BEEP… BEEP… BEEP… BEEP. It is 8 a.m. Monday morning, and you find yourself hitting the snooze button over and over again. If you are one of those people who cannot function without coffee, or at least need it to get your day started, or—if you’re like me and the only thing that will get you out of bed is pressing that ON/OFF switch on your Keurig—you may have never realized that coffee is doing more for you than you think. Besides providing you with a java jolt of energy, coffee also contains surprising health benefits. Research has found that drinking coffee—even four or more cups per day in some instances—increases one’s well-being. In addition, a 13-year study conducted by the National Cancer Institute concluded that devoted coffee drinkers were associated with a reduced risk of early death by up to 16 percent.
While drinking coffee excessively can increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol and promote a dependence on caffeine, here are some areas where coffee consumption just might be beneficial (limiting the cream and sugar):
1. Gallstone prevention
Harvard researchers in 2002 found that women who drank at least four cups of coffee a day were at a 25 percent lower risk of gallstones. An earlier study found similar results for men.
2. Depression prevention
A study completed by the Harvard School of Health found that women who regularly drink four or more cups of coffee a day have 20 percent lower risk of developing depression than those who rarely or never drink coffee.
3. Memory Improvement
Research suggests that coffee improves several different types of memory. Some of those benefits include verbal memory, memory of words and other abstractions involving language, and memory retention, the ability to remember skills, facts or ideas for a long time. In addition, a number of studies have shown that coffee may reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
4. Decreased risk for diabetes
Three compounds found in coffee seem to block the toxic accumulation of a protein linked with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. The compounds reverse the toxic process, and previous studies have found that people who drink four or more cups of coffee a day have a 50 percent lower risk of getting type 2 diabetes.
5. Decreased risk for cancer
Coffee consumption has been associated with decreased risk of breast, endometrial, prostate and liver cancers, and those linked with obesity, estrogen and insulin. Women who routinely drink several cups of coffee per day over the course of years or decades may be less likely than their peers to develop cancer in the lining of their uterus. Coffee tends to lower levels of insulin and estrogen, and chronically high levels of these hormones have been linked to endometrial cancer.
6. Metabolism boost
Coffee might help you maintain—or even lose—weight. Studies dating from the 1980s found that the caffeine in coffee stimulates the metabolism. In addition, a 2006 study confirmed that the metabolism-boosting benefits of coffee were greater—and lasted longer—in lean women.
7. Lower risk for Parkinson’s disease
Caffeine seems to block a malfunctioning brain signal in Parkinson’s disease. Studies have shown that people who use caffeine are less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease. In addition, caffeine can help with movement symptoms for people who already have the disease (that is not to say that coffee will start being used as treatment anytime soon).
8. Antioxidant properties
There are estimated to be more than a couple thousand different components in coffee, many of which are antioxidants.
9. Performance-Enhancing Benefits
Coffee—and the caffeine in it—has been shown in multiple studies to increase both endurance and short-term performance. A 2008 study concluded that the benefits of caffeine before exercise occur during endurance events, stop-and-go events and long-term high-intensity activity. It also can help athletes perform better during strength training if taken one hour before exercise.
The take-home for the day is that you should not go out and drink more than four cups of coffee a day; however, anything less than that displays major health benefits. Some potential side effects to coffee-drinking include insomnia, worsened heartburn, heart palpitations, anxiety and irritability. Yet, the key, as with everything in life, is MODERATION. So next time Monday or even Tuesday morning rolls around wake up and seize the day by grabbing that cup of Joe on your way to class! Each sip not only washes away that morning grog setting in but also cre