(NaturalNews) It's a pleasant surprise when something questionable turns out to be full of health benefits. First chocolate was found to prevent heart disease. Then red wine was shown to increase overall longevity. Now the spotlight is on coffee. Newly released studies reveal that coffee drinking lowers risk of stroke, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, and dementia. It even improves social skills and depressive symptoms. Other recent research has shown that drinking coffee reduces the risk of diabetes.
There is a reason 90 percent of the population loves coffee
Mother Nature wants people to be healthy and reproduce. She has created in them an attraction to foods that promote good health. Bright, vibrant vegetables that shimmer with energy, luscious fruits, and the dazzling aroma of coffee just can't be denied. Some of the health benefits of coffee come from its caffeine content. The ability of coffee to lower the risk for Parkinson's disease and treat asthma and headaches is linked to caffeine. Caffeine can enhance athletic performance by increasing endurance. This is why coffee was designated as a controlled substance until recently by the Olympic Games Committee.
Coffee drinking is major source of antioxidants for most people
People in the U.S. receive most of their antioxidants from the coffee they drink. Scientists have found that a typical serving of coffee contains more antioxidants than a typical serving of blueberries, grape juice, raspberries, or oranges. A cup of coffee contains up to four times as much antioxidant activity as a cup of green tea contains.
Antioxidants protect people from free radicals produced in the body and encountered in the environment and diet. Scientists believe that drinking coffee makes it possible to limit, postpone or prevent many degenerative diseases including cancer, heart disease cataracts, and diseases of the nervous system. Epidemiological studies have shown that adding antioxidant polyphenols to the diet reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Chlorogenic acid is the prominent polyphenol in coffee, although there are others. A Japanese study of 61,000 people found that coffee drinkers are less likely to develop liver cancer that those who abstain. The researchers hypothesized that chlorogenic acid was the cancer fighting agent. Robusta coffee contains up to ten percent chlorogenic acid, and Arabica coffee contains an amount up to seven percent. Caffeic acid is another polyphenol found in coffee that has been shown to protect cells from oxidation. Caffeic acid works together with cholorogenic acid to protect cerebral neurons, promote cell differentiation, and normalize colon function. The combination has been found effective at halting cell proliferation and inducing appropriate cell death in breast cancer cells.
American's coffee drinking averages more than one cup per day. Decaffeinated coffee has the same antioxidant content as regular coffee. New research findings suggest that the addition of milk to coffee binds the antioxidants and reduces their potential to be effective in the body. A recent study found that caffeic acid was unavailable to the body as the result of it binding with milk added to blueberries.
Coffee consumption and risk of stroke in women
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health assessed the association between coffee consumption and the risk of stroke over a 24 year period of follow-up in women. They analyzed data from a cohort of 83,076 women without history of stroke, coronary heart disease, diabetes or cancer who participated in the Nurses' Health Study. Coffee consumption was assessed from 1980 through 2004. They documented 2280 varied strokes. After adjusting for confounders, the correlation of coffee drinking with stroke fell by 20 percent in the group drinking the most coffee. The researchers concluded that coffee drinking moderately reduced the risk of stroke. Their study was reported in the February edition of Circulation.
High regular coffee consumption associated with reduced endometrial cancer risk
A hospital based case-control study, reported in the January International Journal of Cancer, examined the associations between endometrial cancer risk and usual consumption of regular and decaffeinated coffee among 541 women with endometrial cancer and 541 women healthy women. Women who drank four or more cups of combined coffee and tea showed a significantly reduced cancer association.
Coffee offers protection against Alzheimer's disease and dementia
Determining the long-term impact of caffeine on cognition was the aim of a study in Finland, reported in the January Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. Scientists specifically looked for the association between coffee and/or tea drinking at midlife and Alzheimer's disease or dementia in late life. Participants were randomly selected from a population-based cohort previously participating in a longitudinal study. After an average follow-up of 21 years, 1409 individuals aged 65 to 79 completed the re-examination. A total of 61 cases were identified as demented, with 48 having diagnosed Alzheimer's disease. Coffee drinkers at midlife had lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer's later in life compared with those drinking none or only small amounts of coffee. An amazing 65 percent decrease was found in people who drank 3 to 5 cups of coffee per day. Tea drinking showed no association with dementia or Alzheimers' in this study.
A study reported in the Oct.-Nov. issue of American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias, found that caffeine may have a protective effect on the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's disease. Antioxidants were also seen as protective through their ability to reduce inflammation.
Risk of type 2 diabetes is lower in coffee drinkers
An older study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that habitual coffee consumption was consistently associated with lower risk of diabetes. Although the exact mechanism of its action was not revealed, the scientists concluded that the antioxidants in coffee help control cell damage that can contribute to the development of the disease. The high concentration of chlorogenic acid in coffee reduces glucose concentrations. The researchers pointed out that their results were not due to caffeine, as decaffeinated coffee produced the same degree of risk reduction.
In a report that combined data from several sources, people who drank four to six cups of coffee a day had a 28 percent reduction in risk of diabetes compared with people who drank two or fewer cups a day. Those who drank even more had a 35 percent reduction.
Coffee increases cooperation and sociability, and decreases depression
A newly released study from the February issue of Nutrition and Neuroscience examined the effects of caffeinated coffee on antidepressant related cooperative behavior. Seventy-seven low level caffeine users took part in a randomized, double-blind, cross-over study of a single dose of caffeinated coffee and a single dose of decaffeinated coffee with a three day period in between. Participants were asked to play a game with an imagined person. After drinking caffeinated coffee, participants were more open to the imaginary player and displayed fewer signs of sadness. The researchers concluded that only the caffeinated coffee helped to improve social skill and depressive symptoms.
Longitudinal studies have found a significantly lower rate of suicide among men and women who drink two or more cups of coffee each day. Reasons for this were unclear.
More research reveals more benefits
Newer studies continue to add to older, impressive results revealing the benefits of coffee. Drinking two or more cups a day was found to reduce the risk of colon cancer by 25%. The likelihood of developing gallstones was decreased by nearly 50% in those drinking at least two cups of coffee a day. Liver cirrhosis was reduced by a whopping 80% in drinkers of two or more cups a day.
A compound called Trigonelline that has anti-adhesive and antibacterial properties was found to help prevent tooth decay.
Barbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.