Coffee is a big component of a lot of people’s morning routine, one of the most popular beverages in the world. Now researchers say it’s also an important protector against some types of cancer. In particular, regular coffee drinkers in a large longitudinal study had a significantly lower incidence of mouth and throat cancer. Approximately 40,000 Americans are diagnosed with these forms of cancer every year.

“Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, and contains a variety of antioxidants, polyphenols, and other biologically active compounds that may help to protect against development or progression of cancers,” said the American Cancer Society’s Janet Hildebrand, an author of the study, in a statement. “Although it is less common in the United States, oral/pharyngeal cancer is among the ten most common cancers in the world. Our finding strengthens the evidence of a possible protective effect of caffeinated coffee in the etiology and/or progression of cancers of the mouth and pharynx.”

That means the chemical compounds in coffee are an important part of protection against cancer, and caffeine in particular protects against one of the most common types of cancer in the world. In fact, four cups of coffee a day appears to cut the risk of oral or pharyngeal cancer in half.

Caffeine has other health benefits as well. Though caffeine is associated with a short-term increase in glucose levels, people who drink a lot of coffee were found in a Harvard study to have lower rates of diabetes. In addition, in men coffee consumption reduces the risk of Parkinson’s disease. Though coffee was once thought to be associated with heart disease, more recent studies have cast doubt on that connection.

In addition, coffee is rich in antioxidants that protect against cellular damage and help slow the effects of aging. Unfiltered coffee also includes chemicals called diterpenoids that help increase beneficial HDL cholesterol while reducing levels of the harmful LDL type.

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