Published 30th September 2021

What are the health benefits of coffee? 

The health benefits of coffee extend to nearly all parts of our body, and they are attributed to the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals within the bean itself. Once brewed, these nutrients seep into the dark liquid, which many of us then happily drink. 

For regular coffee-lovers, we have great news — you might be reaping unknown benefits from your daily cup, and we will detail these health benefits below. 

With all research, however, it’s important to keep in mind that correlation does not equal causation; it’s possible that coffee drinkers may have many healthy habits that contribute to their overall well-being. 

So, let’s look at the health benefits of coffee in detail. 

1. Improves microbiome diversity  

Gut microbiome diversity is an important marker of good health. 

ZOE’s PREDICT studies found that coffee drinkers tend to have a more diverse microbiome. One possible explanation has to do with the soluble fiber and prebiotic properties of coffee that feed the beneficial gut bugs. 

Find out more about the importance of gut health here

2. Improves cognitive function 

Coffee helps our brain work better. Research suggests that coffee may be good for long-term cognitive health, but not all scientists agree. 

Coffee may also lower your chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Interestingly, caffeine alone may not be enough to reap the mental benefits of coffee. Researchers found that there are other compounds in coffee that contribute to these effects in mice.

3. Reduces risk of gallstone diseases

Coffee intake may even reduce your risk of developing symptomatic gallstone disease later in life.

A recent study determined that high coffee intake can lower your risk of symptomatic gallstone disease by up to 23%.

If you are currently experiencing gallstones, however, you may want to avoid coffee due to the stimulating effect it has on the gallbladder. 

4. Decreases cancer risk  

Coffee has dozens of compounds that contribute to our health. Researchers recently showed that two coffee compounds, kahweol and cafestol, stopped the growth of prostate and kidney cancer cells in a laboratory study.

There is mounting evidence that coffee consumption may lower the risk of certain cancers such as liver, prostate, breast, colorectal, and potentially endometrial cancer.

5. Heals damaged cells  

Antioxidants help prevent and repair damage to cells and genetic material around your body. 

Research has shown that coffee is the number one source of polyphenols, a type of antioxidant, in our diet. 

There are other foods that are also rich in antioxidants, such as fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, though many people don’t eat enough of these. 

You can take a quiz to find out how personalized food recommendations can improve your health.

6. Lowers risk for Parkinson's disease  

Coffee has neuroprotective properties and may lower the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, which is the second most common neurodegenerative disease following Alzheimer’s. 

A number of studies have investigated this link and suggest that people who drink coffee may have up to a 60% decreased risk.  

7. Protects against diabetes  

Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common chronic conditions and affects nearly 10% of people in the U.S. The risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes include having a sedentary lifestyle, overweight, and being 45 or older. 

Researchers have found links between coffee consumption and diabetes; drinking 3–4 cups of coffee a day decreased the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. 

8. Improves bowel regularity  

We’re sure you saw this one coming. Coffee is well-known for its laxative effect. Nearly a third of coffee drinkers report needing to use the bathroom within 20 minutes post-brew. 

If you struggle to have a regular bowel movement, coffee might be a healthy beverage of choice to get things moving. 

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9. Increases physical activity levels  

Many of us rely on coffee for the jolt of energy we receive in return. So, it makes sense that this energy boost can also result in more exercise throughout our day.

Female participants in a public health study were 17% more likely to reach their physical activity goals if they drank 1–2 cups of coffee each day when compared with participants who drank one cup or fewer per day. 

10. Decreases stroke risk  

The Nurses’ Health Study, which evaluated 83,700 nurses’ diets, found that moderate coffee consumption was associated with decreased stroke risk. 

Recent research echoes this and suggests that people who drink between half a cup and three cups of coffee per day have a 21% lower risk of stroke than those who don’t drink any coffee.

11. Helps maintain weight loss 

So long as you don’t load up your coffee with sweeteners, you might find a weight loss benefit from your morning caffeine habit. 

One study found that weight loss maintainers who were coffee drinkers were 18% more likely to keep the weight off over time, when compared with non-coffee drinkers.

The weight loss effects of coffee might be attributed to caffeine’s role as an appetite suppressant and its effect on metabolic activity.

12. Protects liver health 

Coffee consumption is associated with a protective effect against chronic liver disease.

A large study including half a million participants found that 3–4 cups of coffee lowered the risk for all types of chronic liver disease. This includes cirrhosis, fatty liver disease, and hepatocellular carcinoma, the most common type of liver cancer. 

13. Decreases inflammation markers 

Chronic inflammation is a long-lasting immune response. Scientists have found links between this type of inflammation and chronic conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. 

Diet, physical activity, and stress levels all contribute to how much chronic inflammation is present in your body. 

The good news is that the anti-inflammatory properties of coffee are helpful in reducing low-grade inflammation

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14. Decreases risk of heart failure 

Possibly due to its diuretic effect on fluid levels, coffee is shown to offer a decreased risk for congestive heart failure. 

The Framingham Heart Study found that the risk of developing heart failure decreased by up to 12% with each additional cup of coffee.

15. Lowers risk of depression 

Is there such a thing as good mood food? We say yes! Coffee drinkers might not just appear to be in higher spirits, they are reducing their risk of depression with each cup.

Scientists have found that people who drink four or more cups of coffee a day have a significantly lower risk of developing depression.   

Coffee and health considerations 

With coffee, the poison is in the dose for certain people. Prof. Tim Spector, author of Spoon-fed and co-founder of ZOE, agrees: “Caffeine tolerance is highly personal, and there are some factors that you can’t control — such as your genes.” 

“Our latest PREDICT study showed that coffee drinkers have very different gut microbiomes, and this could also play a part in tolerance levels.” ­— Prof. Tim Spector, Spoon-Fed

People who metabolize coffee slowly tend to experience jitters, anxiety, and sleep disruptions. Those who metabolize coffee quickly, however, tend to have very few side effects.

Experimenting with your coffee sweet spot can help you recognize any unwanted side effects. If you notice your anxiety, mood, or sleep worsens when drinking coffee, you might want to reduce your coffee consumption. 

Pregnant women should also take caution when consuming coffee. The recommended limit during pregnancy is 12 ounces — or one and a half cups — per day. 

Listen to your body’s symptoms and reduce your coffee consumption if you aren’t tolerating it well.

Summary

If you love a coffee to get you going in the morning, rest easy! You’re receiving health benefits along with your caffeine fix.

From diversifying your gut microbiome, to lowering risks for many conditions — including diabetes, cancer, and depression — coffee is a beloved beverage that comes with plenty of perks.

If you want to discover more about your unique gut microbes and your individual responses to food, check out ZOE’s at-home test kit to learn why there is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition. 

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