The right amount you need to reap its health benefits
There’s one indulgence that has quite a controversial reputation in the health world.
And it’s an addiction that many people take delight in having. That daily “buzz” is something they look forward to.
But the truth is, you shouldn’t feel guilty about this “forbidden drink.” Because as more and more studies show, it might not be a vice after all.
In fact, drinking the right amount may be a critical key to fighting off chronic disease, slamming the brakes on aging, and ultimately extending your life.
Here’s everything you need to know…
A cardiometabolic powerhouse
As part of a recent study, Swedish researchers set out to investigate the links between coffee intake—our “forbidden drink”—and type 2 diabetes risk.
But rather than relying on self-reports, scientists measured specific molecules in subjects’ blood—a technique called metabolomics—to assess the consumption of different types of coffee.
These biomarkers showed that subjects who daily drank two to three cups of filtered coffee had a 60 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetes than those who drank less than one cup daily.1 (Another way to brew coffee is to boil it—like when you make espresso.)
Researchers speculate that brewing with a filter may capture heart-harming substances. This then leaves only the health-boosting phenolic compounds behind—the most noteworthy of which is chlorogenic acid.
Chlorogenic acid is a compound that can improve insulin sensitivity, reduce blood sugar absorption, regulate endothelial function, and more. And coffee is the single biggest dietary source of it—which likely explains coffee’s anti-diabetes benefits.
Of course, coffee features a stellar profile of other antioxidant polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals (like magnesium and chromium)—all of which contain their own impressive health benefits…
Protect your liver
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one of the fastest growing epidemics in the country, right alongside obesity and diabetes.
But a recent review of data from nearly half a million participants of the U.K. Biobank shows that coffee offers some powerful protection.
Researchers followed subjects for over a decade. Compared to non-drinkers, coffee drinkers had a:
- 21 percent lower risk of chronic liver disease.2
- 19 percent lower risk of fatty liver disease.
- 21 percent lower risk of liver cancer.
- 45 percent lower risk of dying from chronic liver disease.
Not to mention, when they excluded instant coffee drinkers, the risk reduction was even greater: There was a 35 percent lower risk of chronic liver disease or fatty liver. Risk of liver cancer reduced by 34 percent. And risk of dying from liver disease dropped by a whopping 61 percent.
All from ground, whole bean coffee!
And if you think that’s impressive, just wait until you hear what else your daily coffee break can do…
Drastically cut stroke and dementia risk
It’s common knowledge that a cup of coffee can help you to wake up and get focused in the morning. But research shows that the benefits to your brain are much more powerful and long-lasting.
As part of a recent study, Chinese researchers reviewed data from more than 365,000 older participants from the U.K. Biobank. These subjects joined the study between 2006 and 2010 and were followed for ten years or more. Each participant reported their coffee and tea intake from the outset of the study.
Over the follow-up period, over 5,000 developed dementia and just over 10,000 suffered at least one stroke. But get this…
The subjects who drank either two to three cups of coffee, three to five cups of tea, or four to six cups of a combination of coffee and tea were the least likely to develop dementia or suffer a stroke.3
In fact, two to three daily cups of either coffee or tea slashed stroke risk by nearly a third (32 percent). This same intake of either coffee or tea lowered risk of dementia by 28 percent, compared to non-drinkers.
Not only that, but drinking coffee—either alone or in combination with tea—was also linked to a lower risk of developing dementia after a stroke. And believe it or not, the news only gets better…
Live longer with every cup
There’s a lot of research on coffee’s potential to fight cancer (and not just in your liver).
Well over two dozen published studies show benefits against everything from endometrial, breast, and prostate cancer to melanoma and colon cancer.4
Even better, research also shows that daily coffee consumption could slash your all-cause mortality rate.5
One 2018 report used data from nearly half a million subjects in the U.K. Biobank study. Researchers observed the association between coffee drinking and mortality (death) rate over a seven-year span.
Overall, they identified a dose-dependent link between total coffee consumption and death from cancer, heart disease, or any cause.
In other words, the more coffee the subjects drank, the longer they lived. More specifically, compared to non-coffee drinkers:
- One cup per day lowered overall death risk by eight percent.
- Two to five cups per day lowered that risk by 12 percent.
- Six to seven cups per day lowered it by 16 percent.
- Eight or more cups per day lowered the risk by 14 percent.
Now, that’s a lot of coffee. And despite these promising statistics on longevity, I actually don’t recommend more than a few cups per day. Here’s why…
How much is too much?
The picture here isn’t all rosy: For one thing, if you’re not used to drinking it, caffeinated coffee can make you jittery and anxious. (That’s one reason I don’t drink it. Plus, I have enough energy as it is!)
It can also affect your sleep—and no amount of coffee can save you from the snowballing effects of regular sleep loss (see the sidebar).
Plus, a recent study found as much as a 37 percent higher risk of stroke among subjects who drank the most coffee. (These same trends were not found among tea drinkers.)
In addition, the more coffee subjects drank, the less brain volume they had. In fact, odds of dementia were highest among those who consumed the most coffee—more than six cups a day—compared to those who only drank one to two cups daily.6
Of course, these odds were also higher in non-drinkers—suggesting there really is a “sweet spot” when it comes to coffee’s health benefits.
Different studies deliver different ranges. But a recent umbrella review of more than 200 studies shows that the largest risk reductions—in death from heart disease or any cause—came from drinking three cups of coffee per day.7
Since most of the studies we’ve discussed found significant benefits from two to three cups of coffee daily, here’s what I recommend:
Go ahead and enjoy one to three cups of coffee per day.
Just bear in mind that when I talk about the health benefits of coffee, I’m not talking about some 20-word, 20,000-calorie confection you get at a coffee shop.
So, keep your “forbidden drink” simple. Hold the milk and sugar. Enjoy plain black coffee instead. (Adding a little natural sweetener like stevia is fine.)
Coffee can’t make up for a poor night’s sleep
Over half of all Americans use caffeine to make up for a poor night’s sleep. Not only is this a bad idea, it just doesn’t work.
Simply put, caffeine might help you stay awake and perform simple tasks. But it’s not going to help you to complete more challenging cognitive tasks, like driving a car, or in my case, performing a medical exam.8 (You know, areas where you don’t have room for error!)
It’s also important to remember that too much caffeine disrupts sleep patterns.
So, if you’re regularly drinking more than three cups of coffee throughout the day? Well, it can interfere with chemicals that regulate your body’s sleep-wake cycle. This will rob you of quality shut-eye, leading to a vicious cycle of sleepiness the next day.
- Shi L, et al. Plasma metabolite biomarkers of boiled and filtered coffee intake and their association with type 2 diabetes risk. Journal of Internal Medicine, 2019; DOI: 10.1111/joim.13009
- Kennedy OJ, et al. All coffee types decrease the risk of adverse clinical outcomes in chronic liver disease: a UK Biobank study. BMC Public Health 21, 970 (2021).
- Zhang Y, et al. Consumption of coffee and tea and risk of developing stroke, dementia, and poststroke dementia: A cohort study in the UK Biobank. PLOS Medicine, 2021; 18 (11): e1003830 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1003830
- Long-Gang Z, et al. Coffee drinking and cancer risk: an umbrella review of meta-analyses of observational studies. BMC Cancer. 2020 Feb 5;20(1):101.
- Loftfield E, et al. Association of Coffee Drinking With Mortality by Genetic Variation in Caffeine Metabolism: Findings From the UK Biobank. JAMA Intern Med. 2018 Aug 1;178(8):1086-1097.
- Pham K, et al. High coffee consumption, brain volume and risk of dementia and stroke. Nutr Neurosci. 2021 Jun 24;1-12.
- Poole R, et al. Coffee consumption and health: umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes. BMJ, 2017; j5024 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.j5024
- Stepan ME, et al. Caffeine selectively mitigates cognitive deficits caused by sleep deprivation. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 2021; DOI: 10.1037/xlm0001023