There are many of us that can’t do without coffee. It’s the kick-start to the day that we need and the pick-me-up after lunch that helps us get through the afternoon. But it appears that there’s more to coffee than its stimulant qualities: an increasing amount of evidence suggests that it is very beneficial to our health. Read on to find out these amazing health benefits of coffee…

NOTE: all studies listed below are epidemiological, which means they can only show an association of the health benefits of coffee. They cannot be relied on for factual proof.

Effect of coffee and caffeine on Alzheimer’s Disease

A couple of studies here that should provide food – or should that be drink? – for thought. The first, from the USF/Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute from Florida in 2011, suggested that increased coffee intake during aging reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s in mice. The study also found that the long term intake of caffeine helped protect mice with the condition against cognitive impairment. Of course, this particular research was only carried out on rodents, not humans, so we shouldn’t take it for granted, but a small study from 2012 published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease suggests that high levels of caffeine in the blood may well be linked to halting progression of dementia.

Does coffee fight cancer?

Several large studies have suggested that one of the major health benefits of coffee is its cancer-fighting properties:

Coffee and Colorectal Cancer

Research on nearly 100,000 Japanese men and women by the JPHC Study Group in 2007 suggested that coffee consumption lowered colon cancer risk amongst a significant number of the female participants. Interestingly, Green Tea – loudly praised for its health benefits over coffee – was also tested but failed to register any significant association with reducing the risk of colon cancer.

Coffee and Kidney Cancer

Analysis of 13 different studies was pooled by Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston 2007. The pooled analysis used over 500,000 women and nearly 250,000 men and found that coffee consumption may be associated with decreased risk of renal cancer.

Coffee and Liver Cancer

A study from Japan by the National Cancer Center in 2004, found that those who consumed coffee daily had around half the risk of a type of liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma) than people who never consumed coffee at all. Coffee was also found to have associations with smaller levels of liver fibrosis, lower rates of progression of hepatitis-C and lower levels of fat in your liver, whilst in another group of studies from Sweden carried out by Susanna C Larsson and Alicja Wolk, found that drinking two more cups of coffee per day associated with a 43% reduced risk of liver cancer.

Coffee and Prostate Cancer

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute published research by the Harvard School of Public Health in 2011 with some strong associations between drinking coffee and prostate cancer. Almost 50,000 men were studied from 1986 to 2006 and it was found that those drinking six cups of coffee every day had a significantly lower risk of lethal prostate cancer and those drinking three cups every day had a 30 percent lower risk.

Effect of coffee on gastrointestinal flora

Deep inside your gut there are many different types of bacteria and one of those thought to have highly beneficial health effects is Bifidobacterium. A study by the International Journal of Food Microbiology published in 2009 showed coffee produced an increase in the metabolic activity and/or numbers of Bifidobacterium. However, this was a relatively small study (of sixteen volunteers).

Effect of coffee on heart rhythm problems

Despite coffee being known for its heart-racing properties when consumed to excess, a study by the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research in Oakland, California, showed that moderate coffee drinking can actually reduce your risk of heart rhythm problems. A fine example that we should take everything in moderation!

Effect of coffee on Parkinson’s Disease

Major research carried out over thirty years and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that coffee may significantly cut your risk of Parkinson’s disease. Data from the study suggests that the active ingredient causing the association is caffeine.

Effect of coffee on pulmonary function

A study published in 2010 by the University of Texas Health Science Center suggested a possible beneficial effect of coffee on pulmonary function. However, the positive association was only present in non smokers.

Effect of coffee on stroke prevention

In 2011, the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, published a study which found that women who drank two or more cups of coffee every day were around 25 per cent less likely to be at risk from a stroke than women who drank less. More good news for women comes from Spanish research in 2009: women who drank four or more cups of coffee per day reduced their stroke risk by 20 percent according to the study by the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid.

Effect of coffee on type 2 diabetes

A 10-year Japanese study published in the British Journal of Nutrition revealed that coffee consumption offered a positive effect against type 2 diabetes in Japanese men and women.

It is clear that there are many health benefits of coffee, but as we mentioned above, it is important to moderate the amount you drink. 10 or 11 cups of high grade rocket fuel can make you feel high as a kite, but there is a chance you could be doing yourself damage. Also, to clarify once again, the studies above are ‘epidemiological’ in nature, which means there is no actual proof they do what is claimed, but there is an association.