Can Your Morning Cup of Coffee Provide You with More than Just an Energy Boost?

Coffee is the go-to caffeine choice for an energy boost in the morning or at any time. But what if coffee could do more than that? Limited studies have shown the potential for coffee consumption to reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes, protect against cirrhosis, and help control movement in patients with Parkinson's disease.  More robust studies are needed to provide support for these other potential health benefits of coffee consumption. Make sure you check with your primary healthcare provider before consuming coffee or caffeine (especially with high blood pressure and during pregnancy) to ensure it is safe. 

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Everyone has their favorite go-to coffee order.  Whether it is hot, iced, plain, with cream and sugar, or flavored ('tis the season of pumpkin spice), it is something many people look forward to every day. 

One popular chain, Dunkin' Donuts, sells 2 billion cups of hot or iced coffee globally every year.  And the most exciting part is that there are 25,000 ways to order your coffee at Dunkin' Donuts.  That is a LOT of combinations!

Many of us enjoy that cup of coffee because of its energy-boosting effects – shout out to all the moms running on zero sleep!  But what does the research say about drinking coffee and its impact on other health benefits such as a lower risk of type 2 diabetes or heart failure?

Coffee Overview

Coffee contains antioxidants that can help eliminate free radicals (waste products that may cause inflammation) from the body.  Coffee also contains small amounts of other beneficial nutrients – potassium, niacin, and magnesium.  You can also use coffee to increase your daily calcium and vitamin D intake by adding fat-free or low-fat milk.  Some people also add sweetener to their coffee, but it is important to be mindful of your daily sugar intake.  

So how much is too much coffee?  A max of three to five 8 oz cups of coffee (or 400 mg caffeine) is the amount recommended per day for healthy adults. Individuals with high blood pressure, the elderly, or pregnant women will want to limit their caffeine, and it is best to speak with a health care provider to discuss the best approach for you.

Most people are aware that coffee can make you feel less tired and have more energy, but can it also offer some other health benefits? Let’s discuss the evidence. 

Heart Health

A 2017 review article suggested that caffeine intake may have a small benefit on cardiovascular disease.  However, it did also show that increased caffeine intake increased blood pressure and cholesterol.

A meta-analysis review article indicated that moderate coffee consumption might be weakly associated with lower stroke risk. 

Studies are not clear on whether caffeine has an overall beneficial impact on your heart health.  However, it appears that moderate caffeine intake, even with its potential for slight blood pressure increases, does not increase your risk for coronary heart disease.

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson's disease is a brain disorder associated with shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with walking/balance/coordination.  The symptoms of Parkinson's disease may begin gradually and then worsen over time.

A study looking specifically at Japanese-American men suggested that higher coffee and caffeine intake was associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease.

A 2012 randomized control trial followed 61 patients, split into treatment and control groups, to assess caffeine effects on daytime sleepiness, motor severity, and other nonmotor features.  According to this one study, the caffeine in coffee may help control movement in people with Parkinson’s disease.

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Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a significant health concern affecting millions of people worldwide.  People with type 2 diabetes experience elevated blood sugar levels caused by insulin resistance or a reduced ability to secrete insulin.

A 2014 meta-analysis looked at the association between coffee and caffeine intake and type 2 diabetes incidence.  The analysis results found that coffee and caffeine intake might reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes.

Liver Disorders

Worldwide, liver cancer is a leading cause of cancer deaths associated with about 700,000 deaths each year.  

In a 2013 meta-analysis, Italian researchers suggested that consuming coffee can lower the risk of developing liver cancer by about 40% compared to those who did not drink coffee.  This relationship might partially or primarily occur because patients with liver diseases reduce their coffee consumption. 

Interestingly, coffee may also help protect against cirrhosis.  One cohort study suggests that an ingredient in coffee protects against cirrhosis, especially alcoholic cirrhosis. 

The Bottom Line

Coffee is a popular beverage most known for its energy-boosting effects.  Some studies have shown that coffee consumption may help control movement in people with Parkinson's disease, reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes, and protect against cirrhosis. More extensive studies are needed to provide strong evidence and support for these other potential health benefits of coffee consumption. 

In the meantime, if you enjoy coffee and you are healthy, make sure you follow the recommendations for the max amount of coffee or caffeine intake per day.  For those with other health conditions, such as high blood pressure or pregnancy, make sure you speak with your primary care provider first to determine what is an appropriate amount of coffee or caffeine consumption for you. 

Coffee or caffeine consumption is not a replacement for medical advice or diagnosis and should only be consumed as directed after speaking with your healthcare provider. 

References:

Fact sheets.  Dunkin’ Donuts website. https://news.dunkindonuts.com/about. Accessed August 19, 2020.

Benefits of Coffee. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website. https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/benefits-of-coffee. Reviewed January 2020. Accessed August 19, 2020.

Smith AP, Brockman P, Flynn R, Maben A, Thomas M. Investigation of the effects of coffee on alertness and performance during the day and night. Neuropsychobiology. 1993;27(4):217-223. doi:10.1159/000118984

Grosso G, Godos J, Galvano F, Giovannucci EL. Coffee, Caffeine, and Health Outcomes: An Umbrella Review. Annu Rev Nutr. 2017;37:131-156. doi:10.1146/annurev-nutr-071816-064941

Larsson SC, Orsini N. Coffee consumption and risk of stroke: a dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. Am J Epidemiol. 2011;174(9):993-1001. doi:10.1093/aje/kwr226

Lopez-Garcia E, van Dam RM, Willett WC, et al. Coffee consumption and coronary heart disease in men and women: a prospective cohort study. Circulation. 2006;113(17):2045-2053. doi:10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.105.598664

Parkinson’s Disease. National Institute on Aging website. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/parkinsons-disease#:~:text=Parkinson's%20disease%20is%20a%20brain,have%20difficulty%20walking%20and%20talking. Reviewed May 16, 2017. Accessed August 19, 2020.

Ross GW, Abbott RD, Petrovitch H, et al. Association of coffee and caffeine intake with the risk of Parkinson disease. JAMA. 2000;283(20):2674-2679. doi:10.1001/jama.283.20.2674

Postuma RB, Lang AE, Munhoz RP, et al. Caffeine for treatment of Parkinson disease: a randomized controlled trial [published correction appears in Neurology. 2012 Oct 16;79(16):1744]. Neurology. 2012;79(7):651-658. doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e318263570d

Jiang X, Zhang D, Jiang W. Coffee and caffeine intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus: a meta-analysis of prospective studies. Eur J Nutr. 2014;53(1):25-38. doi:10.1007/s00394-013-0603-x

Key Statistics about Liver Cancer. American Cancer Society website. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/liver-cancer/about/what-is-key-statistics.html. Reviewed April 1, 2019. Accessed August 19, 2020.

Bravi F, Bosetti C, Tavani A, Gallus S, La Vecchia C. Coffee reduces risk for hepatocellular carcinoma: an updated meta-analysis. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2013;11(11):1413-1421.e1. doi:10.1016/j.cgh.2013.04.039

Klatsky AL, Morton C, Udaltsova N, Friedman GD. Coffee, cirrhosis, and transaminase enzymes. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166(11):1190-1195. doi:10.1001/archinte.166.11.1190

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