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Researchers believe that caffeine provides the protective factor but have yet to determine how caffeine protects the body from Parkinson’s.
5. Drinking coffee may reduce the risk of developing dementia associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies in Finland and Sweden show that people who drink 3 to 5 cups of coffee daily have a 65% reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
6. Coffee seems to protect against liver cancer and cirrhosis.
Numerous studies have shown that people who drink coffee have a significantly reduced risk of developing liver cancer or cirrhosis of the liver. Again, researchers have yet to discover which factors in coffee are responsible for the risk reduction.
7. Moderate coffee consumption is safe during pregnancy.
In 2010, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecology modified its long-time stance on consumption of caffeine during pregnancy. According to ACOG, consuming 200 mg or less of caffeine daily seems to have no harmful effects, and does not increase the risk of miscarriage or premature birth, nor does it seem to affect fetal growth. Measuring the caffeine in your coffee can be tricky, though, so pregnant women should be aware of their coffee drinking habits and the amount of caffeine in various styles and types of coffee (read more here about coffee during pregnancy).
8. Coffee can make your heartburn worse.
Some people who suffer from acid reflux or have frequent bouts of heartburn may find that coffee makes their heartburn worse. Coffee contains several acids that can trigger heartburn. There are coffees that are naturally lower in acid as well as reduced-acid coffees available that can help reduce heartburn caused by coffee.
9. Unfiltered coffee can increase LDL (bad cholesterol) levels.
People with concerns about high cholesterol, particularly about high levels of LDL cholesterol, should drink coffee brewed with a paper filter. It contains less cafestol, a fat found in coffee that seems to stimulate the creation of LDL. French press coffee and boiled coffee contain higher levels of cafestol, and cafestol levels in espresso are somewhere in between.
10. People who drink more coffee are less likely to die.
That tongue-in-cheek pronouncement was the headline for numerous newspapers after a 2011 study reported that people in their study who drank coffee were less likely to die of any cause during the study period. The study results strongly suggest that drinking 3 to 5 cups of coffee daily may have significant health benefits across a number of bodily systems.
The jury is still out on many of the supposed health benefits and health hazards attributed to coffee, but at this point at least, it appears that coffee does very little harm to most people and may do a considerable amount of good.