The Health Benefits of Coffee

woman drinking coffee in a cafe

If there’s one beverage the majority of us can’t seem to live without, it’s coffee. More than half of Americans drink it every day, and by some estimates, more than 100 billion cups are consumed per year. That’s a lotta java.

Given these stats, it’s no wonder coffee has become so widely studied. And it turns out that a growing body of research indicates your morning cup (or two) of joe could have quite a few health boons.

The Caffeine Factor

Let me first address the elephant in the room: caffeine. Coffee is one of the largest sources of caffeine, a natural, though addictive, stimulant.

How addictive? Well, in one study, researchers split volunteers into four groups, with each group consuming 300 mg of caffeine a day for one, three, seven, or 14 days. They discovered that caffeine withdrawal (headaches, drowsiness, lack of concentration) occurred after just three days.

The enzyme CYP1A2 is responsible for more than 95 percent of the metabolism of caffeine in the body. In some people, this enzyme works efficiently, while in others it does not. Those who are effective metabolizers are less disturbed by caffeine than those who are not.

Even so, most research suggests that consuming a moderate amount of caffeine (about 400 mg per day, or four 8 oz. cups of coffee) is really not all bad for you. In fact, coffee—and in many cases, caffeine—may actually have protective properties against some of our top diseases…

Cognitive Decline

A recent study published in August reveals that coffee (and especially caffeine) may protect against cognitive impairment.

Researchers in Italy followed 1,445 people for three and a half years. They found that cognitively normal older adults who regularly drank one to two cups of coffee per day had a lower rate of mild cognitive impairment than those who never or rarely drank it.

However, those who increased their consumption from one to two additional cups per day actually had a higher risk of mild cognitive impairment compared to those with a constant habit. This is something we see in science often. We call this a biphasic dose response curve, where an ingredient has benefits up to a certain dose, but higher doses causes detrimental effects. This shows that balance and moderation are key to reaping the benefits.


Both caffeinated and decaf coffee may reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes.

In one study of more than 88,000 women ages 26–46 without diabetes at baseline, moderate daily coffee drinking resulted in lower diabetes risk. In another study, researchers determined that at least three cups a day of either coffee or tea decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Cardiovascular Disease

A meta-analysis of 21 studies revealed that habitual moderate coffee drinking diminished the risk of cardiovascular disease in women. And an even more recent 2014 study concluded that, “moderate coffee consumption was inversely significantly associated with cardiovascular risk, with the lowest risk at 3 to 5 cups per day.”

Again just to remind you, a meta-analysis is a study that looks at data from all relevant studies relating to an issue. These are very powerful because they capture all the data.

Parkinson’s Disease

A growing body of research confirms a link between coffee—and particularly caffeine—intake and decreased risk of Parkinson’s disease.

In a 30-year study of 8,004 men published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association, higher coffee intake was associated with a significantly lower incidence of Parkinson’s—with caffeine likely the factor leading to this positive result.


A very recent systematic review and meta-analysis that examined 12 studies (over 346,000 people) showed that those with higher intake of coffee were less likely to suffer from depression. Tea did not have nearly as strong of an effect.


Finally, according to research published in the New England Journal of Medicine, coffee consumption may cut the risk of death from heart disease, lung disease, stroke, and diabetes.

In women, one cup a day led to a five percent reduced risk of mortality; two to three cups led to a 13 percent lower risk; and four to five cups led to a 16 percent decreased risk.

In men, one cup yielded a six percent lower risk in death; two to three cups led to 10 percent lower risk; and four to five cups led to 12 percent reduction.

Not a Perfect Beverage…

Even with all of these benefits, it’s important to note that coffee is not a perfect beverage.

Excess coffee consumption can put a lot of stress on your adrenals, the small glands located above your kidneys that produce hormones, including sex hormones and cortisol. This is because caffeine stimulates the release of cortisol. Too much coffee and caffeine means a surplus of cortisol, the so-called stress hormone, streaming through your system. This can negatively affect your heart, weight, metabolism, immune system, and mood.

The bottom line: Research suggests that up to three or, in some people, four cups of coffee per day likely is not going to do any harm—and may even prevent some grave health concerns. But if you are a serious coffee addict who downs far more than four cups daily, it is probably best to cut back.

About Author

Brian Matthews

Brian Matthews is the President of Gene Smart and the leader of our Gene Smart team. His mission is to provide supplements to help you control your inflammation, your weight, and your life, based on the latest scientific information.

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