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Coffee: The Benefits & How to Make It Best Work For You
Coffee contains a wealth of benefits for many, but not everyone metabolises coffee in the same way. Read on to discover the many benefits. Plus, what it means to be a fast or slow coffee metabolizer, and how you can make coffee work more effectively for you if you're a coffee-lover.
Coffee is one of the world's most widely used stimulants, thanks to the stimulating effects of its main ingredient, caffeine, on our nervous system.
It's also one of the world's most antioxidant-rich foods, which has coffee drinkers at a much lower risk of several serious diseases.
If you're someone who can tolerate and enjoy drinking coffee, here are the top 11 benefits of drinking it:
1) Coffee Can Increase Energy Levels, Mood, and Brain Function.
If you're a coffee drinker, you know first hand what that initial jolt of coffee feels like in the morning.
It's the caffeine blocking an inhibitory neurotransmitter in your brain that causes the stimulating pick-me-up effect that has you feeling more energetic, switched on and ready to go.1
2) Coffee Can Increase Your Metabolic Rate & Help You Burn Fat.
Caffeine is a natural fat-burning substance that's been shown to boost fat burning by as much as 10% in people with obesity, and 29% in lean people.2
However, these effects may decrease the longer one has been drinking coffee.
3) Coffee Can Enhance Physically Performance.
Because caffeine enables the break down of body fat, it makes these free fatty acids available as fuel, which can improve physical performance.
So if you enjoy drinking coffee, try drinking a strong cup about half an hour before hitting your workout and see what it does for your performance.
4) Coffee Contains Crucial Nutrients.
These include riboflavin, pantothenic acid, manganese, potassium, magnesium, and niacin.
5) Coffee Can Reduce Possibility of Type 2 Diabetes.
Interestingly, observational studies3,4 show that coffee drinkers have a much lower risk of this disease. So drink on!
6) Coffee Can Help Prevent Development of Alzheimer's Disease & Dementia:
(Which is a neurodegenerative condition, usually affecting people over 65, there's currently no known cure.)
Researchers suggest, however, there are things we can do to help prevent this condition, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and drinking coffee.5
Studies show that coffee drinkers have up to 65% lower risk of Alzheimer's disease, compared to non-coffee drinkers.
7) Coffee May Reduce Risk of Parkinson's
Like Alzheimer's, there is no known cure for this disease. But researcher's suggest that coffee drinkers have up to a 60% lower risk of developing it.6
8) Coffee May Safeguard Your Liver.
Studies suggest that coffee protects the liver against cirrhosis, particularly alcoholic cirrhosis.7 Coffee drinkers also appear to have a lower risk of both liver and colorectal cancer compared to non-drinkers.
9) Coffee Can Lower Your Risk of Depression.
For those who drink four or more cups per day (but less than 8 cups) it appears that coffee's anti-inflammatory properties reduce the inflammation of nerve endings that bring on depression.8
10) Coffee Doesn't Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease.
While coffee may cause a mild rise in blood pressure, research suggests that coffee doesn't raise your risk of heart disease9 in fast metabolisers of coffee. See below for fast vs. slow metabolisers.
11) Coffee May Help You Live Longer.
Drinking coffee is associated with longer telomere length. Telomeres are the structures at the end of chromosomes. And they shorten with age, so longer telomeres are considered to be a marker of greater longevity.
While these benefits are real, not all of us can reap the benefits of drinking coffee, due to our sensitivity to it. For me, I love the smell but drinking it puts me on the ceiling because I'm a slow coffee metaboliser.
Are You a Fast or Slow Coffee Metaboliser?
About a decade ago, a researcher in Canada, by the name of Dr. El-Sohemy, noticed the widespread variation in how people respond to drinking coffee.
For example, some people (like me) have to avoid it because just one cup of coffee makes them feel jittery and anxious. Others can drink four cups and barely keep their eyes open. And others still thrive on it.
To get a better understanding of this variation between coffee drinkers, Dr. El-Sohemy zeroed in on one gene, the CYP1A2. This gene controls an enzyme – also called CYP1A2 – that determines how quickly our bodies break down caffeine.
His research shows that if you're a Fast Metaboliser of Coffee - your liver clears caffeine from the body fast.
Whereas, if you are a Slow Metaboliser - your liver can take four times longer to process it.
Think of it like this, if you drink a regular, filtered 8-ounce cup of coffee, and within an hour don't feel any of the following:
- Abnormal heartbeats
- Gastric upset
then you're most likely a fast metaboliser and will reap the 11 benefits listed above.
If you don't tolerate coffee well and feel some or all of these, you're a slow metaboliser.
Slow metabolisers are often better off avoiding coffee and trying green or white teas, for antioxidant health.
If you are a coffee lover, though, this is also something you might find interesting.
How to Hack Your Coffee Drinking to Reap the Benefits Without the Dreaded "Coffee Crash":
When you get used to drinking coffee on the daily, you also start to feel the effects of not having coffee in your system:
- your mood drops
- performance worsens, and
- you begin to feel lower in energy
Which is right about when you think it's time to start reaching for another cuppa Joe. Doing so creates a tolerance to coffee and a vicious cycle that means you need more cups of coffee to get going and through the day.
And more cups can also mean an unhealthy amount of caffeine in your body, negating the benefits listed above.
Ready to experiment and hack the way you use coffee so you can reap its benefits without lowering your baseline mood performance? Then Let's Talk Coffee Cycling:
Step 1: (OK, so here's the hard and unsexy part, but oh so worth a try!)
Clean out your system of caffeine for 3-6 weeks. (Do this SLOWLY and not cold-turkey, if you want to avoid withdrawal side effects like headaches and more fatigue.)
Step 2: Then cycle on and off drinking coffee – which means going off for basically the same amount of days as you're on it.
For example, use it for one or two days and then take two to three days off of it. Or use it for two weeks and then go off for two weeks.
Coffee can be a fantastic tool for your health, focus, and energy when used in a way that works best for you.
1 Psychopharmacology, April 2000, 149(3): 203–216
“A naturalistic investigation of the effects of day-long consumption of tea, coffee and water on alertness, sleep onset and sleep quality”
2 Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Jan; 79(1): 40-6
“Metabolic effects of caffeine in humans: lipid oxidation or futile cycling?”
3 Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 Oct; 88(4): 979-85
“Coffee, tea, and incident type 2 diabetes: the Singapore Chinese Health Study.”
4 JAMA, 2005 Jul 6; 294(1): 97-104
“Coffee consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review.”
5 J Alzheimers Dis., 2010; 20 Suppl 1: S187-204
“Caffeine intake and dementia: systematic review and meta-analysis.”
6 JAMA, 2000 May 24-31; 283(20): 2674-9
“Association of coffee and caffeine intake with the risk of Parkinson disease.”
7 * Arch Intern Med., 2006 Jun 12; 166(11): 1190-5
“Coffee, cirrhosis, and transaminase enzymes.”
8 Arch Intern Med., 2011; 171(17): 1571-1578
“Coffee, Caffeine, and Risk of Depression Among Women”
9 Circulation, 2006 May 2; 113(17): 2045-53
“Coffee consumption and coronary heart disease in men and women: a prospective cohort study.”
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