Pour yourself a cup (or more) and watch your health SOAR
This month, on our 10th anniversary of publication, I’m going to be sharing new research on some of my favorite things—starting with my morning brew.
Coffee is one of the best natural pick-me-ups around. A few cups of joe can tighten your focus and have you ready to hit the ground running.
But it can do so much more than that.
I’ve written before about how science shows coffee can protect against metabolic diseases—like Type II diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and cancer. It can also improve liver health, cognition, and help alleviate depression.
But, as the old commercial goes: Wait—there’s more!
Coffee can also protect against two debilitating diseases…a particularly painful condition…and MUCH more (we’ll cover it all in just a moment).
So, pour yourself a cup of java, find a comfortable chair, and read up on this new research about how one of my favorite beverages can significantly enhance your health…for years to come.
Coffee compounds help you live longer?
Let’s start with the most surprising benefit because the results are so striking—I can’t hold them back any longer!
Researchers analyzed data from the long-term U.K. Biobank study. The data was collected between 2006 and 2016, from nearly 500,000 British men and women ages 38 to 73.1
(This study sought to investigate the role of genetics and environmental factors—like diet and lifestyle—in disease development.)
Seventy-eight percent of participants drank coffee at least occasionally—a habit that ultimately BOOSTED longevity!
In fact, it was associated with a lower overall mortality (death) risk.
And it didn’t even matter what type of coffee. In fact, decaffeinated coffee had the same longevity effects as its caffeinated cousin.
These findings suggest the importance of all of coffee’s constituents (not just caffeine) in overall health.
Indeed, scientists have identified hundreds of beneficial compounds and nutrients in coffee beans.
For example, coffee is rich in certain B vitamins like riboflavin, and plant polyphenol compounds—which act as antioxidants. These antioxidants have been shown in reams of research to help lower the inflammation that contributes to many chronic diseases.
And, of course, fewer chronic diseases means a longer lifespan.
Calculating your mortality risk one cup at a time
Another impressive aspect of this study is that there was enough data for researchers to look at how mortality is affected literally cup-to-cup.
Compared to non-coffee drinkers, enjoying the following number of cups daily offered this protection against death, on average:
- Less than one cup: 6 percent lower risk
- One cup: 8 percent lower risk
- Two to three cups: 12 percent lower risk
- Four to five cups: 12 percent lower risk
- Six to seven cups: 16 percent lower risk
- Eight or more cups: 14 percent lower risk
As you can see, the more coffee you drink, the greater the benefit…and the longer you may be able to live.
But just as with consumption of other beverages and food, I recommend moderation here. Coffee should be one part of a balanced diet.
In other words, don’t rely on a heavy coffee indulgence alone to boost your longevity. Follow healthy lifestyle choices (like exercising daily and eating a balanced diet, both of which have a substantial impact on chronic disease and longevity).
Then, enjoy any added protection your morning cup of joe may extend.
In fact, most research has found that one to four cups of coffee a day confer the most health benefits. And this study shows that level of consumption can lower your risk of death by a substantial 8 to 12 percent, on average.
Which leads me to another new study on coffee and mortality risk…
Even more protection against death
This study also pulled data from the U.K. Biobank database.
Between 2009 and 2018, researchers analyzed data from 171,616 men and women. None of the participants had been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease or cancer at the study’s onset.
During the seven-year study period, 1,725 of the participants died of cancer and 628 from cardiovascular disease.
The researchers found that compared to people who didn’t drink coffee, those who drank unsweetened coffee were between 16 and 21 percent less likely to die from any cause. And this held true even when the researchers adjusted for lifestyle factors like diet and exercise, and demographic factors like education and income.
Another interesting aspect of the study is that the people who drank between 1.5 and 3.5 cups of coffee a day—sweetened with an average of one teaspoon of sugar per cup—were still 29 to 31 percent less likely to die than non-coffee drinkers.
Of course, you know I’m not a fan of consuming excess sugar, but this could be good news for people who simply don’t like the taste of unsweetened coffee. Because, according to this study, a small amount of sugar doesn’t appear to nix the longevity benefits of a cup (or three) of joe.
Slash risk of TWO dreaded diagnoses
Now, let’s move on to coffee’s protection against two debilitating diseases: Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.3
The researchers noted previous studies have found that drinking coffee lowers the risk of both conditions. But no one seems to understand exactly why.
To try and answer that question, researchers brewed three types of coffee—light roast, dark roast, and decaffeinated dark roast. They then conducted various lab tests on the coffee extracts.
The researchers found that both the caffeinated and decaffeinated dark roasts had the same positive effects on Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and age-related cognitive decline.
So…they concluded yet again that it’s not necessarily the caffeine in coffee that protects the brain.
Instead, they found that compounds in coffee beans called phenylindanes inhibit changes in the brain that some associate with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients.
Because phenylindanes only emerge during the coffee roasting process, the researchers concluded that dark roast blends are likely more protective against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s than lighter roasts.
The study didn’t report how many cups of coffee you’d need to drink to have these benefits, but previous research has found that three to four cups a day seem to be best for brain health.
And this study shows that those cups should contain dark-roasted coffee, either caffeinated or decaf.
Kick kidney stones to the curb
Another new study focused on a particularly painful condition: Kidney stones.
(For anyone who’s undergone the pain of passing a kidney stone—not to mention their effects on kidney health—these findings are vitally important.)
Once again, the U.K. Biobank database was involved. Researchers looked at data from nearly 400,000 people—6,436 of whom had suffered from kidney stones in the past. They also added data from 176,613 participants in Finland’s FinnGen consortium (including 3,856 cases of kidney stones).4
After analyzing the data, the researchers found that a 50 percent increase in coffee consumption was associated with a whopping 40 percent decrease in risk of kidney stone formation.
Specifically, consuming 80 milligrams (mg) more of caffeine lowered risk of kidney stones by 19 percent.
(According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture [USDA], one 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee contains about 95 mg of caffeine—so drinking just one extra cup a day can have significant benefits for your kidney health.)
The researchers think the caffeine in coffee lowers risk of kidney stones in a couple of ways…
Because caffeine is a diuretic, it can increase the amount of urine you pass—which is key in preventing the development of kidney stones. Plus, it helps block adhesion of calcium oxalate crystals (the most common type of kidney stone) inside the kidneys in the first place.
Turbocharge your daily walk
Of course, the caffeine in coffee can do more than just help prevent kidney stones. A new research review from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) shows caffeine can also help enhance a daunting (yet vitally important) task: Exercise.
More specifically, research shows it helps boost overall exercise performance, including muscular endurance and strength.5
Now, caffeine has long been used by athletes to fuel their workouts. But this review shows that caffeine can also help recreational exercisers perform better—especially if you consume it about 60 minutes before physical activity.
That can be welcome news when the thought of simply taking a walk around the block is overwhelming. But—if you schedule your daily exercise in the morning, after your breakfast coffee, you may feel more energized…and able to walk or do other activities longer.
How much caffeine do you need to perform at your best?
Well, the research review reported that caffeine consistently supports physical performance when taken in doses of 3 to 6 mg per kilogram (kg) of body mass, with a minimum effective dose of 2 mg/kg.
So, first convert your body weight to kg. (Find your weight in pounds and divide by 2.205.) Next, multiply your body mass in kg by 3…then by 6…to find your range of caffeine.
For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, that’s 68 kg. And you’ll need between 204 to 408 mg of caffeine. That translates into two to four cups of brewed coffee a day—which is right in line with what other studies show to be optimal for the most health benefits.
At the end of the day, these new studies (and plenty of previous research) consistently find that drinking one to four cups of coffee a day is a key factor in good health. And in most cases, that coffee can be caffeinated or decaffeinated…instant or ground…hot or cold…espresso or drip.
Of course, I always think the fresher the better. I like my morning coffee black, because it has minimal calories. But if you prefer a creamier version like my French relatives, try a café au lait with full-fat, organic milk for even more health benefits.
SIDEBAR: How much is too much caffeine?
Caffeine is the most commonly consumed substance in the world that has psychoactive properties. In fact, research shows that about 90 percent of adults in the U.S. and other Western countries consume caffeine on a regular basis.5
And while we typically associate caffeine with coffee, there are more than 60 other plants whose beans, leaves, or fruit contain varying levels of caffeine. Two of the best-known are tea and cacao.
There’s also synthetic caffeine, which is used as an ingredient in some prescription and over-the-counter pain relievers. (Some athletes consume powdered caffeine from both natural and synthetic sources.)
But the overarching “rule” to caffeine consumption is to not overdo it. Like most things in life, moderation is key.
Of course, you’d have to consume quite a bit to put your health in danger. Studies show that around 400 mg of caffeine a day should be your limit. According to the USDA, that translates into about four 8-ounce cups of brewed coffee, 15 cups of tea, or a whopping 33 ounces of dark chocolate. Which I definitely don’t recommend.
So, unless you’re really overindulging, too much caffeine shouldn’t be a problem in your daily, balanced diet.
1“Association of Coffee Drinking With Mortality by Genetic Variation in Caffeine Metabolism: Findings From the UK Biobank.” JAMA Intern Med.2018;178(8):1086–1097.
2“Association of Sugar-Sweetened, Artificially Sweetened, and Unsweetened Coffee Consumption With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality : A Large Prospective Cohort Study.” Ann Intern Med. 2022;10.7326/M21-2977.
3“Phenylindanes in Brewed Coffee Inhibit Amyloid-Beta and Tau Aggregation.” Frontiers in Neuroscience, 2018; 12.
4“Coffee and Caffeine Consumption and Risk of Kidney Stones: A Mendelian Randomization Study.” Am J Kidney Dis. 2022;79(1):9-14.e1.
5“International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and exercise performance.” J Int Soc Sports Nutr 18, 1 (2021).