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Coffee and its benefits

By Dr. Mercola

Nearly 60 percent of Americans drink coffee, and for many the habit is a daily one. Coffee drinking has long been viewed as more of a vice or a crutch to get a quick energy boost to power through the day, but this view is now changing as the health benefits of coffee continue to be revealed.

This is good news for those of you who sip on a cup of joe in the morning, as it turns out this may be a quite healthy way to start your day. However, please remember that coffee is one of the most heavily pesticide sprayed crops in the world. If you drink it please be sure to get organic and ideally fair traded, This is less than 3% of all coffee.

Daily Coffee Boosts Colon Cancer Survival

Among people with advanced (stage III) colon cancer, drinking four or more cups of caffeinated coffee daily lowered the risk of cancer recurrence or death during the study by 52 percent compared to those who drank no coffee. Drinking two or three cups per day was also beneficial, lowering the risk of recurrence or death by 31 percent.

The researchers stressed that other caffeinated beverages, such as soda, did not have the same effect. No link was found between decaffeinated coffee and risk of colon cancer recurrence either.

Further, a causal link was not found. This means it could simply be that coffee drinkers tend to follow a healthier overall lifestyle that’s contributing to the lower risk. However, the antioxidants and other beneficial plant compounds in coffee have been linked to a lower chronic disease risk before.

In fact, coffee has been linked to a lower risk type 2 diabetes as well, a condition known to increase the risk of colon cancer. It’s likely that compounds in coffee may lower the risk of multiple chronic diseases via similar pathways. As reported by the New York Times:

“The researchers’ hypothesis is that the factors that increase risk for Type 2 diabetes, such as obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and high insulin levels, also drive colon cancer, Dr. [Charles S.] Fuchs [director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston] said. 

And many studies have shown that coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk for Type 2 diabetes, a chronic illness that may increase the risk of colon cancer. 

‘We believe that activating the energy pathways that contribute to heart disease and diabetes is also relevant for the proliferation of cancer cells,’ Dr. Fuchs said, while also stressing that more research was needed.

The analysis determined the lowered risk associated with coffee was… because of the caffeine. One hypothesis is that caffeine increases the body’s sensitivity to insulin, so it requires less of the hormone. That, in turn, may reduce inflammation, which is a risk factor for diabetes and cancer.”

What Else Does the Research Say About Coffee and Cancer?

While a number of individual studies have suggested coffee consumption might increase your cancer risk, when multiple studies are analyzed, such as is the case with meta-analyses, the association disappears, and, in fact, becomes protective.

For instance, one 2007 meta-analysis found an increase in consumption of two cups of coffee per day was associated with a 43 percent reduced risk of liver cancer3 – a finding that has been confirmed by more recent research. 

Not to mention, coffee appears to have additional benefits for liver health, slowing down the progression of liver disease to cirrhosis, improving responses in people with hepatitis C, and lowering the risk of death in people with cirrhosis.

The potential benefit of coffee for liver health appears so strong that researchers have stated daily coffee consumption should be encouraged in people with chronic liver disease.

Another meta-analysis involving 59 studies revealed an increase in consumption of one cup of coffee per day was associated with a 3 percent reduced risk of cancers. According to the researchers:

“Coffee drinking was associated with a reduced risk of bladder, breast, buccal and pharyngeal, colorectal, endometrial, esophageal, hepatocellular, leukemic, pancreatic, and prostate cancers.”

There’s even research showing coffee consumption could lower your risk of skin cancer. Drinking four cups of caffeinated coffee daily might reduce your risk of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer.

According to researchers:

“Coffee constituents suppress UVB-induced skin carcinogenesis, induce cell apoptosis, protect against oxidative stress and DNA damage, reduce inflammation in epidermal cells, and inhibit changes in DNA methylation.”

Women who consumed more than three cups of coffee a day had a significantly lower risk of basal cell carcinoma (non-melanoma skin cancer) than those who consumed less than one cup per month.

Roasted Coffee Contains More Than 1,000 Compounds, Many of Which May Help Fight Cancer

Coffee has multiple potential anti-cancer pathways. As mentioned, caffeine is one of them, as its been shown to both stimulate and suppress tumors depending on the cancer and when it’s administered.

Polyphenols in coffee, such as lignan phytoestrogens, flavonoids, and polyphenols are also known to have anti-cancer properties, as does caffeic acid, which inactivates several pathways involved in the development of tumors – including cell cycle regulation, inflammatory and stress response, and apoptosis.

Researchers noted in the journal BMC Cancer:

“There are two specific diterpenes in coffee, cafestol and kahweal, which produce biological effects compatible with anti-carcinogenic properties, including the induction of phase II enzymes involved in carcinogen detoxification, specific inhibition of the activity of phase I enzyme responsible for carcinogen activation, and stimulation of intracellular antioxidant defense mechanisms. 

Coffee is also a major source of the chlorogenic acid that contributes to its antioxidant effect. Intake of chlorogenic acid has been shown to reduce glucose concentrations in rats and intake of quinides, degradation products of chlorogenic acid, increases insulin sensitivity.

Chronic hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance are confirmed markers of high risk for some cancer sites.”

The Benefits of Coffee: From Your Heart to Your Brain

The benefits of coffee are becoming so well established that, for the first time, a government advisory committee included a mention of caffeine in its recommendations for the 2015 edition of Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The report said Americans could safely consume up to five cups of coffee a day, or approximately 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine, with no detrimental effects.

The recommendation was based on an evaluation of multiple meta-analyses and other studies evaluating the link between coffee and chronic diseases, including cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s. Here’s a sampling of what the research shows: 

Heart Health

In a study of more than 25,000 people, those who drank a moderate amount of coffee – defined as three to five cups daily – were less likely to have calcium deposits in their coronary arteries than those who drank no coffee or more coffee daily.

A large part of arterial plaque consists of calcium deposits (atherosclerosis), hence the term “hardening of the arteries.” Coronary artery calcium can be a significant predictor of future heart disease risk. 

In addition, one study showed moderate coffee drinking reduces your chances of being hospitalized for heart rhythm problems.  Another study found it may trigger a 30 percent increase in blood flow in your small blood vessels, which might take some strain off your heart.

Another study, a meta-analysis that included data from 11 studies and nearly 480,000 people found drinking two to six cups of coffee a day was associated with a lower risk of stroke.

Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease

Drinking four to six cups of coffee a day is associated with a lower risk of multiple sclerosis, as is drinking a high amount of coffee over five to 10 years. According to researchers, “Caffeine has neuroprotective properties and seems to suppress the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.” Higher coffee and caffeine intake are also associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease.

Dementia

Caffeine promotes production of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline, and triggers the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons, thereby improving your brain health. Among people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), those with higher blood levels of caffeine (due to coffee consumption) were less likely to progress to full-blown dementia.“Caffeine/coffee intake is associated with a reduced risk of dementia or delayed onset, particularly for those who already have MCI,”the researchers said. 

Premature Death

Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine has even shown that coffee consumption is inversely associated with premature death. The more coffee drank, the lower the risk of death became, including deaths from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes.