From lowered cancer risks to a sharper memory, more studies are showing that coffee is good for you. Regular coffee drinkers have a 39 percent decreased risk of head and neck cancer, according to a new study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. Those who drank an estimated four or more cups a day had significantly fewer cancers of the mouth and throat than non coffee drinkers, the study found.
Coffee may be good for the brain, too. A study earlier this year by neuroscientists at the University of Lisbon showed that drinking coffee can help to prevent the neural degeneration associated with brain disorders and aging. The scientists found that drinking up to four cups of coffee a day over a long period of time actually prevented the deterioration of memory.
Other research has shown that coffee is good for the cardiovascular system. Women who drank one to three cups of java a day reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by 24 percent, according to the Iowa Women’s Health Study that tracked 27, 000 women for 15 years, although it was noted that this benefit diminished as the quantity of coffee rose above three cups.
And while coffee has been given a bad rap for supposedly upping the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease, scientific studies have revealed the contrary. Drinking coffee lowers the risk of stroke by 19 percent among women, according to a 2009 Harvard Medical School study that tracked the coffee habits and stroke occurrences among 83, 000 American women for nearly a quarter century.
The risk of some cancers may be cut by drinking coffee. Research presented at the 2009 American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference showed that coffee cut male coffee drinkers’ risk of aggressive prostate cancer by 60 percent, based on a 20-year study of 50, 000 men.
And people who drink coffee reduce their risk of developing liver cancer by 41 percent, compared to people who never drink coffee, according to a study in the journal Hepatology. The researchers theorized that compounds found in coffee may block the action of enzymes involved in detoxifying carcinogenic compounds that may lead to liver cancer, the third largest cause of cancer deaths around the world, after lung and stomach cancer.
Other recent studies have shown that coffee is protective against certain brain tumors, endometrial cancer and advanced prostate cancer, Hashibe said.
While it is true that some of the chemicals present in a cup of joe may be gastrointestinal irritants, coffee is not as much of a cause of heartburn and acid reflux as previously believed. Scientists have actually identified a chemical in coffee, called N-methylpyridinium, which inhibits acid production. The compound is more common in dark roasts like espresso and French roast blends, according to the Research Platform of Molecular Food Science at the University of Vienna.
For most adults, coffee is the number one source of antioxidants, or chemicals that prevent cellular damage, according to a study funded by the American Cocoa Research Institute.
“Americans get more of their antioxidants from coffee than any other dietary source, ” said Joe Vinson, lead author of a study on antioxidants conducted by the University of Scranton, in Pennsylvania. “Nothing else comes close.”
While antioxidants help to reduce cell damage and aging, scientists have yet to determine if they are the compounds responsible for coffee’s weird -but wonderful- health benefits.
There are many organic and inorganic compounds in a regular cup of coffee, including chemicals called phenolic compounds, melanoidins, and diterpenes. Some of these chemicals are believed to be beneficial, such as chlorogenic acid, which is a natural compound found in coffee beans and other plants that is an antioxidant and believed to aid in digestion, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.