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The Coffee Cure

That morning cup of Joe might deliver unexpected health benefits

BHM Edit Staff | 10/8/2013, 8:54 a.m.
Can coffee cure what ails you? Thinkstock

Can’t start your morning without that jolt of java? The good news is that daily cup might deliver unexpected health benefits. Studies show coffee may lower your risk for type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer (colon, mouth and throat), as well as protect against heart disease and depression. Though researchers aren't sure why coffee has these benefits—plus a host of others—they speculate that coffee may have antioxidant properties.

The coffee-diabetes link isn’t new, but research presented at the 7th World Congress on Prevention of Diabetes and its Complications, held in Spain, offers further proof that coffee can curb your risk of the disease. “Drinking three to four cups of coffee daily helps lower the risk of type 2 diabetes because of the combination of chemicals contained in coffee beans that are involved in metabolism,” Jaakko Tuomilehto, M.D., and co-director of the Congress, said in a release.

Here are a few more reasons for you to grab a cup of coffee on your way out of the door in the morning:

  • Researchers at the University of South Florida found that caffeinated coffee increases the levels of a hormone that helps produce new neurons, which may boost your memory and reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
  • According to a study published in Circulation: Heart Failure, moderate coffee consumption—two 8-ounce cups a day—was associated with a lower risk of heart failure.
  • Drinking an espresso or cappuccino after a meal can help your body process that meal more slowly. Why? Caffeine decreases the rate at which the stomach deposits your food into the small intestine and it also increases your metabolism. It won’t make you drop pounds, but a small post-dinner cup of coffee could help promote a healthy weight.
  • Of course, staying out of the sun and using sunscreen regularly are your best bets against skin cancer, but caffeinated coffee can reduce your risk of basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer. A study out of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston found that women who drank more than three cups of coffee a day had a 20 percent lower risk for basal cell carcinoma, and men had a 9 percent reduced risk. The research didn’t show a coffee defense against squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, and decaf didn’t show any protection against skin cancer at all.
  • Drinking coffee can ward off depression. A Harvard University study found that women who regularly drink caffeinated coffee are 20 percent less likely to become depressed than non-coffee drinkers. Researchers already knew a jolt of caffeine has mood-boosting effects; it turns on neurotransmitters that boost feelings of well-being right after you take a drink. But this study, which followed a group of women for 10 years, shows it also protects mental health over the long term.
  • Caffeine may boost fertility in men. Studies have shown that caffeine has a positive effect on sperm’s ability to move toward an egg. In fact, a study conducted at the University of Sao Paulo found that sperm motility was higher in coffee drinkers than in non coffee-drinkers.

Keep in mind that moderation is key to maximizing the benefits of coffee. Don’t chug it all day. Diabetics, pregnant women and people who have trouble sleeping should limit their coffee intake to one or two cups a day.

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