57 Health Benefits of Coffee Supported by Science
We all know that coffee tastes great. Sure, we have our preferences for what is the best brewing method or roast.
But if you're here, you appreciate a great cup of coffee. (If you don't, I'm not sure why you're here, but feel free to read on.)
Many coffee drinkers feel like it's a bit of a guilty pleasure, though. They're unsure whether coffee is actually good for them. Fortunately, I'm about to break down some of the many benefits of coffee. And there are plenty, affecting just about every part of the body.
You should note that pretty much every single study I mention is looking at black coffee. No heavy cream or sugary syrups. So keep that in mind when you start thinking, "Maybe I should have that fourth macchiato today."
57 Health Benefits of Coffee
16 General Health Benefits of Coffee
Coffee could prolong your life
This makes sense when you see how many different diseases, disorders, and ailments that coffee protects against. Of course, it should help you live longer.
For the proof, though, we can look at a study from the Harvard Health Letter, which found that having two or more cups of coffee each day, is associated with a "10% reduction in overall death for men and a 15% reduction in overall death for women, when compared with non-coffee drinkers."
In addition, coffee provides many benefits to quality of life, which you can see below.
Coffee is a great source of essential nutrients
Coffee is more than flavored water. And it's more than a tasty way to ingest caffeine.
It won't replace your multivitamin, but a serving of coffee does give your body some of its essential vitamins and minerals.
Drinking coffee can relieve headaches
Suffer from stress headaches? You might consider using coffee to help relieve your symptoms.
Caffeine is actually an active ingredient in medicines that treat headaches like Excedrin, Midol, and Anacin. Caffeine helps your body absorb these medicines, but it can also help relieve headaches on its own.
According to Doctors Robert Shapiro and Robert Cowan, coffee can be used for acute treatment of headaches. They also note that the effects wear off if you're a regular or heavy consumer of caffeine.
So you can use caffeine to treat headaches a couple times a week, but it's not a long term solution. And caffeine dependency can create its own problems.
Coffee contains antioxidants
If you want to prevent or delay damage to your cells, you'll want to get more antioxidants in your diet. These naturally occurring substances keep free radicals from damaging cell structures and DNA.
Most people probably think of fruits and berries when they hear antioxidants. But let's not forget that coffee "beans" are actually more like cherries than beans.
As a result, coffee contains high concentrations of important antioxidants like hydrocinnamic acids and polyphenols.
So consider your morning cup just one tool in the fight against premature aging.
Drinking coffee raises HDL (the good cholesterol)
Health advocates used to suggest that all cholesterol was bad, but they learned that there are actually two kinds: high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is the good one, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which is the bad one.
Good cholesterol helps prevent cardiovascular disease and removes LDL.
Because of its high antioxidant count, coffee can raise your levels of an enzyme called gluthathione peroxidase (GPx3). This enzyme can help raise HDL in those who currently have low levels.
Coffee supports DNA repair
DNA needs chlorogenic acid (CLA) to repair itself. While the natural chemical is found in many fruits in vegetables, it has a particularly high concentration in coffee.
Since damage to DNA can lead to aging and cancer, it is essential to ensure its repair. The study suggests that "increased expression of these DNA repair enzymes by chlorogenic acid-related compounds may be beneficial for promoting longevity and preventing cancer."
Drinking coffee can reduce inflammation
Many chronic conditions, including heart disease and autoimmune disorders, are caused or worsened by inflammation. Thankfully, coffee could be a good way to reduce this harmful effect.
According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, drinking lots of coffee (eight cups per day) cups of coffee daily reduced markers of chronic inflammation by as much as 16%.
This could likely be from the antioxidant benefits of coffee since free radicals are one cause of inflammation.
Coffee can be good for your teeth
While we often associate coffee with staining the teeth, it can have some beneficial effects as well. In particular, it can help prevent the formation of plaque and dental decay.
The key is that coffee with high caffeine content has antibacterial properties, which kill bacteria that cause dental plaque and tooth decay.
Of course, these effects would be counteracted by milk and sugar, which mouth bacteria love.
Drinking coffee helps you stay hydrated
Because coffee has a diuretic effect, many still believe it can lead to dehydration. But the opposite is actually true.
Multiple studies show that coffee is as effective as water when it comes to hydration. Which makes sense when you consider that it's mostly water in the first place.
Coffee is associated with longer life for women with diabetes
According to a 2017 study, women who have diabetes "who consumed up to 100mg [of caffeine] per day (one regular cup of coffee) were 51% less likely to die than those who consumed no caffeine."
And that number increased with more caffeine intake. The reduced risk for women drinking 2 cups was as high as 66 percent.
The study showed no effect for men, but coffee could still help prevent diabetes in the first place.
Drinking coffee reduces your risk of Type 2 diabetes
Multiple studies reveal an inverse relationship between the amount of coffee you drink and your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
According to a 2014 study, "increasing coffee consumption over a 4 year period is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes." So drinking more (an additional cup per day) coffee can be a benefit. And the reverse is true as well: "decreasing coffee consumption is associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes in subsequent years."
Just be sure you don't negate the positive effects by adding lots of calories through sugar and milk. Also, some studies suggest that caffeine consumption can make it difficult for people who already have diabetes to control their blood sugar levels.
Drinking coffee can prevent tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
If you've never experienced tinnitus, you're lucky because it's annoying and affects 1 in 5 people.
Fortunately, a 2014 study showed that "higher caffeine intake was associated with a lower risk of incident tinnitus in women."
The study examined more than 65,000 women aged 30-44 for nearly 20 years. They found a "a significant inverse association between caffeine intake and the incidence of tinnitus."
Drinking coffee can protect against "super bugs"
We're constantly hearing about antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are often called super bugs because they are so difficult to treat.
One in particular is Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MSRA), which "is a bacterium that causes infections in different parts of the body." It's a type of staph that is tough to fight because it isn't affected by many antibiotics.
One potential solution? Drink more coffee.
Because of caffeine's ability to kill bacteria, it can reduce risk of carrying MSRA, particularly in the nasal passages (where approximately 1.4% of the population harbors this nasty bacteria).
One study shows that consumption of coffee is "associated with a lower likelihood of MRSA nasal carriage," raising "the possibility of a promising new method to decrease MRSA nasal carriage that is safe, inexpensive, and easily accessible."
Coffee could help fight baldness
But probably not yet.
A study in the International Journal of Dermatology showed that caffeine can help stimulate hair growth by inhibiting the negative effects of testosterone on hair follicles.
Unfortunately, the amount of caffeine required for this effect is around 60 cups per day. So folks will need a little help from science before this is a viable solution.
Coffee can help with pain associated with computer work
If you're a desk jockey, you've likely experienced neck and shoulder pain from long hours sitting in front of the screen.
Keep your coffee handy if you do because it could help reduce the intensity of pain in your neck, shoulders, forearms, and wrists, according to a 2012 study. Researchers suggest that further study is needed, but it's a great start.
Long-term coffee consumption can decrease risk of gout
Gout is a complex form of arthritis that causes pain and inflammation in the joints when they accumulate uric acid deposits.
In a 26-year study of female participants, researchers found "an inverse association between higher coffee intake and the risk of gout." And it looks like the benefit is not just from caffeine since both regular and decaff coffee showed risk reduction.
The benefits come from drinking as little as 1-3 cups daily. Although, high consumption had a higher reduction in risk: 57 percent for 4 or more cups versus 22 percent reduction for 1-3 cups.
8 Cognitive Benefits from Coffee
Drinking coffee perks you up in the morning (or the afternoon or evening)
Caffeine. That's really what coffee energy is all about. It's why we look for a hot mug first thing in the morning. It's why a coffee pick-me-up in the afternoon can help you make it through a long day.
Adenosine, a neurotransmitter, facilitates sleep, making you tired. But, as a stimulant, caffeine blocks adenosine, which means you don't feel as tired.
It's also why you should be careful to not drink too much caffeine in the evening. The stimulant effect can keep you up or disrupt your sleep.
Drinking coffee helps you stay alert and focused
Coffee does more than just keep you awake thanks to its stimulating properties. It also helps you focus on important tasks like driving or working on an important project at work.
A 2012 study in Psychopharmacology found that a single cup of coffee (with 80mg of caffeine) is enough to keep tired drivers alert even when faced with monotonous highway driving.
In particular, they determined that caffeinated drivers reduced standard deviation of lateral position, which measured the weaving of the car.
Keep in mind that caffeine isn't a miracle drug. The stimulant effect won't counteract exhaustion, but it can provide a helpful boost when you're facing a boring drive when you're not quite awake.
Drinking coffee improves cognitive function
Does coffee really make you smarter? Or does it just feel like it?
Some studies suggest that caffeine can improve cognitive function because it blocks the neurotransmitters adenosine and benzodiazepine. Since they slow down brain activity, blocking these neurotransmitters with a dose of caffeine (between 84 to 600 mg per day) reduces the negative impact they have.
While the verdict is still out on whether increased tolerance will reduce these benefits, many studies suggest that habitual consumers of coffee actually have greater cognitive functions.
Coffee can reduce the risk of dementia
We've seen some of the benefits of coffee on focus and alertness, but it can also be beneficial in preserving mental facilities later in life.
A study in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease looked at multiple long-term studies about the effects of caffeine and coffee on the development of dementia. They found that "coffee drinking of 3-5 cups per day at midlife was associated with a decreased risk of dementia" later in life.
They suggest that the protective effects are likely from caffeine's ability to stimulate the central nervous system.
Drinking coffee can guard against Alzheimer’s Disease
A 2012 study indicates that coffee can also help delay or even prevent the onset of Alzheimer's Disease, "even in older people with early signs of the disease, called mild cognitive impairment."
Interestingly, they also suggest that "Caffeinated coffee appeared to be the main, if not exclusive, source of caffeine in the memory-protected MCI patients."
So, coffee consumption in mid-adulthood is beneficial for brain health, but it can also provide preventative benefits later, when some may think it's already too late.
Coffee drinkers have a reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease
As the second most common neurodegenerative disorder, Parkinson's disease (PD) affects around 1 percent of the older-than-60 population. The disorder impacts the central nervous system and causes significant issues with movement and motor function.
According to multiple studies, drinking coffee can reduce risk of developing the disease by 32-60 percent.
A 2001 study in the Annals of Neurology, for example, conducted an extensive life style and dietary examination, finding an inverse relationship between coffee consumption and risk of Parkinson's disease.
They do note that for women in particular, the relationship is U-shaped, meaning that excessive consumption could actually increase the risk of developing the disorder.
Drinking coffee can treat symptoms of Parkinson's disease
For patients who have already developed Parkinson's disease, coffee can still provide benefits.
One review of multiple studies suggests that "caffeine can improve the motor deficits of PD and that adenosine A2A receptor antagonists ... reduces OFF time and dyskinesia associated with standard 'dopamine replacement' treatments." This translates to improved motor function and mobility for patients already affected by the disease.
Coffee can help create memories
Not just because we often have a great time with others while we enjoy our coffee. Whether you are trying to avoid degenerative disorders or just improve your memory, coffee can help your brain actually form memories instead of losing them to the ether.
In particular, according to a study in Nature Neuroscience, caffeine can help in memory consolidation. This is the process by which your brain actually encodes or stores a memory.
It's what allows you to create long-term memories, and it's supported by caffeine.
4 Mental / Emotional Benefits of Coffee
Drinking coffee reduces the risk of depression
Increased coffee and caffeine consumption is correlated with a decrease in the risk of depression, according to a 2016 study in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry.
Since the disorder "affects an estimated 15% of adults in high-income nations," this could be good news for coffee drinkers.
Coffee can lower the risk of suicide
Relatedly, coffee appears to significantly reduce the risk of suicide.
In a 2013 study, Harvard researchers found that subjects who drank 2-4 cups of coffee daily had half as much risk of suicide.
One possible explanation for both of these benefits, which are still not fully understood, is that coffee might boost "production of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline." Another explanation is that coffee aids with oxidative stress and inflammation, both of which impact depression.
Coffee can lower stress
And you might not even have to drink it!
According to a study with mice, subjects given caffeine were able to better handle stress. Researchers believe the adenosine-blocking power of caffeine inhibits receptors from "reacting to, and causing a stress response."
Another study with rats suggests that just the aroma of coffee is enough to reduce stress, particularly to that caused by sleep deprivation.
Maybe just the thought of experiencing a warm cup of joe was enough for our rodent friends.
Drinking coffee improves mood
As with the cognitive performance studies, many studies show that mood is improved by caffeine, resulting in positive behavior changes. Many argue that this is just a reversal of the withdrawal effects. Meaning you're cranky when you get off the caffeine, so obviously having caffeine again makes you feel better.
But multiple studies with people not experiencing negative withdrawal symptoms (like one in Human Psychopharmacology) show coffee drinkers who see improvements in mood.
7 Cancer Prevention Benefits from Coffee
Drinking coffee can lower the risk of colorectal cancer
But you might need to drink more than you are now.
According to a large study (involving nearly 500,000 subjects), people who drink 4-5 cups of coffee daily have a lower risk of colorectal cancer, a reduction of 15%.
This is most likely because of the antioxidants available in coffee. While further study is needed, it does look like coffee consumption is inversely related with colon cancer.
Coffee lowers your risk of prostate cancer
Lots of coffee daily might be the answer because it also reduces the risk of prostate cancer by up to 60 percent for the most lethal form of the cancer.
That's what a 2011 study suggests for subjects who drank 6 or more cups per day. Plus, the results show that caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee both lead to reductions.
Coffee reduces liver cancer risks
Similar results have been found for lowering liver cancer risks. Those who drink multiple cups per day have a 42 percent smaller chance of developing liver cancer, according to a recent study.
Drinking coffee protects against endometrial cancer
Not all the cancer fighting benefits of coffee go to the men either. Researchers in a 26-year follow-up study found that endometrial cancer, which affects the uterine lining, risks were reduced by 25 percent for women drinking 4 cups or more versus those who had just one cup per day.
They also warn that the "addition of substantial sugar and cream to coffee could offset any potential benefits." So, keep it black for best results.
Coffee reduces risks of certain breast cancers
In particular, estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer, which may receive signals from estrogen, possibly promoting its growth. Women who drink 5 cups of coffee or more daily reduce their risks by 57 percent, according to a 2011 study in the Breast Cancer Research journal.
This could be because of the phytoestrogens in coffee, which act like estrogens in the body.
Drinking coffee guards against skin cancer
Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common kind of skin cancer, accounting for approximately 80 percent of cases. It typically develops when skin cells are damaged by ultraviolet radiation from the sun.
Fortunately for coffee drinkers, a study showed that women who drank 3 or more cups per day have a 20 percent smaller risk of developing BCC. The reduction in men was smaller (9 percent), but not nothing.
Drinking coffee can lower your risk of oral cancer
Let's give more praise to those antioxidants, which keep battling cancer.
An American Cancer Society study published in the American Journal of Epidemiologyin 2012 concluded that coffee drinkers consuming more than 4 cups of caffeinated coffee daily "were about half as likely to die from oral/pharyngeal cancer as people who drank coffee only occasionally or not at all."
Oral/pharyngeal cancer is particularly nasty because it "does not cause symptoms until it’s reached an advanced stage, or it may cause symptoms similar to those caused by something that isn’t cancer, such as a toothache." So any steps you can take to reduce the risk are a good call.
4 Exercise Benefits from Coffee
Coffee can increase your endurance during exercise
When you exercise, your body uses glycogen (a form of starch) for energy. By the end of a long workout, you'll find yourself getting tired because the effort has depleted your glycogen stores.
It's a bit like a children's toy that starts to slow down when the battery is almost dead.
However, caffeine slows the body's use of glycogen, which means you shouldn't get tired as quickly, especially with endurance exercise.
You can work out harder thanks to coffee
Because of the glycogen effect mentioned above, coffee can help you exercise longer before becoming exhausted. It also reduces the amount of perceived pain during a workout according to a study published in the Journal of Pain.
In high intensity workouts, you often give up mentally before pushing your body to make the biggest gains. With pain reduction, you can get more from your workouts.
Coffee can reduce muscle soreness post-workout
This pain reduction extends to your post-workout routine as well, reducing soreness by as much as 48 percent.
In one study, researchers found that consuming coffee in the days after a high-intensity workout reduces delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
Less soreness means a faster recovery. That allows you to do more during your workout, amplifying your fitness gains.
Drinking coffee can help preserve your muscles
Caffeine can help offset muscle loss due to aging, according to at least one study. "The protective effects were seen in both the diaphragm, the primary muscle used for breathing, as well as skeletal muscle."
This means greater overall fitness and a reduction in injuries from aging.
3 Weight Loss Benefits of Coffee
(Black) coffee is a low-calorie drink
Let's be clear. As with most of the other health benefits of coffee, you can sabotage yourself if you start adding lots of cream, milk, or sugar to your coffee.
If you stick with the straight coffee, though, you'll find a measly 2 calories per 8 oz cup. Coffee is full on flavor and low in calories. So it can support weight loss efforts.
Coffee (especially decaff) decreases appetite
One of the struggles when trying to lose weight is battling food cravings. If you're decreasing the amount of food you eat, you're likely to experience hunger pains.
To prevent yourself from getting hangry (anger caused by hunger), try drinking coffee. Studies have shown that coffee helps suppress hunger cravings.
In particular, one study showed that decaffeinated coffee actually reduces hunger better than both regular coffee and a placebo. So if you want to tamp down cravings without getting hyped up on caffeine, you're in luck.
Coffee helps you burn fat
Because it's a stimulant, coffee can increase your metabolic rate (from 3 to 11 percent). This means you'll be expending more energy. Since that's what your fat stores are for, your body will tap that resource.
By stimulating the nervous system, caffeine tells your body to start breaking down fat cells to use them for energy. This is particularly effective when exercising as the caffeine will support your increased activity. And it's more effective if you haven't built a tolerance to caffeine.
5 Cardiovascular / Respiratory Health Benefits from Coffee
Asthma sufferers can find relief through coffee
Nonsmokers who suffer from asthma often rely on theophylline, a brochodilator drug, to relieve symptoms of asthma. Essentially, the drug widens the airways, allowing more air into the lungs.
Caffeine has a similar effect and "appears to improve airways function modestly, for up to four hours, in people with asthma."
So if you find yourself coughing and wheezing from asthma, coffee could help. (Although it's probably not the right call for emergencies.)
Coffee leads to better blood circulation
Caffeine helps the heart pump blood more efficiently, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association in 2013.
Researchers suggest that increased blood flow from caffeine intake could come from, "improved vessel inner lining function." These results indicate that coffee can improve cardiovascular health.
Drinking coffee guards against cardiovascular disease
A large study in 2012 (nearly 150,000 participants) found that "Moderate coffee consumption is inversely associated with risk of heart failure."
It also suggests that returns diminish after 4 cups per day, with risks even increasing with heavy consumption.
Coffee reduces risk of erectile dysfunction
Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is generally caused by decreased blood flow to the penis. The stimulant effects of caffeine can increase blood flow, which can offset ED.
A study reported at the 2014 annual meeting for the American Urological Association concludes that just 2-3 cups of coffee daily can significantly reduce the risk of ED, particularly in overweight and obese men.
Coffee can lower women's risk of stroke
Not that long ago, consensus was that drinking coffee could increase the risk of stroke, but recent studies of coffee and stroke risk wanted to see if the previous association was warranted.
Results from a more than 20-year study show that "Long-term coffee consumption was not associated with an increased risk of stroke in women." In fact, researchers suggest that regular coffee drinking actually reduces risk of stroke.
7 Digestive Benefits of Coffee
Coffee contains soluble fiber
Coffee beans are a great source of dietary fiber. Until recently, though, food scientists did not realize that some of this fiber made it into the drink itself.
Thanks to a study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, we now know that coffee (espresso, drip, and freeze dried) contains "between 0.47 and 0.75 grams of fiber per 100 milliliters."
That's as much as 1.5 grams for an 8 oz cup, which is a great start toward your recommended daily intake (38 g for men; 25 g for women). And getting the recommended amount of fiber each day has many health benefits.
Coffee promotes healthy bowel movements and protects against constipation
In addition to the soluble fiber, which is good for digestion and elimination, coffee encourages peristalsis, which is what your intestines do when you eat a meal. Basically, they contract to prepare for and cause bowel movements.
Research suggests that the caffeine and xanthine in coffee produces a similar effect to eating a meal. This promotes healthy digestion and lowers your risk of constipation.
Coffee is good for your gastrointestinal bacteria
We often associate bacteria with bad stuff, but there is actually good bacteria, particularly in your digestive tract. In a 2009 study, beneficial bacteria was increased in subjects who increased their daily coffee consumption to 6 cups.
While that is a lot of coffee for some folks, gut flora is shown to have more and more positive benefits on health, so it could be worth it.
Drinking coffee could speed recovery from surgery
In particular, colon surgery. In a recent study, subjects who drank coffee experienced normal bowel function sooner than those who just had water.
Because of coffee's laxative properties, it helps with bowel obstruction, which is a common problem after surgery. That means subjects were able to start consuming regular, solid food sooner and return to normal life faster.
Coffee reduces risk of gallstones
Gallstones wreak havoc on your digestive system, blocking the bile duct and causing fever, inflammation, pain, and even jaundice. Coffee drinkers have to worry just a little less thanks to caffeine.
A 2002 study in Gastroenterologyshowed a "25 percent lower risk of gallstones among women who regularly drink four or more cups of coffee a day" and similar studies have shown an even greater reduction in men.
Coffee reduces risk of kidney stones
More stones to worry about. This time it's kidney stones, or renal lithiasis, which are deposits of minerals and acid salts that can form in your kidneys if your urine gets too concentrated. No fun for anyone.
Thanks to the diuretic effects of coffee, though, you can lower your kidney stone risk by up to 26% for regular coffee and 16% for decaff. Coffee helps by making you excrete more frequently, reducing the chance that the minerals and acid salts can crystallize and bond to each other.
So good news for coffee drinkers, whether you prefer decaf or full strength.
Drinking coffee can guard your liver against cirrhosis
Cirrhosis of the liver is basically scarring of the organ that comes from various liver diseases. Fortunately, studies suggest that there is a reduced risk (up to 80%) among coffee drinkers who consume 4 cups or more per day.
While the effects are most pronounced among subjects who consume alcohol, there are also indications that coffee could have a protective effective for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease as well.
3 Vision Benefits of Coffee
Coffee helps prevent damage to the retina
As you age (or because of disease), your retina can be damaged by free radicals and oxidative stress (lack of sufficient oxygen).
A 2013 study suggests that the CLA found in coffee can help prevent retinal degeneration. Since many people experience problems with vision as they age, coffee could help you see better even in your later years.
Drinking coffee could reduce cataract formation
Another vision benefit is that the caffeine in coffee can protect you against cataracts, a clouding of the eye's lens.
Studies so far have been largely animal-based, but the results were significant. Also, if you consider the research on antioxidants and cataracts, it would make sense that coffee helps because it is such an excellent source of antioxidants.
Caffeine may protect against eyelid spasm
Spasms are involuntary muscle contractions, and one of the most annoying types can help with the eyelid. Blepharospasm (BSP) is a disorder of uncontrolled blinking with no cure.
Fortunately, one study suggests that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of having the disorder. And the more you drink, the more reduction in risk. Results "strongly suggest coffee as a protective factor" in developing BSP.
Research on the health impacts of coffee are ongoing, but we can already see many benefits from indulging in the morning ritual. In most cases, you probably shouldn't increase your coffee intake to get a specific result. But you can enjoy your daily cups knowing that it's good for you.
And remember that everyone's situation is different. You should talk to your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet.
What health benefits have you seen from coffee?