There’s no part of the morning routine as sacred as that first sip of freshly poured coffee. In fact, most fans of the dark brew know not to schedule any meetings until well after they’ve downed that crucial first cup of joe. And that’s a wise decision: Studies keep pouring in that suggest our beloved bean juice isn’t just good for a refreshing morning jolt — it’s also good for our health.
Most recently, German researchers looked at caffeine’s effect on mice and human tissue and found that caffeine helped “push” certain beneficial proteins into the mitochondria of heart cells, which could improve heart function and even have a protective effect on hearts at risk of injury or disease. Simply put, drinking four cups of strong coffee each day may help older hearts function more like younger, healthier ones, according to the June 2018 study published in PLOS Biology.
"When you drink four to five cups of espresso, that seems to improve the function of the powerhouses of our cells, and therefore seems to be protective,” study co-author Joachim Altschmied, PhD, told Business Insider, though he added that coffee "will not replace other things. Keep on doing your sports, eat healthy, and add coffee to your diet."
You don’t have to tell us twice — we’ve already downed another cup of joe since the start of this article! But the benefits of coffee don’t stop at the heart; in fact, the list of health boosts you might gain from taking a daily java break is a looong one. So put on another pot and scroll on to learn more about the many ways in which coffee may be good for you!
1. Drinking coffee is linked to a longer, healthier life.
The fountain of youth might just be a hop, skip, and a jump to your nearest coffeehouse. Several studies analyzing all-cause mortality rates (aka all the deaths that occur in a specific group, regardless of the cause) shed light on how a latte could help extend your lifespan.
In an August 2017 study published in the European Heart Journal, researchers reviewed the results of a decades-long dietary survey from Spain called the SUN Project, which featured nearly 20,000 participants. The team found that people who drank more than four cups of coffee each day had a 64 percent lower all-cause mortality rate than those who never or almost never drank coffee. So when we say coffee gives us life, you know we’re not kidding around.
But there’s more good news: A September 2017 report presented at a meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) analyzed the food diaries of more than 3,000 people with diabetes who had recorded their coffee, tea, and soda consumption over the course of 11 years. After comparing the diaries with the participants’ health histories, the researchers found that women with diabetes who drank 100 mg of caffeine (aka the approximate amount of caffeine in one cup of coffee) were 51 percent less likely to die from any disease compared to their caffeine-free counterparts. What’s more, those who upped their caffeine intake from 100 mg to 200 mg a day saw that figure jump to 57 percent.
And if all those numbers weren’t enough to convince you, a November 2015 study published in Circulation found that people who drank three to five cups of coffee a day (either regular or decaf) were less likely to die prematurely from diseases such as Parkinson's, while an August 2017 paper published in Annals of Internal Medicine suggested that women who drank three or more cups of coffee daily were less likely to die from heart disease, liver disease, or stroke. Looks like our favorite barista just earned a bigger tip!
2. Regular coffee drinkers have a lower risk of depression.
You know the feeling of euphoria you get after taking a few sips from your special mug? That’s all thanks to mood-boosting chemicals found in the blessed bean, studies show. In fact, coffee doesn’t just put you in a good mood, it actively prevents you from sinking into a bad one. A September 2011 report in JAMA Internal Medicine found the risk of depression to be 20 percent lower among women who drank four or more cups of caffeinated coffee than those who drank little or none. Meanwhile, those who drank decaf, tea, soft drinks, chocolate, and other beverages containing less or no caffeine did not appear to be protected against depression. The long-term study, which involved 50,000 women whose health habits were tracked over a decade, suggested that coffee’s well-known effects on the central nervous system could have a hand in these results.
3. Coffee breaks might help halt the onset of dementia.
Sure, an extra espresso shot does wonders for lifting your morning fog, but it can also have positive long-term effects on your noggin. Researchers from the University of South Florida and the University of Miami looked at the possible links between caffeine intake and a reduced risk of dementia, publishing their findings in the June 2012 issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. The study found that coffee drinkers with higher blood caffeine levels avoided the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in the two-to-four years of study follow-up. Plus, the research showed that this protection seemed to occur even in older people with mild cognitive impairment, or earlier signs of the disease.
“Moderate daily consumption of caffeinated coffee appears to be the best dietary option for long-term protection against Alzheimer’s memory loss,” said study co-author Dr. Gary Arendash in a press release. “Coffee is inexpensive, readily available, easily gets into the brain, and has few side effects for most of us. Moreover, our studies show that caffeine and coffee appear to directly attack the Alzheimer’s disease process.”
4. Coffee’s been linked to lower risk for type 2 diabetes in women.
As we age, it’s natural to take a second look at our diets to weed out any foods that might cause substantial health problems down the line. Luckily, scientists agree that our beloved java isn’t one of them. In an October 2015 study published in the Journal of Natural Products, researchers in Denmark found that two ingredients in both decaf and caffeinated coffee — cafestol and caffeic acid — helped regulate blood sugar and insulin production. This is good news for women with a family history of type 2 diabetes, as the disease is characterized by unregulated blood sugar levels. So if you want to give your coffee mug a little hug right now, we won’t judge.
5. Coffee drinkers suffer less from neck, shoulder, and back pain.
Heads (and spines!) up, office workers: In a January 2012 article published in BMC Research Notes, a team from Norway shared that coffee drinkers experienced less intense pain in their neck and shoulders while completing office-related tasks compared to participants who abstained from coffee. According to their research, back pain was even less common for java fans who drank their brew an hour and a half before starting work. Though the exact reason this happens remains unknown, the researchers theorized that the same process that makes caffeine jolt us awake could also desensitize the nerves to pain.
6. Coffee is linked to a lower risk of developing skin cancer.
From applying sunscreen whenever we’re outdoors to eating foods high in vitamin D, we do everything we can to keep our skin happy, healthy, and glowing. Turns out there’s research suggesting that daily coffee consumption might also help maintain the body’s largest organ. In a July 2012 paper published in Cancer Research, scientists analyzed data from the Nurses’ Health Study (one of the largest US investigations into the risk factors of chronic diseases) and found an inverse association between caffeine intake and basal cell carcinoma (BCC), the most common type of skin cancer. Essentially, the more caffeine a person drank — whether from coffee, tea, or hot chocolate — the lower their BCC risk.
7. Drinking coffee daily is linked to better heart health.
Take heart, coffee drinkers: Your pick-me-up of choice does wonders for the old ticker. In November 2017, researchers at the University of Colorado analyzed results from the Framingham Heart Study, which tracked the eating patterns and cardiovascular health of more than 15,000 people since the 1940s. Their analysis showed that for every cup of coffee a person consumed, their risk of heart failure, stroke, and coronary heart disease decreased by 8, 7, and 5 percent, respectively.
On top of that, experts at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Australia reported that caffeine intake blocks the effects of adenosine, the cranky little chemical that increases patients’ risk of developing an abnormal heartbeat, known as atrial fibrillation or afib. Their study of 228,465 people found that the risk of afib decreased by 6 percent in regular coffee drinkers. A similar study of 115,993 people showed a 13 percent risk reduction.
Besides regulating our heartbeat, coffee has also been shown to help prevent potentially fatal heart conditions. In a 2012 study published in the journal Stroke, researchers studied 82,000 Japanese citizens and found that just one cup of coffee cut their risk of stroke by 20 percent.
Now that you know your favorite mood booster does more than get you through the daily grind, go ahead and show your appreciation — by taking another long sip. Don't you feel healthier already?
Could your coffee use a health makeover? Learn how to brew a better cup of joe in the video below.