10 Best Health Reasons to Drink Coffee

Coffee has become ingrained into our culture and society. It is widely consumed for its psychoactive effects to keep us awake and alert. It turns out coffee also has many other health benefits including reducing your mortality risk!

Van Dam et al published a review article in the New England Journal of Medicine in 7/2020 titled “Coffee, Caffeine, and Health” touting the health benefits of coffee and caffeine.


Here are some highlights from that article:


1. Nutrients in coffee:

  • “Coffee contains hundreds of other biologically active phytochemicals, including polyphenols such as chlorogenic acid and lignans, the alkaloid trigonelline, melanoidins formed during roasting, and modest amounts of magnesium, potassium, and vitamin B3 (niacin). These coffee compounds may reduce oxidative stress, improve the gut microbiome, and modulate glucose and fat metabolism.”


2. Caffeine metabolism:

  • “Caffeine absorption is nearly complete within 45 minutes after ingestion, with caffeine blood levels peaking after 15 minutes to 2 hours.”

  • “The half-life of caffeine in adults is typically 2.5 to 4.5 hours but is subject to large variation from one person to another.”

  • “Smoking greatly accelerates caffeine metabolism, reducing the half-life by up to 50%, whereas oral contraceptive use doubles the half-life of caffeine. Pregnancy greatly reduces caffeine metabolism, especially in the third trimester, when the half-life of caffeine can be up to 15 hours.”


3. Effects of caffeine:

  • “The molecular structure of caffeine is similar to that of adenosine, which allows caffeine to bind to adenosine receptors, block adenosine, and inhibit its effects.”

  • “Accumulation of adenosine in the brain inhibits arousal and increases drowsiness. In moderate doses (40 to 300 mg), caffeine can antagonize the effects of adenosine and reduce fatigue, increase alertness, and reduce reaction time.”

  • “Caffeine intake can also improve vigilance during tasks of long duration that provide limited stimulation, such as working on an assembly line, long-distance driving, and flying aircraft.”

  • “Caffeine can contribute to pain relief when added to commonly used analgesic agents. Specifically, a review of 19 studies showed that 100 to 130 mg of caffeine added to an analgesic modestly increased the proportion of patients with successful pain relief.”


4. Caffeine side effects:

  • “As expected from its effects on fatigue, caffeine consumption later in the day can increase sleep latency and reduce the quality of sleep. In addition, caffeine can induce anxiety, particularly at high doses (>200 mg per occasion or >400 mg per day) and in sensitive persons, including those with anxiety or bipolar disorders.”

  • “Quitting caffeine intake after habitual consumption can lead to withdrawal symptoms, including headaches, fatigue, decreased alertness, and depressed mood, as well as influenza-like symptoms in some cases. These symptoms typically peak 1 to 2 days after cessation of caffeine intake, with a total duration of 2 to 9 days, and can be reduced by gradually decreasing the caffeine dose.”


5. Caffeine effects on cholesterol:

  • “The concentration of the cholesterol-raising compound cafestol is high in unfiltered coffee such as French press, Turkish, or Scandinavian boiled coffee; intermediate in espresso and coffee made in a Moka pot; and negligible in drip-filtered, instant, and percolator coffee. In randomized trials, high consumption of unfiltered coffee (median, 6 cups per day) increased low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels by 17.8 mg per deciliter (0.46 mmol per liter), as compared with filtered coffee, predicting an estimated 11% higher risk of major cardiovascular events. In contrast, filtered coffee did not increase serum cholesterol levels. Thus, limiting consumption of unfiltered coffee and moderate consumption of espresso-based coffee may help control serum cholesterol levels.”


6. Coffee and cancer:

  • “Coffee consumption is associated with a slightly reduced risk of melanoma, nonmelanoma skin cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer. Stronger inverse associations have been observed between coffee consumption and the risk of endometrial cancer and hepatocellular carcinoma.”


7. Coffee and liver and gallbladder:

  • “Coffee has also consistently been associated with other aspects of liver health, including lower levels of enzymes reflecting liver damage and a lower risk of liver fibrosis and cirrhosis.”

  • “Coffee consumption has been associated with a reduced risk of gallstones and of gallbladder cancer, with a stronger association for caffeinated coffee than for decaffeinated coffee, suggesting that caffeine may play a protective role.”


8. Caffeine and Parkinson's disease:

  • “Prospective cohort studies in the United States, Europe, and Asia have shown a strong inverse association between caffeine intake and the risk of Parkinson’s disease.”


9. Coffee and mental health:

  • “Coffee and caffeine consumption have also been associated with reduced risks of depression and suicide in several cohorts in the United States and Europe, although these findings may not hold in persons who have very high intakes (≥8 cups per day).”


10. Caffeine and mortality:

  • “Consumption of 2 to 5 standard cups of coffee per day has been associated with reduced mortality in cohort studies across the world and in persons of European, African-American, and Asian ancestry.”


Enjoy your next cup of coffee knowing that it may be helping you live a healthy lifestyle!


© 2020 by Jeffrey Peng MD