A month really passes without something you like being declared unhealthy or carcinogenic. So I was gob-smacked when the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer did the unexpected and announced coffee doesn’t cause bladder cancer and removed it from its long list of potential carcinogens.
The fine print said all scathing hot drinks may cause cancer, but that seems irrelevant now that we’ve finally found an addiction that smells and tastes great and doesn’t slowly kill you. And before you ask, tobacco causes too many cancers to be ever struck off the kill list.
The health benefits of coffee far outweigh the risks, with close to 20,000 studies done over the past two decades concluding coffee lowers the risk of several diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, liver cirrhosis and Parkinson’s. Here are the leading ways in which this brew protects and restores.
Drinking an additional two cups of coffee a day lowers liver damage (cirrhosis) caused by having too much fatty food and alcohol, showed an analysis of nine studies of more than 430,000 people. Drinking more coffee lowered cirrhosis risk by 44%, reported the journal Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics. Compared to having no coffee, one cup a day lowered cirrhosis risk by 22%. With two cups, the risk dropped by 43%, while it lowered 57% for three cups and 65% for four cups.
Drinking coffee helps control blood sugar levels and lower risk of diabetes, found a study funded by the Indian Council of Medical Research. The study, done in Karnataka, found that compared to regular coffee-drinkers, people who drank no coffee had greater impaired glucose metabolism and regulation. Men and women who drank the most coffee had the least risk of developing diabetes, the study found.
The study confirmed international data that has shown drinking one to three cups of caffeinated coffee each day lowers diabetes risk compared to having no coffee at all. Having six cups or more a day halved men’s diabetes risk and lowered women’s by almost a third, compared to people who didn’t have coffee, reported the study in The Annals of Internal Medicine.
Drinking three to five 200 ml cups of coffee lower the odds of dying early from a range of causes, reported a study in the journal Circulation. Using data collected from three studies involving 93,000 women and 45,000 men, Harvard researchers found drinking coffee lowered risks of death from diabetes, heart disease, neurological diseases and suicide. Even decaf coffee offered some protection.
The caffeine in coffee kick-starts the brain at several levels. It is rapidly absorbed in the gut, with peak blood concentration reaching within 45 minutes, from where it is absorbed in the brain to speed up rapid information processing. A couple of cups are enough to improve alertness, concentration and performance at work and while doing routine tasks, such as driving. People who have more than three to four cups a day fewer errors at work and are involved in fewer accidents.
Drinking caffeinated coffee regularly lowers risk of Parkinson’s disease, reported the Journal of American Medical Association , with the benefits coming from caffeine and not other nutrients in the coffee bean, such as niacin.
Watch: What you didn’t know about coffee
How much is too much
Though the coffee bean has its share of nutrients, the beneficial effects come largely from its high caffeine content. A 250-ml cup of coffee contains about 85 mg of caffeine, about three times more than the same serving of tea or cola.
But like all good things, caffeine has its downside. It’s a temporary stimulant that raises the heart rate and blood pressure and in excess, may cause nervousness, jitters and rapid heartbeat. Coffee with meals lowers calcium and iron absorption in the gut, and causes dehydration by making the body lose water.
So, how much caffeine is safe? An average person’s daily caffeine intake should not exceed 300 mg – that’s about three to four cups of coffee a day. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children, pregnant and nursing women should limit caffeine to 100 mg.
Fizzy drinks and energy drinks apart, caffeine is found in tea, chocolate, medicines, including painkillers, weight-loss drugs, and cold medicines, which must be factored in while calculating the daily intake.
So now you can have your brew without guilt as long as you go easy on the caramel, cream and sugar that will lead to obesity that may outweigh the health benefits of caffeine.