Coffee gets a bad rap, but studies show your java habit may actually be good for you. From a reduced cancer risk to fewer cavities, here are the best reasons to enjoy a cup or two.
by Rachel Grumman Bender (Sep 2015)
There’s no need to feel guilty about your morning cup o’ joe. On the contrary: People who drink four or more cups of coffee a day have up to a 20 percent lower risk of melanoma than those who sip the dark stuff less often, according to a 2015 study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
But this study is hardly the first one touting good news for java junkies. “Coffee is incredibly rich in antioxidants, which are responsible for many of its health benefits,” says Joy Bauer, RD, nutrition and health expert for Everyday Health and The Today Show. And studies show that its caffeine content may also play a protective role in some health conditions.
Beyond lowering your skin cancer risk, you may be surprised to learn that coffee can also decrease your odds of developing the following health issues:
People who consumed higher amounts of coffee (and/or green tea) each day showed a lower risk of stroke when compared to those who rarely consumed the beverages, according to a 2013 study published in the journal Stroke.
People who increased their coffee consumption by more than one cup per day over a four-year period had an 11 percent lower risk of type 2 diabetesover the following four years compared to those who did not change their intake, according to a 2014 study led by Harvard School of Public Health. The researchers also found that decreasing coffee intake by more than a cup per day resulted in a 17 percent higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
Does the smell of a rich French roast seem to wake you up on a sluggish morning? Turns out the aroma may help minimize the effects of sleep deprivation on your body. A 2008 study published in the Journal Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that when stressed-out, sleep-deprived rats simply smelled coffee, they experienced a trigger in gene activity known to protect nerve cells from stress-related damage.
4. Tooth decay:
Although sipping a cup of java doesn’t mean you can ditch the floss, coffee may help boost your dental health. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Conservative Dentistry found that black coffee can help prevent tooth decay — the scientists behind the study advised that additives like milk and sugar have a counterproductive effect.
Women who drank boiled Scandinavian coffee, which is similar to stronger French press, Turkish, or Greek varieties, more than four times a day had a reduced risk of breast cancer when compared to women who drank it less than once a day, according to a 2010 study published in the journal Cancer Causes & Control.
An important note: Because the coffee wasn’t filtered, it contained up to 80 times as many coffee-specific fatty acids, which have been linked to slower growth of cancerous cells.
Although the research on coffee’s cancer-fighting properties has been mixed, a 2012 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that the caffeinated kind may guard against death from throat and mouth cancers. Compared with coffee abstainers, those who drank more than four cups daily had about half the risk of death from certain mouth and throat cancers.
One coffee caveat: Most health experts agree it’s wise to limit your intake to a few cups a day — that’s a standard 8-ounce mug, not the super-sized beverages many coffee shops offer. Overdoing it can lead to interrupted sleep or insomnia, stomachaches, a racing heart, nervousness, irritability, and nausea. Remember, we’re talking coffee with a splash of milk — not loaded with whipped cream and sugary syrups. “Adding a lot of calories to your coffee can actually raise your risk for diseases like stroke and diabetes,” says Keri Gans, RD, a nutritionist in private practice in New York City.
Also, doctors recommend that pregnant women or people with certain health issues, such as high blood pressure or high blood sugar, limit their caffeine intake. Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about how much coffee is safe for you.
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