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10 Health Benefits of Coffee, According to Research

Coffee is a popular drink with many health benefits. It is made from roasted coffee beans and is black, bitter, and slightly acidic. The main stimulant in coffee is caffeine. Caffeine is a substance that enhances the functioning of your brain and nervous system. Caffeine can be found in a variety of beverages like coffee, tea, soft drinks, and energy drinks. Coffee also contains antioxidants and other beneficial substances. Some researchers believe that these ingredients can benefit the human body in different ways.

Coffee Nutrition Facts

A cup of black coffee without cream or sugar (240g) contains 2.4 calories, 0.3g of protein, 0g of carbs, and 0g of fat. Coffee contains potassium and magnesium. The USDA has provided the following nutritional information for coffee (1).

Calories: 2.4
Fat: 0g
Sodium: 4.8mg
Carbohydrates: 0g
Fiber: 0g
Sugars: 0g
Protein: 0.3g
Potassium: 118mg
Magnesium: 7.2mg

The caffeine in coffee, which is the main psychoactive stimulant substance, contributes to several health benefits (2). Caffeine is also available in capsule form. Athletes are using it as an energy-boosting supplement. In addition, people who drink coffee have a lower body fat percentage (3). Caffeinated coffee intake should be modest (1-7 cups per week), but not at higher doses.

Summary

These nutrients in coffee may not be enough, but drinking 3 to 5 cups daily may affect your daily value by 10 to 20%. However, coffee contains antioxidants that have been shown to reduce internal inflammation

Here are 15 evidence-based health benefits of coffee:

1. Boosts focus and concentration levels

The caffeine in coffee is a natural stimulant that speeds up the messages between the body and the brain. In proper doses, it is a part of a healthy diet that can make you feel more energetic. Evidence shows it stimulates the central nervous system and gives you mental alertness (4).

Coffee boosts focus and concentration in the following ways

  1. Blocks adenosine receptors in the brain, which prevent feelings of fatigue (5).
  2. Increases production of dopamine, which enhances focus and motivation (6).
  3. Stimulates the central nervous system to increase alertness and energy (4).
  4. Increases brain activity and entropy, enabling better retention and processing of information (7).
  5. Increases production of serotonin and acetylcholine, which can help stabilize the blood-brain barrier (8).

Overall, caffeine’s effects on focus and concentration are because of its ability to modulate various neurotransmitters and brain regions involved in attention and motivation.

Summary

The caffeine in coffee is a stimulant, which means it increases activity in your brain and nervous system. In small doses, caffeine can make you feel refreshed and focused.

2. May lower the risk of Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is a widespread neurological disease that is a major cause of dementia (9). The signs of this condition include cognitive impairment, short-term memory loss, and forgetting major life events. The study found that coffee can assist regulate brain chemicals and may lower the incidence of Alzheimer’s in persons who have been consuming coffee for a long period (10). Another study found that drinking 3-5 cups of coffee per day reduced the risk of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) by 65% (11). They determined that consuming coffee lowers the likelihood of developing mental health disorders later in life.

Coffee may protect you from Alzheimer’s in the following ways

  • May interact with proteins linked to Alzheimer’s (12)
  • May enhance cognitive function and memory (4)
  • May slow cognitive decline (13)
  • May slow accumulation of amyloid deposits in the brain (13)
  • May decrease the build-up of amyloid and reduces inflammation and cell death in the brain (14)

Caffeine’s stimulating effects on the neurological system are well-known. However, caffeine’s long-term effects on the neurological system are unclear. Thus, we need additional large-scale research to figure out the long-term benefits of coffee on age-related cognitive decline. Please note that these findings are based on observational studies and more research is needed to confirm causality.

Summary

Certain compounds in coffee may reduce inflammation, interact with Alzheimer’s proteins, enhance cognitive function, and slow cognitive decline.

3. May protect against parkinson’s

Parkinson’s disease is another neurodegenerative disorder that affects dopamine-producing neurons in the brain (15). The symptoms typically appear gradually and worsen. People with Parkinson’s may have trouble walking as the condition develops. They may also have mental and behavioral changes, sleep issues, depression, memory problems, talking problems, and weariness. Scientists’ research shows that caffeine can increase dopamine in the brain, and it is associated with a significantly lower risk of PD (16).

Although there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, medications, and other therapies can only ease the symptoms to some point. People who love to drink coffee may have a reduced risk of PD at their late age (16).

Ways coffee may protect against Parkinson’s disease

  1. Caffeic acid, an antioxidant found in coffee, may help protect nerve cells (17).
  2. Caffeine may help increase dopamine release, which could potentially protect against Parkinson’s (16).
  3. Caffeine may help reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease (16).
  4. Consuming caffeine may help reduce the risk of Parkinson’s in people with a particular genetic mutation (18).

Caffeine may protect against Parkinson’s disease by increasing dopamine release and acting as an anti-inflammatory. It may reduce the risk in genetically at-risk individuals, but does not improve symptoms in those already suffering from the condition.

Summary

Parkinson’s disease is becoming more prevalent in aging populations, and coffee consumption has been demonstrated in human and animal studies to significantly delay the commencement of progression in a dose-dependent way.

4. Coffee can boost metabolism

The caffeine in coffee can increase your metabolic rate, which is the pace at which your body converts calories into energy (19). Caffeine may also help with fat burning during exercise. In one 2018 study, they gave participants 3 mg of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight. Caffeine consumption changed their caloric expenditure (20). Participants burned more body fat during exercise than carbohydrates alone.

Coffee can boost metabolism in various ways

  1. Increase alertness and energy (4)
  2. Enhance thermogenesis (heat production in the body) (21)
  3. Increase fat burning and lipolysis (breakdown of fat cells) (20)

However, it’s important to note that:

  • The metabolic boost may vary depending on individual tolerance and sensitivity to caffeine
  • Regular and excessive caffeine consumption can lead to tolerance and reduced effects
  • Adding large amounts of sugar, cream, or syrup to coffee can negate the metabolic benefits
  • Coffee is not a substitute for a healthy diet and regular exercise

However, caffeine can affect every individual differently. Many people can tolerate caffeine well during exercise. Some people may experience caffeine side effects such as headaches, nausea, and motion during exercise.

Summary

Moderate coffee consumption, defined as 3-4 cups per day, can be a useful addition to a weight management plan, especially when combined with a healthy lifestyle.

You may also like: 10 Health Benefits of Regular Exercise

5. Boosts physical performance

The purine alkaloid properties of coffee, such as caffeine, can amplify stamina. Caffeine has been found in studies to improve endurance performance, as well as high intensity exercise and power sports (21). The suggested amount varies with body weight, but it is normally between 200 and 400 mg, given 30-60 minutes before a workout (21).

Coffee can boost physical performance in many ways

  • Improving endurance during long periods of exercise (22)
  • Reducing the perception of pain and fatigue (23)
  • Increasing muscle contraction force and endurance during short-term exercises (24)
  • Allowing you to perform more repetitions with a given weight in the gym, or to increase the total weight lifted (25)

Remember, moderate coffee consumption (3-4 cups per day) is recommended to achieve these benefits. Excessive consumption can lead to negative side effects. Make sure you are not allergic to caffeine, as it may cause serious side effects during exercise.

Summary

Caffeine in coffee stimulates your central nervous system to temporarily improve your performance for 90 minutes (sometimes longer) after consuming.

6. May reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Coffee drinkers may have a low risk of developing diabetes mellitus (26). Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disorder that causes symptoms such as high blood sugar, frequent hunger, incredible thirst, and rapid urination (27). However, coffee cannot reverse diabetes once it is diagnosed. If you have diabetes, decreasing coffee in your diet may be beneficial.

Coffee reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes in the following ways

  • Anti-inflammatory effects: Coffee has anti-inflammatory properties, which can reduce subclinical inflammation, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes (28).
  • Improved insulin sensitivity: Caffeine and other compounds in coffee may increase insulin sensitivity, making it easier for glucose to enter cells (29).
  • Reduced insulin resistance: Coffee has been shown to decrease insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes (30).
  • Lower leptin levels: Coffee consumption is associated with lower levels of leptin, a hormone linked to insulin resistance (31).
  • Higher adiponectin levels: Coffee increases adiponectin, a hormone that improves insulin sensitivity (32).
  • Anti-inflammatory biomarkers: Coffee reduces pro-inflammatory biomarkers, such as C-reactive protein (CRP), linked to type 2 diabetes risk (33).
  • Ground coffee benefits: Ground coffee, especially filtered or espresso, may offer the most significant benefits in reducing type 2 diabetes risk (34).

According to studies, coffee drinkers are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. Several studies have shown that drinking three to four cups of coffee reduces the risk of developing diabetes by 25%.

Summary

Coffee reduces type 2 diabetes risk through various mechanisms. Filtered or espresso ground coffee may reduce type 2 diabetes risk. Coffee does not reverse diabetes. Moderate coffee consumption can benefit people with diabetes in maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

7. May reduce risk of Cardiovascular Disease

The contribution of caffeine to heart disease reduction is conflicting. The caffeine in coffee can increase blood pressure, which is not good for the heart. But for a regular coffee drinker, it is a slight increase in blood pressure (35). However, coffee is a source of antioxidants, and it plays a vital role in balancing cholesterol by decreasing inflammation inside the body (33). A coffee drinker has a low risk of cardiovascular and stroke diseases. Most experts recommend drinking 1 cup of plain, unsweetened coffee (containing 100 mg of caffeine) in the morning, right after you wake up.

Coffee reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease in several ways

  1. Improves blood flow: Coffee helps dilate blood vessels, improving blood flow (36).
  2. Antioxidant properties: Chlorogenic acid and other polyphenols in coffee protect against oxidative stress and inflammation, which contribute to cardiovascular disease (37).
  3. Improves lipid profiles: Moderate plain coffee consumption may increase HDL (good) cholesterol (38).
  4. Reduces blood pressure: Regular coffee consumption may lower blood pressure in people with mild hypertension (39).
  5. Prevents platelet aggregation: Caffeine and polyphenols in coffee prevent platelets from clotting, reducing the risk of heart attacks and strokes (40).

Remember, moderation is key! Excessive coffee consumption can have negative effects. Consult your healthcare provider if you have concerns.

Summary

Coffee may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by improving blood flow, providing antioxidant properties, enhancing lipid profiles, reducing blood pressure in mild hypertension patients, and preventing platelet aggregation. While coffee may increase blood pressure, it is a slight increase for regular coffee drinkers. It is recommended to consume 1 cup of plain, unsweetened coffee in the morning, as it can help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

8. May protect against liver damage

Coffee can lower the risk of fibrotic illness in several chronic liver conditions, which may lower the replication of the hepatitis C virus (41). The liver plays a fundamental role inside the body. It regulates the balance of hormones, such as cortisone, thyroid, and other adrenal hormones. Common chronic liver diseases, such as fatty liver and hepatitis, create hormonal imbalances. One study shows that regular coffee consumption may protect against liver cirrhosis (42).

Coffee protects against liver damage in several ways

  1. Antioxidants: Coffee contains antioxidants like polyphenols, hydrocinnamic acids, and melanoidins, which neutralize harmful free radicals and reduce oxidative stress in the liver (43).
  2. Chlorogenic acid: Chlorogenic acid, a polyphenol in coffee, inhibits the formation of fibrosis and cirrhosis by reducing inflammation and collagen deposition (44).
  3. Caffeine and liver inflammation: Caffeine reduces liver inflammation by inhibiting the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (45).
  4. Coffee and liver fibrosis: Coffee’s polyphenols and caffeine reduce liver fibrosis by inhibiting the activation of hepatic stellate cells (46).
  5. Coffee and liver cancer: Caffeine and polyphenols in coffee may inhibit the growth of liver cancer cells and induce apoptosis (cell death) (47).

Remember, while coffee may have liver-protective effects, a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet and regular exercise, is essential for overall liver health. Excessive coffee consumption can have negative effects, so moderation is key.

Summary

Coffee can lower the risk of fibrotic illness in chronic liver conditions, potentially reducing the replication of the hepatitis C virus. The liver regulates hormones, and regular coffee consumption may protect against liver cirrhosis. Coffee contains antioxidants like polyphenols, which neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. However, a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet and regular exercise, is essential for overall liver health.

9. Coffee may lower the risk of depression

Depression is a chemical imbalance in the human brain (48). Caffeine blocks these brain receptors from binding with a chemical (adenosine), which promotes the feeling of tiredness and depression (49). The antioxidants in caffeine, such as theophylline and theobromine, belong to a family of organic compounds called xanthines. These antioxidants can cross the brain-blood barrier and decrease oxidative stress (50).

Coffee may lower depression in several ways

  1. Neurotransmitters: Caffeine increases the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which help regulate mood, motivation, and pleasure (51).
  2. Antidepressant-like effects: Caffeine and other compounds in coffee may have antidepressant-like effects, such as improving mood and reducing symptoms of depression (52).
  3. Antioxidant effects: Coffee’s antioxidants may help protect against oxidative stress, which can contribute to depression (53).
  4. Social connections: Drinking coffee is often a social activity, which can help people connect with others and reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation (54).
  5. Mood booster: Caffeine can quickly improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression, making it a useful adjunct to traditional treatments (55).
  6. Stress reduction: Coffee’s compounds may help reduce stress and anxiety, which can contribute to depression (56).

Remember, while coffee may have antidepressant effects, it should not replace professional medical treatment or therapy. If you’re experiencing depression, consult a mental health professional for guidance.

Summary

Caffeine in coffee can help lower depression by increasing neurotransmitter production, providing antidepressant-like effects, protecting against oxidative stress, and promoting social connections. Its antioxidants, like theophylline and theobromine, can cross the brain-blood barrier and reduce oxidative stress. Additionally, coffee’s compounds may help reduce stress and anxiety, which can contribute to depression.

10. May help you live longer

There are many other factors that contribute to longevity, such as healthy habits and an active lifestyle. However, people who drink coffee are less likely to get sick and have a lower rate of health problems. Drinking two to three cups of coffee a day may keep you healthy and energetic. The psychoactive and antioxidant effects of caffeine are believed to decrease oxidative stress. Oxidative stress (OS) is the major cause of chronic diseases and the aging process (57)

Coffee can help you live longer in the following ways

  1. Reducing inflammation: Chlorogenic acid and other polyphenols in coffee may reduce inflammation, a key factor in aging and age-related diseases (28).
  2. Antioxidant properties: Coffee’s high antioxidant content helps protect cells from damage caused by free radicals, promoting overall health and longevity (2).
  3. Cardiovascular health: Moderate coffee consumption may lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular conditions, which are leading causes of death (37).
  4. Neuroprotection: Caffeine and other compounds in coffee may have neuroprotective effects, potentially reducing the risk of age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s(10, 16).
  5. Improved insulin sensitivity: Coffee’s polyphenols may improve insulin sensitivity, reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and related complications (29).
  6. Liver health: Coffee has been shown to improve liver health, which can reduce the risk of liver disease and related mortality (42).
  7. Social connections: Drinking coffee is often a social activity, which can help maintain social connections and reduce the risk of isolation and loneliness, both of which are linked to mortality (54).

Remember, individual results may vary, and excessive coffee consumption can have negative effects. Consult your healthcare provider if you have concerns.

Summary

Coffee is a rich source of antioxidants and psychoactive compounds that can help prolong life. Its high antioxidant content protects cells from free radical damage, promoting overall health and longevity. Coffee also reduces inflammation, a key factor in aging, and has cardioprotective effects, potentially reducing the risk of age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases. However, excessive coffee consumption can have negative effects, so consult a healthcare provider for personalized advice.

Side Effects of Coffee

When consumed in moderation—3 cups per day or less—coffee is safe for most healthy adults. Too much coffee can have side effects, such as causing insomnia, nervousness, stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, and an increase in heart rate. Pregnant or breast-feeding women should talk to their doctor before consuming caffeinated beverages. People who are on certain medications should also avoid coffee as it may conlect with medicines (55).

Conclusion

Coffee has been extensively researched for its many health benefits. Drinking coffee can boost energy levels, improve athletic performance. Coffee contains caffeine, which stimulates the brain and nervous system, reducing inflammation and enhancing cognitive function. It also reduces type 2 diabetes risk through various mechanisms. Some people, such as pregnant or breastfeeding women, children and adolescents, and people with certain health conditions, may need to limit their intake. Drinking coffee in moderation has been linked to several health benefits and is safe for most adults. However, drinking too much coffee can have negative effects on your health and well-being.

Naeem Durrani BSc
I am a retired pharmacist, nutritionist, and food system expert. My interests include medical research and the scientific evidence around effective wellness practices that empower people to transform their lives.

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