“Once you wake up and smell the coffee, it’s hard to go back to sleep.” – Fran Drescher
I knew I liked coffee for a reason. Actually, not coffee itself, but espresso – and, specifically, the type I prefer from my favorite baristas: a Venti triple shot, coconut milk latte, 180 degree temperature, 2 organic sweeteners, extra foam and extra steamed coconut milk on the side. I know, sounds more like a dessert drink than an eye-opener, yet the truth is that it gets my motor (and my brain running just fine). As it turns out, there’s a growing body of scientific evidence that favors drinking coffee that I must share.
Genetic Variant Linked to Heightened Ability to Taste Bitterness = More Coffee Consumption
Researchers at Northwestern University and QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Australia conducted a study to test the causal relationship between bitter taste and beverage consumption in more than 400,000 men and women in the United Kingdom. What they found in the study published in Scientific Reports was that people who have a heightened ability to taste the bitterness of coffee, rather than avoid it for unpleasant bitterness, drink more of it because they associate “good things with it.” Interestingly, bitterness (the genetic architecture of bitter taste) evolved as the body’s natural warning system to protect it from harmful substances. That’s why you’d expect we’d want to spit it out, not consume more. How alert coffee makes you feel, the psychological associations with good times and experiences are likely some of the good things the study alluded to.
Coffee Can Be Part of Healthy Diet
An umbrella review of meta-analyses of observational studies and randomized controlled trials determined that coffee was associated with a probable decreased risk of breast, colon, colorectal, and endometrial cancers; type 2 diabetes; Parkinson’s disease, and cardiovascular disease and death. Although some outcomes included a probable increased risk of pregnancy loss and rise in serum lipids and increased blood pressure, researchers concluded that the overall benefits of coffee point to its inclusion in dietary considerations. The study was published in the Annual Review of Nutrition.
Drinking Coffee after Abdominal Surgery Enhances Recovery
Postoperative ileus is a frequent complication following abdominal surgery, despite advances in surgical techniques and aftercare. Researchers sought to validate the recommendation for patients to drink coffee following abdominal surgery, given the ample scientific evidence of coffee’s health benefits in general and those affecting recovery after surgery in the abdomen in particular. For example, coffee induces bowel movements, and stimulates motor activity in the large intestine shortly after consumption. In fact, researchers found that coffee consumption significantly reduced time to first bowel movement, flatulence, audible bowel sounds, and tolerance for solid food. Another plus was the finding that postoperative coffee consumption slightly reduced patients’ hospital stay. Researchers noted that the benefits appear to increase with increased complexity of the surgical procedure performed.
Coffee Safe to Preserve Memory Function
A 2018 meta-analysis in up to 415,530 participants determined that, while there is no evidence to substantiate causal long-term effects of habitual coffee consumption on global cognition or memory in mid- to later life, researchers did conclude that there are no adverse effects of such coffee consumption either. This finding was contrary to some earlier observational studies. They then stated that it appears “safe to consume coffee at least with respect to preserving memory function.”
Coffee Benefits for Liver
With liver cancer the sixth most commonly diagnosed cancer and third leading cause of cancer death in the world, researchers sought to clarify the reported benefits of coffee consumption on liver health. Researchers analyzed data to evaluate associations between intake of coffee and risk of subsequent liver cancer or chronic liver disease mortality. The 2013 study published in the British Journal of Cancer was a prospective cohort of Finnish smokers (male) that also had data on coffee preparation methods. Their findings: participants who consumed more than 2 cups of coffee daily had nearly a 50 percent reduction in liver cancer risk, relative to those who drank less than 1 cup of coffee per day. For those drinking more than 4 cups of coffee daily, the reduction in mortality from liver cancer was more than 90 percent. Of note is that neither smoking duration nor intensity showed any modification in association with coffee with liver cancer or chronic liver disease, and results were similar in those men who drank low and high amounts of alcoholic beverages.
Honey Plus Coffee Helps Heal Persistent Post-Infectious Cough
Persistent post-infectious cough refers to a cough that remains for weeks or months after a common cold or upper respiratory tract infection. Common treatment methods include steroids or honey plus coffee. Researchers compared the scientific therapeutic benefits of both methods in a study published in Primary Care Respiratory Journal in 2013. Honey, one of the oldest known medicines, can provide some relief from symptoms of cold and cough. Caffeine (in coffee) is a bronchodilator believed to stimulate breathing. It is also hypoalgesic and has some anti-inflammatory effects. Furthermore, caffeine, the world’s most commonly consumed psychoactive substance that stimulates the central nervous system, improves psychomotor performance and vigilance, decreases self-reported fatigue and sleepiness, and increases self-reported levels of alertness. In this study, results showed that honey plus coffee was preferred treatment method to steroids for persistent post-infectious cough. It is safe and effective while eliminating “unpleasant consequences of illness for both patients and physicians.”
Which is Better for Antioxidant Properties: Hot or Cold-Brew Coffee?
With the increasing popularity of cold-brew coffee today, researchers looked at the acidity and antioxidant activity of cold-brew versus hot-brew coffee and came away with interesting results. The 2018 study published in Scientific Reports suggested that there is a tendency to extract additional non-deprotonated acids in the hot brew method compared to cold brew method. These acids, researchers noted, may be responsible for the higher antioxidant properties they observed in the samples of hot brew coffee. They also said the hot brew coffee’s chemical composition may be more complex than that of cold brew coffee and called for further research to better understand “possible differences” in health effects of coffee brewing temperature and time.
How Coffee Helps the Heart
In a 2018 study published in the open journal PLOS Biology, researchers found that consuming 4 cups of coffee a day (or the caffeine equivalent) helps the heart by promoting the movement of a regulatory protein into mitochondria, thus enhancing their function and providing protection to cardiovascular cells from damage. They found that coffee improves the cardiovascular system and can even be “protective in states associated with increased risk for cardiovascular diseases.” Specifically, scientists looked at coffee’s ability to improve the mitochondria of the old heart and recommended coffee as an important additional protective dietary factor for the elderly population. They also noted that enhancing mitochondrial function may be a potential therapeutic strategy in cardiovascular diseases and also in improving life span.