Rejoice! Gone are the days where coffee needs to be served with space for guilt. The research is now unequivocal: coffee is a bona fide health food. In fact, the one thing that so many health “experts” chastise us for doing is actually the best thing we are consuming for our health with the most recent research pointing to coffee being a potent anti-aging beverage, writes Aidan Goggins.
At the end of all our DNA are a type of insulation called telomeres – the longer they are, the more they protect your DNA from ‘fraying’. Thus, unsurprisingly, shorter telomeres are associated with cellular aging causing shorter lives and ill health. And a brand new study examining US adult dietary habits has found caffeine consumption shortens our telomeres but, fascinatingly, coffee intake increases our telomeres length. It means not only is coffee not bad for you due to its caffeine content but its consumption should be encouraged. And it confirms a previous study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that coffee drinkers live longer than those who don’t drink it.
The reason for this incredible effect is that coffee is loaded with a nifty group of healthful plant nutrients, called polyphenols. In fact, coffee is the number one source of polyphenols in our modern diets – even greater than fruit and vegetables. Research shows these polyphenols work on the cellular and genetic level to turn on a ‘recycling activity’ in our bodies – a process called autophagy. This is essentially our body’s spring cleaning system that makes our bodies work more efficiently. And with this comes a whole host of desirable health benefits.
• Diabetes Preventer: Regular coffee drinkers have strikingly less diabetes, greater than 60% in some studies (4). And the more you drink the more benefit you get, with a review of the evidence incorporating almost half a million subjects, finding that every additional cup of coffee per day was associated with a 7% reduction in risk.
• Brain Protector: A growing body of research now supports drinking coffee to proffer significant protection for brain health. Coffee drinkers appear to be less susceptible to becoming depressed, and research shows benefit against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and especially Parkinsons.
• Liver protector: The weird and wonderful world of ‘detoxing’ decrees that abstinence from coffee is mandatory if you are serious about boosting liver health. How ironic then to discover that coffee drinkers have substantially less cirrhosis and liver cancer with the more coffee they drink, the lower the risk.
• Heart Health: Coffee drinking has extensive benefits for heart health, been shown to reduce artery hardening by reducing inflammation and oxidation of the ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol, reducing blood stickiness by inhibiting platelet aggregation, and promoting the repair of the lining of our blood vessels known as endothelium.
• Hydration: It’s a fictitious nutrition myth that caffeinated drinks, such as coffee, have a diuretic effect and dehydrate the body. In people who consume them regularly, caffeinated drinks such as coffee, hydrate the body and count perfectly well toward our daily fluid intake.
• Strength: Caffeine is a well established performance enhancer. But when straight up caffeine was pitted against the caffeine equivalent of coffee, coffee came out on top. Coffee drinkers were able to lift heavier and perform more reps on the heavy weight exercise squats. Coffee’s additional benefits come from its polyphenol content which increase body levels of performance enhancing nitric oxide and recovery antioxidants such as glutathione.
There are caveats to coffee drinking, notably for those who need to limit caffeine consumption such as in anxiety, insomnia and pregnancy. And coffee is best drunk black with lattes and other variations offering a significant source of calories, while some studies show polyphenols are best absorbed when no milk is added. Overall, make no mistake about it though a cup of joe is far more friend than foe.
Words by Aidan Goggins.