Top 10 Perks of Coffee

New research shows that drinking coffee can actually lengthen our lives. And that’s only the latest surprise from medical sleuths who have been assessing coffee’s remarkable health benefits. Recent studies reveal that coffee has previously unsuspected powers to protect against diseases ranging from Type 2 diabetes to breast and prostate cancer, and, possibly, Alzheimer’s disease.

The latest surprise comes from a study of more than 402,000 healthy men and women ages 50 to 71. The research, published in New England Journal of Medicine in May, reported that drinking three or more cups of coffee (or decaf) per day cut risk of death for heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries, accidents, diabetes and infection by 10 percent. (This applies only to nonsmokers who didn’t drink a lot of alcohol.)

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Coffee contains more than 1,000 compounds that could affect health. Here are 10 more amazing health perks:

Perk #1: Hot Coffee May Fight Superbug Infections.

Compared to people who don’t drink hot coffee or tea, those who do are 50 percent less likely to harbor MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) bacteria in their nose—and may therefore be at significantly lower risk for developing a dangerous superbug infection. MRSA causes 278,000 hospitalizations and more than 6,500 deaths in the US annually.

Perk #2: Coffee Decreases Diabetes Risk.

Researchers at Harvard who followed more than 125,000 men and women for more than 10 years found that drinking six cups of coffee daily appears to help ward off type 2 diabetes.

In men, a six-or-more cup daily java habit slashed the risk by more than 50 percent compared to men who didn’t drink coffee; among women, sipping six cups daily trimmed risk by nearly 30 percent. 

Perk #3: Coffee Combats Gallstones.

Another Harvard study that tracked more than 46,000 men ages 40 to 75 for 10 years showed that drinking two to three cups of regular coffee (not decaf) daily shrank the risk of gallstones by 40 percent (and may have similar benefits for women).

Coffee seems to stimulate gallbladder contractions and reduce cholesterol in bile that can form gallstones. Other sources of caffeine, including tea and sodas, don’t help.

Perk #4: Coffee Benefits Digestive Health.

A 10-year study in Japan including 96,000 adults found that drinking three or more cups of java per day halved the colon cancer risk in women.

Perk #5: Coffee May Stave Off Stroke.

A Swedish study published in 2011 reported that drinking one or more cups of java daily lowered stroke risk by 22 to 25 percent. More than 34,000 women were followed for slightly more than 10 years.

Perk #6: Coffee Is a Mood-Booster.

A study by Harvard School of Public Health found a 20 percent lower risk of depression in women who drink coffee regularly compared to women who don’t. More than 50,000 midlife women participated.

And for some, coffee actually seems to be lifesaving: Earlier studies showed that the risk of suicide declines as coffee consumption rises. And a study in Finland found a lower risk of severe depression in men who drank the most coffee.

Perk #7: Coffee Improves Men’s Health.

Guys, here’s a great reason to grab a cup of joe: Another Harvard study published last year followed almost 48,000 men for 20 years and found that the risk of prostate cancer was 20 percent lower in those who drank six or more cups of coffee daily, regular or decaf.

Better yet, those who quaffed the most were 60 percent less likely than nondrinkers to develop a lethal form of prostate cancer.  Drinking one to three cups of java reduced the risk of fatal prostate cancer by 30 percent. 

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Perk #8: Coffee Cuts Breast Cancer Risk.

A study from Sweden’s prestigious Karolinska Institutet suggests that women who drink five or more cups of coffee per day cut risk of aggressive estrogen-receptor negative breast cancer by 57 percent. Exactly what it is about coffee that works against this particular kind of breast cancer isn’t known.

Perk #9: Coffee Protects Women’s Skin

Yet another study from the Harvard School of Public Health found a 20 percent lower risk of basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer, in women who drank more than three cups of regular coffee daily.

Perk #10: Coffee Has An Amazing Potential to Protect Against Alzheimer’s.

Studies in Finland have found that people who drank three to five cups of coffee daily when they were middle-aged had a 60 to 70 percent drop in risk for Alzheimer’s later in life.

A 2011 study at Florida Alzheimer's Disease Research Center is the first to show that caffeinated coffee appears to protect against the memory-robbing disorder in a way not seem with other caffeinated drinks or decaf.  The mouse study, published in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease,  found that caffeinated coffee spurs a rise in blood levels of granulocyte colony stimulating factor (GCSF), a growth factor that’s greatly diminished in Alzheimer’s patients.

The boost is important, since GCSF causes bone marrow stems to enter the brain and remove harmful beta-amyloid protein that triggers Alzheimer’s. GCSF also forges new brain cell connections and boosts levels of  new neurons. “Together, these actions appear to give coffee an amazing potential to protect against Alzheimer’s—but only if you drink moderate amounts,” remarked one of the study authors.

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