5 great reasons to drink coffee every day!

by The Darwinian Doctor

Today I’ll tell you five great reasons to drink coffee everyday. From cancer prevention to decreasing your Alzheimer’s risk, coffee does it all!

  • Need more reasons to drink coffee?  Studies suggest coffee can reduce the risk of many serious conditions, including:
    • Alzheimer’s disease
    • Diabetes
    • Endometrial cancer
    • Liver disease
    • Prostate cancer
  • Evidence suggests that decaf coffee can offer much of the benefit of caffeinated coffee (but where’s the fun in that?)

While most of my posts recently have been about financial matters, I want to make sure to include some posts about general health.  Like many of you, I find it challenging to keep track of the most recent research in regards to diet and exercise. With my health related posts, I hope to create a convenient repository of the latest and greatest health information, analyzed through the lens of a physician.  

As health information trickles down from medical journals through the media, it often gets muddled and sensationalized.  It doesn’t help the confusion either when the advice seems to change wildly every few years. This seems to particularly apply to advice about diet and exercise.  

On the diet side, you may have noticed that for 2019, the recommended diet of the year is the Mediterranean diet.  Why would something as basic as one’s diet even change from year to year? Why can’t science offer a definitive conclusion by now?

I must admit, my fitness and eating habits do change pretty rapidly.  The Darwinian Dr-ess often complains that she has a hard time keeping track of my latest eating whims, and therefore will sometimes just omit my preferences from grocery and dinner plans entirely, leaving me to fend for myself.  

I have a strong suspicion that much of the back and forth on these basic recommendations for human health is because genetically, we are not all the same.  As we learn more about human genetics and each of our own genetic profiles, I believe we will eventually be able to generate individualized diet and exercise recommendations for all. Until we reach that landmark in human development (and until everyone can afford it), we will have to be satisfied with data from large studies that lump everyone into the same group.  

So what about coffee?

On most days, I’ll sip on a mug of cold brew coffee while driving to work.  Later on at work, I’ll usually have one or two more cups of coffee during my morning and afternoon energy slumps, then perhaps another half cup to steel myself for my drive home.  

This may seem like a lot, but it’s much less than the (literally) thousands of cups of coffee I guzzled during residency to fuel myself for 5AM rounds and 8 hour surgeries.  

While I sometimes worry about my excessive coffee consumption, history shows that I’m in good company.  Coffee has been consumed by humans since at least the 10th century, and currently it’s the most popular beverage in the world, with 400 billion cups consumed every year.  

For many years, coffee was portrayed as a vice, somewhat akin to smoking. Some of the initial data on coffee seemed to suggest that it may actually promote cancer. Later studies realized that coffee drinking and smoking often used to go hand-in-hand, and a lot of the data on coffee was being contaminated by the smoking aspect. In recent years, this connection has been thankfully debunked.

In fact, over the last two decades, many studies have started to reveal that coffee is actually pretty good for you!  

It’s a good time to note again that although I’m a physician, I’m not your physician, so take any advice here for entertainment value.  All medical decisions should be tailored to your specific needs and health.  

So if you need more reasons to drink coffee, please read on for the latest information about how coffee can reduce your risk of all sorts of bad conditions!

Coffee and Alzheimer’s Disease

Around 2010, a research group of of Scandinavia reported findings from the Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging and Dementia (CAIDE) study.  It found that the study participants who drank 3-5 cups of coffee a day in their middle aged years had a 65% reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease compared to those who drank no coffee.

Having seen the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s on both patients and their loved ones, this finding made quite an impression on me.

Coffee and Diabetes

The CDC reported in 2017 that more than 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes.    Diabetes mellitus isn’t so bad in the early stages, but if it’s not controlled, it can lead to horrible complications such as blindness, erectile dysfunction (gasp!), and limb amputation.

In 2014, however, a meta-analysis found that drinking 6 cups of coffee a day was associated with a 33% lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

That’s a lot of coffee, but studies also suggest that you can get the same benefit from decaf coffee.  This adds to other evidence that suggests it’s likely the antioxidants in coffee (like polyphenols), rather than just caffeine, that make it such a healthy brew.  

So to prevent diabetes, exercise, eat right, and drink your coffee!

Endometrial cancer

The lining of the uterus is called the endometrium, and this is the site of the most common cancer of the female reproductive system.  Risk of this cancer seems to go up lockstep with obesity and insulin levels. Because of this relationship, there’s been a suspicion that coffee might have a similar protective effect against this cancer, just like it has been found to provide against diabetes.  

In 2012, a meta-analysis found evidence for this connection.  For every cup of coffee a woman drinks a day, the risk of endometrial cancer seems to go down by 8%.  The women who drank the most coffee, about 3-4 cups a day, had a 29% reduced risk of this cancer.  

Liver disease

The liver is super important for processing toxins, making proteins, and digesting your food.  There are a lot of conditions that can lead to liver damage, including obesity, alcoholism, and hepatitis infection.  

Although many of these conditions are chronic, it turns out that coffee can really slow down the associated damage and inflammation that can lead to the permanent scarring of the liver called fibrosis. Studies found that somewhere between 2-4 cups of coffee a day are needed for the benefit.  When it comes to the liver, it’s unclear if it’s the caffeine or the antioxidants that are exerting the beneficial effect. They both seem to be protective against the damage.

Prostate cancer

The mysterious prostate sits between the bladder and penis in men, and does useful things like help produce semen and control urination.  However, it’s also the most common source of cancer in men, with about 1 in 9 men eventually facing this diagnosis. Curative treatment for prostate cancer, such as radiation or surgery can unfortunately have side effects like leakage of urine or soft erections.  But there’s emerging evidence that low grade prostate cancer (by far the most common type discovered), can be safely observed for years without the need for curative treatment. It’s the higher grades of prostate cancer that is generally dangerous, and demands treatment.

Coffee hasn’t been shown to have much of an effect on low grade prostate cancer, but when it comes to high grade prostate cancer, drinking 3 cups of coffee a day was associated with a 55% lower risk!  

What about Acrylamide?

Coffee has been found to contain small amounts of acrylamide, which is a chemical that causes cancer when fed to mice in massive amounts.  This led to a lawsuit in 2018 in California which sought the labelling of coffee as a carcinogen. In August 2018, however, citing a ruling by the World Health Organization, California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment stated that acrylamide produced during coffee bean roasting and brewing “pose no significant risk of cancer.”  So that’s the final word on acrylamide, for now.

So what do you think?  Do you have enough reasons to drink coffee now? I certainly am going to continue my caffeine habit, and will now do it guilt free!


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4 years ago

I’m a fan of coffee in the diet. The problem with the SAD is its carb heavy, causes inflammation, and insulin resistance resulting in 24/7 insulin release and “anabolism”. Your body never gets a chance to become catabolic. Insulin rules and is highly anabolic especially to fat cells. To go catabolic requires insulin to shut off and glucagon to turn on. Glucagon promotes fat catabolism by the release of free fatty acids and glycerol. FFA is designed to efficiently provide fuel for ATP production and is a more efficient energy source than glucose based on CO2 production. Glucose produces far more CO2 for a given workload than fat. Glucose is there to run away from a bear NOT to provide fuel to climb a tree. Glycerol is successfully converted to glucose by the liver through gluconeogenesis and a second pathway through some amino acids, so protein and fat are ALL you need, glucose is completely optional and in fact cause people to get fat. A large body of science now points to this mechanism. Insulin resistance is inflammatory as you would expect anabolism to be inflammatory. The sure sign of inflammation is edema. If you switch away from a starchy insulin resistant based existence to a protein fat diet, a diet where you can be sometimes catabolic and living off fat sores instead of storing fat the inflammatory response goes away. This is part an parcel of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is characterized by many sub system diseases including HTN, T2DM, NDD, CAD Renal disease, pretty much the ailments of modern american life. The diet change resolves much if not all of these because it allows catabolism. Fruits and veggies and smoothies are a waste of time, you can eat em or not but they tend toward causing inflammation.

I think coffee works by promoting catabolism in that it mildly revs up metabolism and mildly restricts hunger. Revved up metabolism would be beneficial for T2DM, improved cardiac performance, improved respiratory performance and lower NDD since NDD by some is considered T2DM of the brain sometimes called T3DM. It’s a very different picture than what we learned in med school but the science seems sound to me after doing extensive research into the topic. As a surgeon you know there is no healing without protein and fat catabolism, spend 5 minutes in a burn unit and that becomes clear. If you can’t get to a positive N2 balance you will not survive the injury

4 years ago

Certainly diets likely should be tailored to the phenotype. The million diets is another problem everybody’s an expert but nobody knows what hey are talking about. We have been sold a load by the FDA

Robert Donald
4 years ago

Great Post!!
Thanks for sharing

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