Frankly, we’ll find any excuse we can to indulge in a cup of joe — or four. So when the Internet blows up with the latest medical study touting the newest health benefits of coffee, we’re all ears.
The latest news? Coffee is now widely reported to reduce joint pain, especially in the wrists, hands, back, and neck. Study participants were tested doing the traditional office work after a cup of coffee (while the control had no coffee), and then self-reported a much lower intensity of pain if they had had a cup. (So if you’re crouched over at a desk, like me right now, drink up.) Now, those daily Starbucks runs are justified!
But the truth is, coffee hasn’t always been touted for its health benefits. The old wives' tale that it’ll stunt your growth may have been debunked, but there are other drawbacks that make us question the java. Some negatives? Headaches, insomnia (a given for caffeine-aholics), heartburn, and palpitations, reports CNN. And we think it’s safe to say that a milky, sugary, fatty iced coffee isn’t going to do wonders for your health.
And of course, not every study can prove that coffee will really cure any disease on its own. As Dr. Alberto Ascherio, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health said to CNN, it’s more common for a study to find an association between coffee and health effects rather than prove how coffee can prevent diabetes, cancer, or depression.
Still, if coffee is a regular part of your morning (and afternoon, and night) routine, you can rest assured that you’re doing your part for your body. If you’re not a coffee drinker, start slowly, like you would with any new dietary habit. Everyone metabolizes coffee differently — it's why some people can crash after a cup and others stay up all night after a few sips — but it can still have positive health effects. Seeing as we have a large latte on our desk right now, we're happy with this news.
No, you shouldn’t be chugging coffee instead of slapping on SPF, but this benefit is still worth noting. A recent study from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston found that those who drank coffee were less likely to develop basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer. The researchers believe that the association may be due to caffeine; decaf coffee showed no decreased risk.
Of the newest breast cancer research, one study from Keio University in Tokyo found that coffee induces a breast-cancer-resistant protein in cancer cell lines. Women who may benefit the most from cancer prevention from coffee: post-menopausal women. Post-menopausal women who drank coffee had a lowered risk of non-hormone responsive breast cancer in one Swedish study. To get the most reduced risk, the researchers recommended a high intake of coffee, more than five cups per day. However, it’s not all proven: another study from France found no real correlation between coffee, tea, and lower risk of breast cancer.
In the past, it was thought that coffee may prevent diabetes by improving the body's tolerance to insulin, or its tolerance to glucose. But one recent study from UCLA may have found how coffee can prevent diabetes: The protein, called sex hormone–binding globulin (SHBG), regulates the body’s sex hormones, which are thought to play a role in type 2 diabetes. Higher levels of coffee consumption, the researchers found, increased levels of SHBG in the blood — which showed an inverse association between coffee consumption and diabetes. Those who drank about four cups of coffee per day had much higher levels of SHBG than non-drinkers.
When participants between the ages of 65 and 88 were tested in a recent study, those who drank more coffee showed fewer signs of dementia, and avoided early onset Alzheimer’s. Again, the secret may be in the caffeine; the "magic number" of cups is about three cups, or 1,200 nanograms per milliliters of caffeine. Said researcher Gary Arendash to PsychCentral, "Moderate daily consumption of caffeinated coffee appears to be the best dietary option for long-term protection against Alzheimer’s memory loss... Coffee is inexpensive, readily available, easily gets into the brain, and has few side-effects for most of us." (photo Thinkstock/ Hemera)
A team of researchers at the National Cancer Institute, who studied a group of Americans for 15 years, found that those who drank four or more cups of coffee (both regular and decaf) per day had a 15 percent lower risk of developing colon cancer. No one’s quite sure why, but it might be those compounds in coffee at work again. An older study found an antioxidant compound, methylpyridinium, that’s proven to be extremely effective in fighting colon cancer. The compound is found almost exclusively in coffee and coffee products. Researchers from the University of Minnesota also note that coffee contains a higher amount of polyphenols than tea or red wine. They found that the caffeic acid in coffee suppressed colon cancer cell from spreading.