The Good News About Coffee

Some science-based health news to go with your morning cup

Robert Von Nordheim–The average person in the US drank 416 cups of coffee during 2009 -- despite frequent warnings from doctors and nutritionists over its caffeine content. Recent studies have shown, however, that coffee is much better for your health than was once thought. When consumed in moderation (and without extra cream and sugar), coffee makes a fine addition to any daily routine–in fact, it might even pack some surprising health perks. Here are a few recent developments.

Coffee Facts
It Can Lower your Risk for Type-2 Diabetes
The positive link between coffee and a decreased risk of type-2 diabetes is quite strong, with over 15 published studies supporting it. One 2005 study showed particularly promising results: out of 193,000 people, those who drank coffee more than 6 or 7 times daily were 35% less likely to have type 2 diabetes. This may be because coffee contains antioxidants, which can fight the damage done to the body's cells by molecules known as free radicals. It also contains magnesium and chromium, substances which can help the body to manage insulin production.

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It’s Safer than Most Energy Drinks
Coffee has some surprising health benefits, but none of these are due to its caffeine content. Caffeine isn’t harmful in small amounts, but heavy and habitual use can lead to insomnia, irritability, stomach and headaches, and muscle pain. It’s also worth noting that caffeine is technically a psychoactive drug, leading to mild addiction and withdrawal-like symptoms over time. Nonetheles, coffee is far lower in sugars and chemical additives than most energy drinks and caffeine supplements – especially if it’s brewed fresh from organic beans. With many energy drinks being linked to obesity, cardiovascular disorders, and even death, coffee is a much smarter choice. If you’re concerned about your caffeine intake, opt for a darker roast, especially if it’s an Arabica blend–these are naturally lower in caffeine, containing 71-120 mg per cup.

It Can Keep You Virus-Free
Who knew that coffee can actually reduce your risk of catching or spreading viruses? According to Immunology expert Dr. Jennifer Collins, that’s exactly the case.

“Coffee has a unique component called N-methyl-pyridinium formate…that researchers from Japan have shown to decreases viral replication and also toxic properties to viruses. It’s even been shown to have anti-viral and viracidal properties against herpes simplex virus, a common virus transmitted via kissing."

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Drinking Coffee Can Help You Fight Cavities
As long as you’re not adding sugar, coffee could actually be good for your teeth. Dr. Jennifer says that it’s because of a special compound found in coffee and some other favorite drinks. “Coffee, wine and tea all contain natural compounds called polyphenols that have anti-adhesive properties for certain bacteria that cause dental carries. Drinking these beverages has been shown to decrease the bacteria that cause dental cavities.”

Hotter is Better
If you’re looking for a reason to pick cappuccino over frappuccino, you’ve found it. Hot drinks can naturally aid digestion and breathing while increasing alertness. Some studies have even suggested that hot drinks can prevent the spread and growth of certain infectious bacteria – though the links aren’t very strong at the moment. Note that these benefits can be enjoyed with any hot drink, including tea, cocoa, and simple hot water.

It’s a Conversation Starter
The energizing effects of coffee make it a great tool for any meeting. Its ability to stimulate thought and spark conversations have made it a break room staple; it’s also must-have in bookstores, on camping trips, and even on airplanes. Besides, “coffee social” sounds so much better than, say… “Mountain Dew social.”

RELATED: Crossing the Finish Line With Eastern Medicine

Variety… the Spice of Life
With so many flavors, varieties, and methods of preparation, finding the perfect coffee for you can be a real adventure. With natural flavors and even gourmet options, a cup of joe is certainly a classier choice than a Monster energy drink. Keep in mind that nutritional content and health perks can vary widely between different styles and servings; for those with a sweet tooth, a Grande Caramel Americano sadly isn’t going to provide the same benefits as black coffee.


1. “List of Coffee Drinks.”

2. “Types of Coffee Drinks – Coffee Varieties.”

3. Chawla, Jasvinder, MD, et al. “Neurological Effects of Caffeine.” 21 Nov 2011.

4. Mercola, Joseph. “Mounting Evidence Suggests Coffee May Actually Have Therapeutic Health Benefits.” 16 Sept 2012.

5. Osterweil, Neil. “Say it’s so, Joe: The Potential Health Benefits – and Drawbacks – of Coffee.” 29 Aug 2011.

6. “Benefits of Hot Drinks.” Prepared Food Network. 12 July 2011.

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