Coffee is the quintessential American pick-me-up. In fact, 83 percent of Americans drink coffee every day, often several cups. Like most foods, it has its good and bad points. Two or more cups of coffee per day is associated with a slightly higher risk of heart disease, and drinking a lot of coffee can raise cholesterol. However, coffee may not be as dangerous as commonly believed; some older studies, while they have passed into the public consciousness, did not adequately separate coffee consumption from other factors affecting health. The studies were done on heavy coffee drinkers who often also smoked or had other lifestyle factors such as poor diet or lack of physical activity that contributed to health problems.
More recent research has found quite a few benefits from coffee drinking. Coffee is rich in antioxidants, and may help protect against heart disease. Drinking coffee before a cardio workout boosts the effectiveness of the exercise, and after working out it can help reduce pain. Studies in women have found that coffee can improve memory, support good cognitive health, and help prevent Parkinson’s disease.
In addition, coffee has been found to reduce the incidence of several kinds of cancer. Another result of coffee drinking found in women was a lower risk of breast cancer in patients who have had it and gone into remission. Among women taking a commonly used breast cancer drug, regular coffee drinkers had less than half the rate of recurrence of women who didn’t drink coffee.
It’s not only good for women, though. In a 20-year study, men who drank six or more cups of coffee a day had a 20 percent lower risk of prostate cancer, and a 60 percent lower risk of fatal forms of the disease. Men who drank one to three cups a day were 30 percent less likely to be struck by lethal prostate cancer. The beneficial compound isn’t caffeine; the results were independent of whether it was regular or decaffeinated coffee. In addition, coffee drinkers of both sexes are protected from liver cancer.