Posted on 13 December 2022
Coffee is the third most consumed drink in the world, behind tea and of course water. For centuries, coffee has been drunk primarily for enjoyment and for the stimulant effects of the caffeine that it contains. There have always been claims that coffee consumption brings health benefits, but now we actually have evidence to back them up. An increasingly convincing body of evidence suggests that fitting a few extra cups of coffee into your day could have a wide range of direct and indirect health benefits, and might even make you live longer. So without further ado, here are 5 reasons why you should consider drinking more coffee.
Coffee contains a number of important nutrients, including vitamins B2, B3, and B5, manganese, potassium, and magnesium. It also contains small amounts of potent antioxidants, which can help protect your cells from damage by harmful molecules called free radicals. Many people struggle to consume enough antioxidant-rich foods, so coffee can be quite helpful in compensating for this deficit.
Coffee contains caffeine, which we all know is a stimulant that can increase alertness. However, caffeine also improves physical performance and can help us exercise harder – especially helpful for those who lack the energy to exercise early in the morning. Caffeine works by blocking the effects of adenosine, a molecule which promotes fatigue and sleep. By blocking adenosine, caffeine raises perceived energy and also allows the release of other hormones that enhance physical performance, such as adrenaline.
Coffee could help you lose weight in several ways, mostly due to the effects of caffeine. Firstly, caffeine can stimulate the breakdown of fat stored within adipocytes (fat cells). This process, called lipolysis, releases fatty acids into the bloodstream, where they can be used as fuel. Additionally, caffeine can increase your resting metabolic rate, which is the rate at which your body burns calories without any physical exertion, by as much as 11%.
Unfortunately, these effects diminish with age and tolerance to caffeine, and also seem to be less pronounced in those who are overweight. Simply consuming more coffee might help you lose weight, but the scientific evidence concerning this is not very conclusive. However, as already mentioned, coffee can improve physical performance and help you burn more calories during exercise. Finally, the antioxidants within coffee may aid weight loss by reducing inflammation within fat tissue, as this inflammation is thought to promote weight gain.
Multiple studies have found that drinking more coffee is associated with reduced risk of depression. This is likely to be due in most part to caffeine, which increases the excitability of the central nervous system and makes people feel more energetic and alert, though it might also promote anxiety if you drink too much (more on that later). Some evidence also suggests that caffeine enhances cognitive functions including memory, though there is also some pretty strong evidence refuting this. At the very least, coffee may help you stay alert and focussed during the day.
There is mounting evidence that drinking more coffee could protect against a range of age-related diseases and help you live longer. Studies generally suggest that drinking up to 4 cups of coffee per day can result in a 15% (or even more in some cases) reduction in deaths from all causes compared with not drinking coffee at all. Coffee consumption seems to reduce the risk of many age-related diseases including cardiovascular disease and cancer. This could be due to caffeine and the associated benefits described above. The powerful antioxidants found within coffee may also play a role, as they can prevent cellular damage caused by free radicals, and this damage is thought to play a role in the ageing process. It’s likely to be a bit of both, as both decaffeinated coffee and caffeine by itself are associated with reduced mortality.
These are mostly correlations and therefore not necessarily causations, but coffee is very safe for most people to drink. If you are looking to live for as long as possible, there’s little reason not to bump up your coffee intake to 3-4 cups/day so long as you follow a few precautions.
Avoid coffee within 6 hours of bedtime:
As we all know, caffeine keeps you awake, so you shouldn’t drink caffeinated coffee later in the day – avoiding caffeine within 6 hours of bedtime is generally advised. However, it can take significantly longer than this for all of the caffeine in your blood to be cleared, and the rate of clearance varies from person to person, so there’s no one rule to fit everyone. Even if the caffeine doesn’t appear to be stopping you from sleeping, it can decrease the quality of your sleep, so it’s always safer to get your dose of coffee earlier in the day if possible. Some experts advise against drinking coffee within an hour or so of waking up, as this is when the stress hormone cortisol is highest. Stacking caffeine’s stimulant effect on top of this could lead to elevated stress and leave you feeling more tired later in the day.
Be wary of medical conditions and drug interactions:
Some people believe that caffeine can trigger abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias), but this is mostly not supported by the evidence. In fact, coffee may even protect against arrhythmias. With this being said, there are certainly some medical conditions in which caffeine consumption may be dangerous, and caffeine may also interact with some medications. If you think this could apply to you, it’s a good idea to consult with a doctor before you start chugging the coffee.
Avoid drinking lots of coffee if you’re pregnant:
Most health guidelines suggest that pregnant women should avoid consuming more than 200mg of caffeine a day, as there is some evidence that this can increase the risk of miscarriage.
Consider avoiding high sugar foods with coffee:
As tempting as it is to enjoy your cup of coffee with a biscuit or two, some evidence suggests that caffeine blunts the body’s response to insulin, the hormone that controls blood sugar. This means that drinking coffee with a sugar-rich food could cause your blood sugar to spike higher and make it take longer to come down than usual. This is especially bad for people with type II diabetes, who already have difficulty controlling blood sugar levels. Nevertheless, coffee still seems to reduce risk of diabetes in people who don’t already have it.
Be careful about consuming more than 400mg of caffeine a day:
Most people would need to drink a very large amount of coffee to be in any real danger from a caffeine overdose. However, studies suggest that 3-5 cups/day (about 400mg of caffeine) seems to be the sweet spot for health benefits, with increased consumption being potentially detrimental. Too much caffeine can lead to headaches, anxiety, diarrhoea and even more severe symptoms like breathing difficulties in extreme cases. Since some people are able to metabolise caffeine much more rapidly than others, it’s not really possible to give general advice on how much caffeine is too much. If you plan on increasing your caffeine intake significantly, it’s probably best to do so gradually.
Coffee and caffeine consumption and depression: A meta-analysis of observational studies: https://doi.org/10.1177/0004867415603131
A review of caffeine’s effects on cognitive, physical and occupational performance: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.09.001
Normal caffeine consumption: influence on thermogenesis and daily energy expenditure in lean and postobese human volunteers: https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/49.1.44
Habitual coffee consumption and cognitive function: a Mendelian randomization meta-analysis in up to 415,530 participants: https://doi.org/10.1038%2Fs41598-018-25919-2
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