Top 5 health benefits of coffee
Is coffee actually healthy, can the caffeine boost energy and performance, and how much is too much? Registered nutritionist Nicola Shubrook takes a look at the science behind the health claims.
What is coffee?
Coffee is a brewed drink prepared using roasted coffee beans which are taken from the berries of the coffea plant. There are two main species of coffee beans which are the arabica and robusta, and depending on where they are grown, both the country and the altitude determines the flavour of the coffee.
Nutritional benefits of coffee
A 100ml portion of coffee, with milk, contains:
- 0.5g protein
- 0.4g fat
- 0.5g carbohydrates
Coffee is rich in polyphenols, plant compounds which may have a protective antioxidant effect. Organic fresh (beans or ground) coffee is best having a higher antioxidant content, with light or medium roast blends preferable to dark.
What are the top 5 health benefits of coffee?
1. May help you live longer
Research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that having three cups of coffee per day may lengthen lifespan by lowering the risk of death from several conditions including heart disease. However, the mechanism and effect of coffee’s influence on ageing is not yet fully understood and more studies are needed.
2. May increase energy and performance
Coffee may help some people maintain alertness and energy levels thanks to its caffeine content. When coffee is consumed, it is absorbed into the bloodstream and travels to the brain where it ‘fires up’ certain neurons which may improve memory, mood, energy and cognitive function, if consumed in moderation. Other reports suggest drinking coffee before exercise may reduce rates of exertion and potentially improve athletic performance.
3. May boost metabolism
Research findings suggest that caffeine improves weight management through boosting metabolic rate and burning fat. Researchers have speculated, therefore, that caffeine may show promise in the treatment of obesity, although more research is needed.
4. May support brain function
There have been numerous studies examining a link between drinking coffee and protection against neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s, including papers published in 2010, 2011 and 2015. The findings to date have been inconsistent and larger studies with longer follow-up periods are required.
5. May help with blood sugar balance
There is some evidence to suggest that coffee, at moderate levels, may lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, although more research is needed. Consequently, there is still some debate over the suitability of coffee for those with type 2 diabetes.
Is coffee safe for everyone?
Caffeine is a stimulant and everyone reacts differently to it. Drinking high amounts, for example in excess of six cups, may cause agitation and anxiety in some people. People who are sensitive to caffeine or who drink a lot of caffeinated drinks may report dizziness, tremors and an inability to sleep well.
Those who drink a lot of coffee every day, may need to drink more of it to achieve the same effect and may experience withdrawal symptoms if they suddenly stop. The factors which influence how well you process caffeine includes your genes, age, gender, whether you are overweight or a smoker and whether you have liver disease. Other considerations include:
- Caffeine acts as a diuretic which may cause the body to produce urine more quickly
- In the UK, the NHS advise pregnant women to limit their caffeine intake to 200mg per day – equivalent to two mugs of instant coffee.
- Due to their lower body weight and size, children may experience greater effects from caffeinated drinks
- Certain medications may interact with caffeine, one example being Fosamax, when consumed with a caffeinated drink this medication may be less effective.
If you are concerned about your caffeine intake or you take medication which may interact with caffeine you should refer to your GP for guidance.
This article was reviewed on 9 February 2021 by Kerry Torrens.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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