Spilling the Beans on Coffee

By Krista Elliott

Oh, blessed, blessed coffee. There are many of us (including yours truly) who only feel completely human once they’ve had that first sip of coffee in the morning. One of the world’s most popular drinks, there is evidence that humankind has been drinking coffee since sometime in the 15th century. It is only recently, however, that we’ve come to understand the impressive health benefits inherent in our daily brew.

Keeping You Alert for Life

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are heartbreaking for both the sufferer and the family. A strong coffee habit, however, can help keep these devastating conditions at bay. A 2010 study showed strong evidence that drinking three to five cups of coffee per day reduces the chance of late-life development of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia by about 65 percent. In order to avoid negative effects from large quantities of caffeine, it’s best to spread this amount of coffee drinking throughout the course of the day, instead of having three cups in one sitting.

Protecting your Ticker

Cardiovascular disease is a silent killer, and a common one. But did you know that your daily cup of joe can help to prevent it? A Japanese study found that a cup or two of coffee every day reduced the risk of dying of cardiovascular disease by up to 38 percent in men, and 22 percent in women.

Defending Against Diabetes

The link between coffee and a lowered risk of diabetes is becoming increasingly clear. Frank Hu, MD, MPH, PhD, nutrition and epidemiology professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, conducted a study in 2005 which showed that people who drank more than six or seven cups daily (again, don’t do this all in one sitting) had a 35 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes. The benefit was smaller, but still present, for those who drank four to six cups a day.

So how can you reap some of coffee’s benefits for your health? If you are sensitive to caffeine, make sure to stick with decaffeinated coffee. Many of the same health benefits present in full-octane coffee are also present in decaf. As well, if you wish to increase your coffee intake (or to start drinking coffee in the first place), make sure to do so gradually, spacing out your intake so that you are not dumping a large quantity of caffeine into your system all at once. And lastly, while your health may benefit from coffee, it does not benefit from the huge quantities of sugar and fat found in many commercially prepared coffee drinks. If you can’t stand to drink your coffee black, try using just a bit of milk. If you must have sugar, try gradually cutting down on the amount over time.

So the next time you stumble in the kitchen to pour yourself a cup of ambition, you can rest easy knowing that not only are you making yourself more alert, but healthier as well.