How caffeine could extend your life

Hot Coffee Beans

Are you a caffeine lover? Do you have more than one cup every day? Do you get a headache if you wait too long for your fix in the morning? If so, rest easy; you’re not alone. Approximately 54% of Americans drink coffee every day, and the average person drinks 3.1 cups per day. All in all, the U.S. population consumes about 400 million cups of coffee each year. And we don’t just like our coffee; we love it. In fact, 49% of people say they’d rather give up their cell phone for a month than give up their morning cup of joe.

If you count yourself among the 52% of us who’d rather give up our morning showers than your coffee, then you’ll be happy to know that not only does coffee provide a jolt of energy, but it also may help you live longer! Studies show that coffee can increase longevity up to 15%. What gives coffee its life lengthening properties? And how do you know when you’ve had too much? Here’s all you need to know about that sweet, bitter, addictive bean.

Coffee reduces your risk of stroke

In a study of 82,369 men and women in Japan, it was determined that consuming just one cup of coffee each day was enough to decrease the risk of stroke by about 20%. Participants were followed for 13 years after the study to verify the findings.

Coffee reduces risk of Type 2 Diabetes

Drinking just two cups of coffee each day reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 12%. Even decaf coffee decreases the risk, but not as significantly as caffeinated coffee.

Coffee reduces risk of heart failure

A joint study between the Harvard School of Public Health and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) determined that drinking a moderate amount of coffee decreases the risk of heart disease. Drinking between 2-4 cups of coffee each day decreased the risk of heart disease by 11%.

So, if coffee is so good for us, why does it have a reputation for causing damaging health effects? When doctors and researchers first started studying the effects of coffee consumption in the 1970s, most coffee drinkers also had another habit: smoking. It was very difficult for researchers to distinguish between the two habits, and so most of the negative effects caused by smoking were inadvertently blamed on caffeine. This caused people to avoid caffeine for much of the 1980s. Since then, researchers have been able to separate coffee drinkers from smokers to conclude that caffeine, in moderate doses, acts almost like a health food.

Several different compounds are to thank for coffee’s life lengthening properties. Lignans, quinides, and magnesium all reduce insulin resistance and inflammation. Both insulin resistance and inflammation are linked to a plethora of diseases, including arthritis, cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure. It also contributes to our physical features; inflammation leads to weight gain and wrinkles. The regular consumption of coffee keeps inflammation at bay.

How Much Should I Drink?

While coffee is certainly beneficial, it’s important to remember the old adage, “All things in moderation.” Depending on which study you choose to believe, you may be told to drink no more than one cup or you may be told to drink up to five cups. Most doctors agree that consuming between 2-4 cups of coffee each day is healthy and safe. A cup is about 8 oz. of caffeine. Once you exceed 400 mg. (about 4 cups) of caffeine, the health benefits begin to dissipate. But remember, when you add heavy cream or sugar to your coffee, you can negate the health benefits of coffee with the negative health effects of sugar and dairy.

If you’re an avid coffee drinker, you know that your morning cup of coffee is about more than just the coffee: it’s about the sound of the water hitting the machine, the aroma of the beans filling your kitchen, and the jolt of energy you receive as the caffeine hits your system. And now, we know that this little joy may even help you live a longer, healthier life. So, the next time you’re craving a cup of coffee, close your eyes, breathe in the earthy aroma, and indulge.  For more information about how coffee affects your life and what if any changes you should make, please reach out to Dr. Ian Kroes

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