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Coffee Basics

14 Surprising Health Benefits of Coffee Backed by Science

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Coffee beans in the shape of a heart sitting in a pile of coffee grounds

Coffee has long been the beverage of choice for millions of people when jump-starting their day or helping them power through a long afternoon. But did you know there’s more to coffee than just keeping you awake and alert? It offers numerous health and wellness benefits as well.

Research into the benefits of coffee has opened up intriguing insights into its impact on human health. From improving cognitive functions and reducing the risk of certain diseases to enhancing physical performance, the complexity of this seemingly simple drink continues to astound scientists and coffee enthusiasts alike.

However, it’s also essential to consider the way you consume coffee when it comes to these benefits. Factors such as the amount, the time of day, and what you choose to add to your coffee all play a crucial role in maximizing its potential advantages.

1. Lowered Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Pile of coffee beans next to a syringe filled with coffee beans lying on a wooden table
Some compounds in coffee have been shown to enhance insulin sensitivity, which is vital in controlling blood sugar levels. nongning/Adobe Stock

Regular coffee consumption has consistently been linked to a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes in healthy individuals.

One study conducted by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health discovered that people who increased their coffee intake by more than one cup per day over a four-year period had an 11% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

On the flip side, this same study also found that individuals who decreased their coffee consumption by more than 1 cup per day actually increased their chances of developing type 2 diabetes by 17%. 

The good news is that it’s not just the caffeine providing these benefits. Both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee can help in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes.

In general, coffee contains several beneficial compounds that may be responsible for its protective effects. These include antioxidants, polyphenols, and other bioactive elements that help improve glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity.

2. Promotes Heart Health

Another one of the many benefits of coffee is its effect on heart health.

According to the American College of Cardiology, drinking two to three cups of coffee daily is associated with a 10% to 15% lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, heart failure, or a heart rhythm problem. This same study found that coffee’s heart-healthy benefits also extended to individuals who already suffered from heart issues.

One of the big reasons coffee benefits the heart is that it contains over 100 biologically active compounds.

According to Peter M. Kistler, MD, professor and head of arrhythmia research at the Alfred Hospital and Baker Heart Institute in Melbourne, Australia, these substances can help reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, boost metabolism, inhibit the gut’s absorption of fat, and block receptors known to be involved with abnormal heart rhythms. 

3. Reduced Threat of Neurodegenerative Diseases

Older married couple enjoying their morning cup of coffee
Coffee is rich in antioxidants, which combat oxidative stress, a significant factor in the development of neurodegenerative disorders. zinkevych/Adobe Stock

Incorporating coffee into your daily routine has been shown to help protect against cognitive decline and neurodegenerative conditions such as dementia, mild cognitive impairment, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Parkinson’s Disease

A recent study found that regular coffee consumption may help reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease by up to 64%, particularly in men.

In addition to its potential effect on the risk of Parkinson’s disease, coffee consumption has been shown to help ease Parkinson’s symptoms as well.

Coffee’s caffeine content appears to play a significant role in these findings. Research indicates that caffeine affects the pathophysiology of Parkinson’s disease, though the exact mechanisms still require further investigation.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Moderate coffee intake has also been associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease. This is because caffeine is thought to have neuroprotective effects in the context of Alzheimer’s disease.

Some studies have shown that caffeine can possibly impact the development of Alzheimer’s by interfering with the formation of amyloid peptide deposits in the brain.

NOTE: While these findings are promising, further research is still needed to fully understand how coffee and its active ingredients prevent the onset and progression of neurodegenerative diseases.

4. Increased Longevity

Another one of the exciting benefits of coffee is that it’s been linked to increased longevity and a lowered risk of certain health issues related to aging.

A long-term study published in the journal Circulation tracked over 200,000 participants for 30 years. They found that those who drank 3 to 5 cups of coffee per day were 15% less likely to die from all causes of mortality.

Additionally, even the type of coffee and its caffeine content doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to longevity benefits.

A study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health revealed that people who drank up to eight cups of coffee per day, whether caffeinated or decaffeinated, brewed or instant, had a slightly lower risk of early death compared to non-drinkers.

5. Reduced Risk of Some Cancers

Contrary to previously held beliefs, new research suggests that drinking coffee can actually reduce the risk of multiple types of cancer. These include prostate, liver, and endometrial cancer, as well as some cancers of the mouth and throat.

One study examined the association between coffee consumption and colorectal cancer, finding that those who consumed more than 2.5 cups of coffee daily had a 54% lower risk of developing this type of cancer compared to non-coffee drinkers.

Although the reasons for coffee’s beneficial effects on cancer aren’t completely understood, hundreds of biologically active compounds, including caffeine, flavonoids, lignans, and other polyphenols, are found in roasted coffee. These and other coffee compounds have been shown to increase energy expenditure, inhibit cellular damage, regulate genes involved in DNA repair, have anti-inflammatory properties, and inhibit metastasis.

NOTE: Although drinking coffee may help reduce the risk of some cancers, it’s important to remember that maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including not smoking, eating well, and being physically active, is crucial in overall cancer prevention.

6. Aids in Weight Loss

Hot cup of coffee sitting on a kitchen island next to a woman in fitness gear measuring her waist
Some studies suggest that coffee can temporarily suppress appetite, leading to reduced calorie intake. magdal3na/Adobe Stock

Coffee can also be a helpful addition to your weight loss journey. One of the main ways it contributes to this area is by increasing your metabolism.

The caffeine in coffee stimulates your nervous system, sending signals to fat cells to break down fat. This process, in turn, boosts your metabolic rate, making it easier for you to burn calories throughout the day. In fact, studies have shown that caffeine can increase your metabolism by as much as 3-11%.

However, it’s essential to remember that coffee’s potential weight loss benefits are negated when it’s heavily sweetened with syrups and sugars or consumed with high-calorie additives like cream and milk.

To fully reap coffee’s weight loss benefits, it’s recommended to enjoy your coffee black or with minimal use of low-calorie sweeteners and milk substitutes.

7. Better Liver Health

One of the more significant benefits of coffee is its positive effect on liver health.

Studies have shown that coffee consumption can not only help protect your liver from diseases like cirrhosis, chronic liver disease, liver cancer, hepatitis B and hepatitis C, and other liver-related issues but also plays a role in improving liver enzyme levels.

The even better news is these benefits aren’t just limited to a certain type of coffee. Individuals who drink decaf, instant, or ground coffee can also reap the benefits. Research suggests this may be due to coffee’s various protective properties, such as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.

8. Lowered Risk of Gallstones

A study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine found that drinking coffee can also help lower the risk of gallstones.

It’s believed that coffee may stimulate contractions in the gallbladder, which can prevent the formation of stones. Moreover, coffee contains various bioactive compounds that potentially contribute to its gallstone-prevention properties.

According to the study, people who consumed more than six cups of coffee per day experienced a 23% reduction in their gallstone risk. This protective effect was observed even for those who drank smaller amounts of coffee. Participants who drank one to three cups per day still saw a decrease in gallstone risk compared to those who abstained from coffee altogether.

9. Improved Brain Function

Top down view of a cup of coffee with a sketch of the human brain in the coffee foam
Caffeine’s ability to enhance blood flow may improve overall brain oxygenation and nutrient supply. kittyfly/Adobe Stock

Drinking coffee can benefit your brain as well. The benefits can range from improved cognitive abilities and enhanced memory to helping you stay more alert and focused.

Research has linked coffee to better reaction times, attention, working memory, and executive control. At the same time, other findings suggest that regular coffee consumption could reduce the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment.

Moreover, coffee contains micronutrients called polyphenols, which have antioxidant properties. These micronutrients can help prevent tissue damage in the brain, promoting overall brain health.

Additionally, caffeine can increase levels of serotonin and acetylcholine, neurotransmitters that play a role in stabilizing the blood-brain barrier.

10. Loaded with Antioxidants

Coffee has long been known as a rich source of antioxidants, including polyphenols and hydrocinnamic acids. These antioxidants play a crucial role in neutralizing free radicals, which can cause damage to your cells.

A diet high in antioxidants can also help protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer.

Coffee beans are not only packed with antioxidants but contain phenolic compounds, which are believed to contribute to the health benefits of coffee. Phenolic compounds have been associated with reduced inflammation and improved metabolism, among other benefits.

11. Fights Inflammation

Coffee is well-known for its potential health benefits due to the presence of over 1,000 bioactive compounds. One of these benefits is its ability to fight inflammation.

Its anti-inflammatory benefits are thought to be a major reason why research has linked its consumption to lower risks for various inflammatory-related conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even some cancers.

One study found that heavy coffee drinkers had lower circulating levels of inflammatory markers than non-coffee drinkers.

Another study examining coffee with milk discovered that the combination of polyphenols in coffee and the amino acids found in milk can further enhance the anti-inflammatory properties of coffee. 

12. Helps Fight Depression

Woman laughing while enjoying a cup of coffee in a cafe
Caffeine increases the release of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which are associated with mood elevation. Jacob Lund/Adobe Stock

Consuming coffee can also benefit your mental health, more specifically, in combating depression.

Caffeine, which is a key component of coffee, is linked to improved mood and well-being. Caffeine not only provides your body with a boost of energy but can elevate your mood by stimulating the central nervous system.

A long-term study conducted on 2,232 middle-aged men in Eastern Finland discovered that regular coffee intake is associated with a reduced risk of depression.

Another study found that women who drank two to three cups of caffeinated coffee per day had a 15% lower risk of developing depression than those who drank one cup or less per week.

NOTE: While coffee may offer potential mental health benefits, it’s critical to remember that moderation is key. Consuming excessive amounts of caffeine can lead to negative effects, such as increased anxiety, insomnia, or dependence on the stimulant. Therefore, it’s crucial to find a balance that works for your individual needs and to be mindful of any potential negative impacts on your mood and well-being.

13. Decreases DNA Breakage

Drinking coffee, particularly dark roast, has been linked to a decrease in DNA breakage.

One study found that, after drinking just 500ml a day over a four-week period, the mean level of DNA strand breaks in the coffee group had decreased by 23% compared to the control group. 

In another study, researchers also observed that repeated coffee consumption was associated with reduced background DNA strand breakage. These results were even measurable as early as 2 hours after the first intake.

This reduction in DNA breakage can be tied to the antioxidants found in coffee and their ability to reduce oxidative damage in white blood cells. This damage has the potential to cause DNA breakage, which can lead to serious health issues such as cancer or tumor formation if not repaired by your cells.

14. Improves Physical Performance

Coffee cup sitting on a table with a woman jogging along the beach in the background
Some studies have shown that caffeine can reduce perceived muscle pain during exercise, allowing for longer and more intense workouts. vectorfusionart/Adobe Stock

In addition to the many health benefits of coffee, there are several performance-enhancing benefits as well. This is primarily due to the caffeine in coffee increasing circulating epinephrine (adrenaline), which can help boost athletic performance.

One study reported that a moderate dose of caffeine (5 mg/kg body weight) significantly increased the maximum weight lifted in exercises such as the bench press, squat, and deadlift. Furthermore, it was demonstrated that the ingestion of caffeine improved the participants’ feelings of strength, focus, and energy during the workout, potentially allowing for a more effective training session.

When it comes to physical endurance, research has found that caffeine consumption can prolong the time to exhaustion during activities like running and cycling. For example, one study found that caffeine consumption improved 5-km running performance in both well-trained and recreational runners, with participants running around 1.0 -1.1% faster after consuming caffeine.

To reap the physical performance benefits of coffee, finding the right timing and dosage for your body is essential. Although the optimal dosage may vary depending on your tolerance, a range of 3-9 mg/kg of body weight has been shown to be the most effective.

Things to Avoid

To maximize the many health benefits of coffee, it’s crucial to avoid certain practices that can diminish their effects.

Over Doing It

Many of coffee’s benefits are associated with caffeine, which can have adverse side effects when consumed excessively. These negative effects include jitteriness, anxiety, increased blood pressure, sleep disturbances, and adverse reactions with some medications.

Moderation is key to reaping the health benefits of coffee. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends no more than 400mg of caffeine per day, roughly equivalent to four or five cups of coffee.

Adding Extras

While coffee itself is rich in antioxidants and beneficial compounds, loading it with unhealthy extras like sugars, syrups, and excessive amounts of milk or cream can counteract its benefits.

To maintain a healthier coffee experience, it’s recommended that you drink it without anything extra added. However, if you do decide to add something extra, consider using natural sweeteners and spices like honey or cinnamon.

Using When Pregnant

If you’re pregnant or trying to conceive, it’s important to be cautious with your coffee consumption. High caffeine intake has been associated with an increased risk of miscarriage and growth restriction. It’s best to consult your healthcare provider for personalized advice on coffee intake during pregnancy.

Consuming Late in the Day

Drinking coffee late in the day can interfere with your sleep, as caffeine can stay in your system for several hours after consumption. If you want to enjoy a cup in the evening, consider switching to decaffeinated coffee to minimize potential sleep disturbances.

Combining with Other Stimulants

Beware of consuming coffee with other stimulants, such as energy drinks, certain medications, or even some foods like chocolate. Doing so can cause excessive caffeine consumption, exacerbating its side effects and potentially putting your health at risk.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the benefits of coffee reach far beyond just a morning or afternoon pick-me-up. From boosting mental focus to potential long-term health benefits, coffee’s advantages are numerous. However, it’s important to be smart with how you consume it.

If you’d like to continue furthering your coffee knowledge or are looking for advice on how to improve your home barista skills, be sure to check out our brewing guides as well as the coffee basics section of our website.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, coffee has been shown to offer some digestive health benefits. For instance, research has found that coffee stimulates bile and gastric acid production, both of which help break down food in the stomach more easily. Additionally, coffee increases the motility of the small intestine, which is responsible for moving food through the digestive tract.

The good news is decaffeinated coffee provides many of the same benefits as regular coffee, such as a reduced risk of diabetes, some cancers, heart disease, and dementia. It also contains similar amounts of antioxidants and biologically active compounds. The main difference, as the name implies, is the lack of caffeine and its associated benefits.

The health benefits of different types of roasts are generally the same, as the essential nutrients in the beans remain relatively unchanged during the roasting process. However, light roasts may have a slight edge in preserving more antioxidants due to the shorter roasting times. In the end, the health impact of coffee is more heavily swayed by general consumption habits and personal health factors rather than the specific level of roasting.

Coffee provides several benefits for your skin. Research has shown that due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, it can help fight against skin cancers like malignant melanoma and basal cell carcinoma. Your used coffee grounds also make a great exfoliant. In addition to removing dead skin, they can help tighten your skin, making it look and feel firmer.

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AUTHOR

Hey there! I'm Michael, founder and editor-in-chief of Filtered Grounds. In addition to being an entrepreneur, I'm also a bit of an endurance sports junkie. Whether it's working toward my business goals or training for my next Half Ironman triathlon, a good cold brew or cup of French press plays a role in fueling my performance.