Coffee is often the thing that gets people going in the day or gives them the energy they need to work when they really don’t want to.
At the same time though, people tend to view it as an unhealthy habit that they probably shouldn’t be following.
That claim simply isn’t true – and I will show you 11 scientific reasons why you should be drinking coffee.
The research that I will highlight answers the question, why is coffee good for you, and shows that the humble cup of coffee isn’t such a bad habit after all.
1. It Has Many Healthy Components
Coffee is a complex drink.
People tend to think that it’s unhealthy, but it does actually contain some nutrients, including niacin (vitamin b3), riboflavin (vitamin B2), pantothenic acid (vitamin B1), potassium and manganese (1).
Now, the levels of these compounds are pretty low, but they do add up, especially as people often drink multiple cups of coffee in a day.
At the same time, coffee is a very good source of antioxidants.
Compared to other food and drink, the amount of antioxidants in coffee isn’t all that high – as you can see from the graph below (data from Jorgustin, 2014).
But, people do tend to drink a lot of coffee over the course of a day or a week.
So, coffee often ends up being the main source of antioxidants for many people, although sources like wine, tea and fruit juice can also be significant (2).
In general, people get more antioxidants from coffee than they do from all of their fruits and vegetables (3).
The presence of caffeine is also an important aspect to note.
Unlike many of the other compounds in coffee, caffeine can be considered a good or a bad thing, depending on your needs and your preferences.
Certainly, caffeine has been connected to a number of positive health outcomes, but at the same time some people can’t have caffeine and too much caffeine can cause issues like problems sleeping and anxiety.
Because coffee beans come from a plant, there are also a large number of other types of compounds in coffee that may influence health, such as flavonoids and chlorogenic acid (4,5).
In fact, the complexity of coffee means that we don’t even know all of the healthy compounds it contains or their implications for health.
Nevertheless, it is clear that coffee is a key source of a range of healthy compounds, particularly for those of us that drink multiple cups per day.
2. It Promotes Longer Life
A number of different studies have looked into the connection between coffee and risk of death.
Specifically, these studies have highlighted how coffee consumption can decrease the risk of death. By extension, this indicates that coffee consumption may contribute to a longer life.
For example, one observational study looked at coffee consumption in more than 400,000 people and followed these individuals for a number of years (6).
The authors used this information to look at the relationship between coffee consumption and the risk of death.
Their data for the relationship between coffee and overall risk of death is shown in the following image:
This study used adjusted risk of death as a measure. This measure refers to the probability of a person dying, so a lower number means decreased risk.
From the graph, you can see that for both males and females increased amounts of coffee per day resulted in a decreased risk of death. But, once the number of cups reached 6 or more, that risk started increasing again.
The study also noted that the observed effects were true for caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, so caffeine was not the cause of the effect.
This is not the only study to find such an outcome.
A more recent study also looked at this connection (7).
This study also used an observational approach and used data from more than 200,000 people.
The main outcome of the study looked like this:
The observed effect is similar to the study I mentioned above, although in this case it just took more than 5 cups of coffee to cause an increase in the risk of death.
One interesting thing about this study was that the authors also looked into whether the pattern was true when including or excluding people who smoke.
That approach is very relevant because there is often a connection between smoking and coffee drinking.
However, the authors found that the overall results of the study were the same regardless of what group they considered. This indicates that the change in risk of death was not connected to whether or not people smoke.
That increases the likelihood that coffee is the cause of the decreased risk of death.
Other studies have also had similar outcomes (e.g. 8,9,10).
One intervention study did find that coffee consumption was able to reduce the level of background breaking in DNA strands (11).
A second study found the same outcome for dark roast coffee (12).
That effect could help to increase life length or decrease the risk of death, but the studies didn’t look at the implications of the change in DNA breakage.
It is important to note that the vast majority of studies on this topic have been observational in nature. That research approach means that it isn’t possible to test whether coffee is causing the observed effects.
But, with so many studies indicating a relationship between coffee and decreased the risk of death, it seems very likely that the effect exists.
Additionally, it is challenging to research any connection with longevity in humans within an experimental setting. In this case, doing so would involve getting people to make changes to their coffee drinking habits and then following them for many years.
Not only would that be expensive and impractical, but it might also be unethical.
So, despite their limitations, observational studies are the main tool we have for looking at this connection – and they do strongly suggest that coffee can decrease the risk of death.
Because coffee is such a complex drink, we still don’t know what it is that might be causing a decrease in the risk of death.
One simple explanation might be antioxidants. As I mentioned earlier, coffee really does act as a good source of antioxidants for many people.
The polyphenols in coffee may also be significant for its ability to decrease the risk of death, and for other health benefits. These are strong antioxidants that also have other properties for health (13).
There are also many other compounds that could play a role.
In reality, we still don’t know enough about how coffee affects our bodies to know specifically which compounds contribute to a decreased risk of death.
The same is also true for any of the other health benefits on this list.
3. Helps to Improve Mood
Anyone who relies on coffee to make the morning bearable probably already knows this one, but coffee really can have a significant effect on mood.
Much of that effect seems to be connected to the caffeine in coffee, particularly as caffeine can help to make people feel less fatigued and make them more alert.
One study conducted a meta-analysis looking at the outcomes of a large number of studies on caffeine and mood. This study was very significant because the authors looked at the outcomes of experimental studies into caffeine (14).
The authors found that caffeine was associated with improvements in mood for participants that were sleep deprived and those that weren’t.
This outcome was true even for people who drank coffee on a regular basis.
One systematic review indicated that coffee can play a significant role in protecting people from depression (15).
The shape of this relationship was similar to the one with coffee and risk of death, and the strongest protective effect came at around 400 ml of coffee per day.
The authors did also find that caffeine and tea had some effects on protecting against depression, but this wasn’t as strong.
Another study also found that drinking coffee helped to decrease depression risk (16).
This study focused specifically on women and also just looked at caffeinated coffee.
Nevertheless, it adds strength to the idea that coffee may play a role in preventing depression.
Research has also indicated that drinking coffee can help decrease the risk of suicide (17).
Again, this was connected to the caffeine in coffee.
The ability of coffee to reduce suicide risk may well be connected to its ability to improve mood and to impact depression.
4. Coffee Can Decrease Diabetes Risk
The impact of coffee on diabetes risk is actually one of the most heavily researched topics surrounding coffee.
It is also a very significant answer to the question ‘why is coffee good for you’.
One study on the topic looked at outcomes across a number of different studies for a period of four years (18).
The authors found that if people increased their coffee consumption in that period, their risk of type 2 diabetes was lower.
In contrast, if they decreased their coffee consumption in the same period, their risk increased.
Another study suggested that even drinking more than 12 cups of coffee per day could decrease diabetes risk (by up to 67%) (19).
Still, I wouldn’t suggest drinking that much coffee in a day – especially if you put sugar or cream in it.
Other studies have also supported the potential for coffee to decrease diabetes risk (20).
Likewise, a meta-analysis also supported the connection between coffee consumption and a decrease in type 2 diabetes risk (21).
As with other studies (22), this meta-analysis highlighted the presence of a dose-specific response.
The chlorogenic acid in coffee may be one reason for this impact, as it can lower blood sugar (23).
Another study suggested that the action of polyphenols may be a reason for the observed outcomes on diabetes risk (24) and quinides have also been associated with some observed outcomes (25), as has the compound cafestol, also in coffee (26)
5. Can Improve Insulin Response and Blood Sugar Levels
Most research on coffee and diabetes has been connected to reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Nevertheless, some studies do show that coffee is relevant for people with diabetes too.
For example, one study showed that both dark and light roasted coffee can increase the insulin response in humans (27).
Likewise, studies have indicated that one of the compounds in coffee (chlorogenic acid) can help decrease blood sugar levels (28).
6. It May Even Protect Against Cancer
Cancer research is always a little tricky, especially as there is so much we don’t know about cancer.
Nevertheless, there are a number of studies that suggest that coffee can help reduce cancer risk.
For example, one study looked at prostate cancer risk in men and found that people who consumed more than 6 cups of coffee per day had a decreased risk of prostate cancer (29).
This was true for caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee.
The fact that the decreased cancer risk only occurs with more than 6 cups of coffee is a little concerning though, especially as most longevity studies did indicate that the risk of death overall did start to increase again around that point.
Another study found that 4 or more cups of coffee helped to decrease endometrial cancer risk in women (30), while a third study showed that coffee consumption could decrease the risk of dying from liver cancer for both males and females (31).
Another study also found similar effects for liver cancer (32) and a meta-analysis of studies also suggested that coffee could help to reduce oral cancer risk (33).
Researchers have also highlighted on how there may be a number of different molecules in coffee that contribute to this anticancer effect (34).
However, one study suggested that high coffee consumption (more than 6.5 cups of coffee a day) may increase the risk of gastric cancer (35).
A meta-analysis on the same topic failed to find such an effect (36).
7. Can Help You Lose Weight – And Keep It Off
The caffeine in coffee has been linked to weight loss maintenance, with people who consume more coffee (and caffeinated drinks in general) also being more successful at maintaining weight loss (37).
Observational studies have also indicated that people who drink coffee often tend to be thinner than those who only drink coffee rarely (38), although this outcome doesn’t indicate cause and effect.
This effect may be connected to the potential for coffee to decrease appetite.
Additionally, having a hot drink can potentially be significant for weight loss because it takes time to drink, can be filling, and people often are not eating at the same time.
Some research also suggests that the polyphenols in coffee can play a role in decreasing fat accumulation and increasing the metabolism (39,40).
Of course, this role of coffee mainly applies to coffee without a lot of calories. So, if you add in all the extras or buy a fancy Starbucks coffee, you might just end up gaining weight instead of losing it.
There are exceptions though. For example, Bulletproof coffee is commonly used as a way to lose weight and this is fairly calorie-laden. You can read more about this idea at the Bulletproof blog.
8. May Help Protect You from Some Brain Diseases
As well as having a role in brain function, coffee can also help to prevent damage to some areas of the brain. In turn, this can help to protect against some brain diseases.
For example, one study looked at the consumption of coffee and the presence of Parkinson’s disease in Japanese-American males (41).
The outcomes of the study are shown in the image below:
As you can see, the incidence of Parkinson’s disease was lower for those who drank coffee regularly compared to those who didn’t.
This was also a dose-specific response, so the people that drank more coffee had a lower level of risk.
The authors noted that the observed effects were associated with the caffeine in coffee, and not with other components of coffee that they considered.
Two other studies also found similar outcomes (42,43), although one of these was just looking at caffeine itself, not coffee consumption.
Despite the strength of these outcomes, it is important to note that they are observational studies, so there could be other factors causing the observed trends.
Although there have been fewer studies, caffeinated coffee has also been associated with protection against Alzheimer’s disease (44).
These outcomes are another answer to the question why is coffee good for you.
While coffee certainly doesn’t protect against these diseases completely – the research outcomes show that coffee can be protective, which s great if you already enjoy drinking coffee.
One potential reason for these effects is that caffeine is able to block adenosine (45).
This compound plays a key role in a number of biological functions, including the transfer of energy.
This action helps to provide neuroprotective effects (46,47,48).
9. It Can Help You to Think Better
The action of caffeine on adenosine is significant for neuroprotection, but it is also the reason that caffeine can help people to think better (49).
That action is a key reason why caffeine acts as a stimulant (50) and why so many people find caffeine and coffee to be such a good way of becoming more alert.
10. Coffee is Beneficial for the Liver
If’ you’re asking why is coffee good for you, one good area to consider is the liver.
This is a coffee benefit that many people don’t know about.
As I mentioned earlier, coffee can help to decrease the risk of liver cancer.
But, there is also another desirable outcome and this is related to cirrhosis of the liver.
This is a condition that prevents the liver from functioning properly. It occurs as the result of long-term damage to the liver and can take months or years to develop.
Research has shown that drinking coffee can significantly decrease the risk of cirrhosis (51,52).
One study noted that this effect occurs with coffee, but not with other drinks containing caffeine (53).
That outcome suggests that it is the compounds in the coffee itself that decrease the risk of liver cirrhosis, rather than the caffeine.
11. It May Offer Other Health Benefits
With this list, I’ve focused on health benefits of coffee that have been relatively well researched.
However, there have been other areas where the research is still relatively new.
For example, some research suggests that coffee may play a role in helping to repair damaged muscle (54).
One study also indicates that coffee may play a role in treating sarcopenia, which is the loss of muscle strength and mass that occurs as people age (55).
Coffee has also been connected to decreasing the risk of tinnitus in women (56).
It has also been associated with improving microvascular function (56) and caffeine can play a role in decreasing muscle pain (57).
All of these areas need significantly more research before we can be certain that coffee does have an impact.
Nevertheless, this early research is a strong indication that there may be more benefits to coffee than we already know about.
Coffee tends to get vilified, but as you can see, it really can be a healthy addition to the diet.
But, as with anything, moderation is the key.
Too much coffee can certainly cause negative effects, especially if your habit is decreasing the amount of sleep you get or you are consuming too much caffeine. To figure out whether you are, it’s worth taking a look at Healthline, which offers information about caffeine overdosing.
At the same time, you do need to be careful about what you put into your coffee.
This is even true for simple sugar and milk, especially if you are drinking coffee multiple times in a day.
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What about you? Is coffee an essential part of your life? Do these health benefits change your opinion on coffee?