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Health Benefits of Coffee

From Alzheimer’s Disease to Liver Disease

Are your days fueled by lattes? Turns out, it might be in your genes. Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine Marilyn C. Cornelis, PhD, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, has found that your genetic make-up might explain how you metabolize coffee. This explains why someone can feel wired after one cup while others are a permanent fixture at their local coffee shop.

“The amount of coffee we’re consuming matches our genes,” says Dr. Cornelis.

Genetic make-up will also determine how much coffee you need to have in order to recoup the benefits. A typical person can consume 3 to 5 cups (400 milligrams) of caffeine a day before likely experiencing negative side effects. If you’re not a coffee-drinker, you don’t need to start the habit. But those who already enjoy their daily java can celebrate some benefits.

  1. Caffeine provides energy.
    Caffeine is absorbed into your blood stream and sent to your brain. There, it creates a stimulant effect that results in improved mood and energy. This instant rise in dopamine, a feel-good chemical in the brain, is also responsible for its addictive nature. This effect can last from four to six hours depending on how quickly you metabolize caffeine.
  2. Coffee may lower your risk for type 2 diabetes.
    “The way coffee impacts disease is different. For example, regular coffee as well as decaf has been shown to protect individuals from diabetes, suggesting it might be something beyond caffeine,” says Dr. Cornelis. Though the reasoning is yet to be fully understood, it’s possible that coffee’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects could play a role. Another possibility is that a compound in coffee, chlorogenic acid, may help increase insulin secretion and reduce fasting glucose levels.
  3. Caffeine offers protection against Alzheimer’s disease.
    Caffeine is thought to help prevent an accumulation of amyloid, an abnormal protein in the brain that is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, coffee’s antioxidants reduce inflammation, which protects the brain from age-related decline. But sip carefully: Individuals who have Alzheimer’s disease may worsen symptoms if they increase caffeine intake.
  4. Coffee offers protection against Parkinson’s disease.
    Research has found that moderate doses of caffeine can help protect against Parkinson’s disease, a slowly progressing, degenerative disease. Though it’s not confirmed, some speculate that caffeine prevents the loss of dopamine, a hormone that is depleted by neurodegenerative diseases.
  5. It reduces risk of liver disease, including liver cancer.
    In one study, coffee consumption was associated with less liver stiffness, an indicator used for diagnosis of liver diseases. This benefit extends to those who already have chronic liver disease, as coffee has protective properties for the liver. While the exact reason is yet to be determined, it is speculated that the cafestol in coffee (particularly in boiled coffee) could have anti-cancer effects. Others believe paraxanthine, a derivative of caffeine, promotes the growth of connective tissue in the liver.

While research about coffee continues, it does appear that your cup of joe offers neurological benefits, an energy boost and protection against some diseases. Bottoms up!