13 Health Benefits of Coffee, Based on Science
Coffee is one of the world’s most popular beverages.
Thanks to its high levels of antioxidants and beneficial nutrients, it also seems to be quite healthy.
Studies show that coffee drinkers have a much lower risk of several serious diseases.
Here are the top 13 health benefits of coffee.
1. Can Improve Energy Levels and Make You Smarter
That’s because it contains a stimulant called caffeine — the most commonly consumed psychoactive substance in the world (3).
After you drink coffee, the caffeine is absorbed into your bloodstream. From there, it travels to your brain (4).
In the brain, caffeine blocks the inhibitory neurotransmitter adenosine.
When this happens, the amount of other neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine increases, leading to enhanced firing of neurons (5, 6).
Many controlled studies in humans show that coffee improves various aspects of brain function — including memory, mood, vigilance, energy levels, reaction times and general mental function (7, 8, 9).
Summary Caffeine blocks an inhibitory neurotransmitter in your brain, which causes a stimulant effect. This improves energy levels, mood and various aspects of brain function.
2. Can Help You Burn Fat
Caffeine is found in almost every commercial fat-burning supplement — and for good reason. It’s one of the few natural substances proven to aid fat burning.
Other studies indicate that caffeine can specifically increase fat burning by as much as 10% in obese individuals and 29% in lean people (12).
However, it’s possible that these effects diminish in long-term coffee drinkers.
Summary Several studies show that caffeine can increase fat burning and boost your metabolic rate.
3. Can Drastically Improve Physical Performance
This is the fight-or-flight hormone, which prepares your body for intense physical exertion.
Given these effects, it’s unsurprising that caffeine can improve physical performance by 11–12%, on average (20, 29).
Therefore, it makes sense to have a strong cup of coffee about half an hour before you head to the gym.
Summary Caffeine can increase adrenaline levels and release fatty acids from your fat tissues. It also leads to significant improvements in physical performance.
4. Contains Essential Nutrients
Many of the nutrients in coffee beans make their way into the finished brewed coffee.
A single cup of coffee contains (21):
Riboflavin (vitamin B2): 11% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI).
Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5): 6% of the RDI.
Manganese and potassium: 3% of the RDI.
Magnesium and niacin (vitamin B3): 2% of the RDI.
Though this may not seem like a big deal, most people enjoy several cups per day — allowing these amounts to quickly add up.
Summary Coffee contains several important nutrients, including riboflavin, pantothenic acid, manganese, potassium, magnesium and niacin.
5. May Lower Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a major health problem, currently affecting millions of people worldwide.
It’s characterized by elevated blood sugar levels caused by insulin resistance or a reduced ability to secrete insulin.
For some reason, coffee drinkers have a significantly reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.
Studies observe that people who drink the most coffee have a 23–50% lower risk of getting this disease. One study showed a reduction as high as 67% (22, 23, 24, 25, 26).
According to a large review of 18 studies in a total of 457,922 people, each daily cup of coffee was associated with a 7% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes (27).
Summary Several observational studies show that coffee drinkers have a much lower risk of type 2 diabetes, a serious condition that affects millions of people worldwide.
6. May Protect You From Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia
Alzheimer's disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease and the leading cause of dementia worldwide.
This condition usually affects people over 65, and there is no known cure.
However, there are several things you can do to prevent the disease from occurring in the first place.
This includes the usual suspects like eating healthy and exercising, but drinking coffee may be incredibly effective as well.
Several studies show that coffee drinkers have up to a 65% lower risk of Alzheimer's disease (28, 29).
Summary Coffee drinkers have a much lower risk of getting Alzheimer's disease, which is a leading cause of dementia worldwide.
7. May Lower Your Risk of Parkinson's
Parkinson's disease is the second most common neurodegenerative condition, right behind Alzheimer's.
It’s caused by the death of dopamine-generating neurons in your brain.
As with Alzheimer's, there is no known cure, which makes it that much more important to focus on prevention.
Studies show that coffee drinkers have a much lower risk of Parkinson's disease, with a risk reduction ranging from 32–60% (30, 31, 32, 33).
In this case, the caffeine itself appears to be beneficial, as people who drink decaf don't have a lower risk of Parkinson's (34).
Summary Coffee drinkers have up to a 60% lower risk of getting Parkinson's disease, the second most common neurodegenerative disorder.
8. May Protect Your Liver
Your liver is an amazing organ that carries out hundreds of important functions.
Several common diseases primarily affect the liver, including hepatitis, fatty liver disease and many others.
Many of these conditions can lead to cirrhosis, in which your liver is largely replaced by scar tissue.
Interestingly, coffee may protect against cirrhosis — people who drink 4 or more cups per day have up to an 80% lower risk (35, 36, 37).
Summary Coffee drinkers have a much lower risk of cirrhosis, which can be caused by several diseases that affect the liver.
9. Can Fight Depression and Make You Happier
Depression is a serious mental disorder that causes a significantly reduced quality of life.
It’s very common, as about 4.1% of people in the US currently meet the criteria for clinical depression.
In a Harvard study published in 2011, women who drank 4 or more cups of coffee per day had a 20% lower risk of becoming depressed (38).
Another study in 208,424 individuals found that those who drank 4 or more cups per day were 53% less likely to die by suicide (39).
Summary Coffee appears to lower your risk of developing depression and may dramatically reduce suicide risk.
10. May Lower Risk of Certain Types of Cancer
Cancer is one of the world's leading causes of death. It is characterized by uncontrolled cell growth in your body.
Coffee appears to be protective against two types of cancer: liver and colorectal cancer.
Liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in the world, while colorectal cancer ranks fourth (40).
Similarly, one study in 489,706 people found that those who drank 4–5 cups of coffee per day had a 15% lower risk of colorectal cancer (43).
Summary Liver and colorectal cancer are the third and fourth leading causes of cancer death worldwide. Coffee drinkers have a lower risk of both.
11. Doesn’t Cause Heart Disease and May Lower Stroke Risk
It’s often claimed that caffeine can increase your blood pressure.
This is true, but with a rise of only 3–4 mm/Hg, the effect is small and usually dissipates if you drink coffee regularly (44, 45).
However, it may persist in some people, so keep that in mind if you have elevated blood pressure , .
That being said, studies don’t support the idea that coffee raises your risk of heart disease .
On the contrary, there is some evidence that women who drink coffee have a reduced risk.
Some studies also show that coffee drinkers have a 20% lower risk of stroke .
Summary Coffee may cause mild increases in blood pressure, which usually diminish over time. Coffee drinkers do not have an increased risk of heart disease and have a slightly lower risk of stroke.
12. May Help You Live Longer
Given that coffee drinkers are less likely to get many diseases, it makes sense that coffee could help you live longer.
Several observational studies indicate that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of death.
In two very large studies, drinking coffee was associated with a 20% reduced risk of death in men and a 26% decreased risk of death in women, over 18–24 years .
This effect appears particularly strong in people with type 2 diabetes. In one 20-year study, individuals with diabetes who drank coffee had a 30% lower risk of death
Summary Several studies show that coffee drinkers live longer and have a lower risk of premature death.
13. The Biggest Source of Antioxidants in the Western Diet
For people who eat a standard Western diet, coffee may be one of the healthiest aspects of their diet.
That's because coffee is quite high in antioxidants. Studies show that many people get more antioxidants from coffee than from fruits and vegetables combined (55, 56, 57).
In fact, coffee may be one of the healthiest beverages on the planet.
Summary Coffee is rich in powerful antioxidants, and many people get more antioxidants from coffee than from fruits and veggies combined.
The Bottom Line
Coffee is a highly popular beverage around the globe that boasts a number of impressive health benefits.
Not only can your daily cup of joe help you feel more energized, burn fat and improve physical performance, it may also lower your risk of several conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
In fact, coffee may even boost longevity.
If you enjoy its taste and tolerate its caffeine content, don’t hesitate to pour yourself a cup or more throughout the day.