Many of us rely on a cup of coffee to kick start our day, but ever wondered whether it’s actually good for you?
1. A rich source of antioxidants which may reduce inflammation
Coffee contains a vast array of over 1000 bioactive compounds with plausible biological mechanisms for supporting health outcomes. Some of these include chlorogenic acid and associated phenolic compounds, as well as diterpenes all of which have antioxidant properties.
In fact, coffee has been shown to contribute to a greater proportion of our daily dietary antioxidants intake in comparison, tea, fruit and vegetables 1. These antioxidants may contribute to anti-inflammatory effects which could play a role with some of the beneficial associations on health outcomes.
2. May support cardiovascular health
Observational studies have shown that coffee consumption has been associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, with the greatest reduction being seen in those consuming 3-4 cups of coffee per day.
However, it is important to note that favourable benefits to cholesterol and triglyceride levels appear only in those who consume unfiltered coffee 2. What’s more, authors have pointed out that due to the high content of caffeine found in coffee, caution should be taken with consumption for those with high blood pressure 3.
3. May reduce the risk of developing a metabolic disease like diabetes
When assessing the short term effects of caffeine, consumption prior to a meal has been shown to increase post-meal blood glucose in people with type 2 diabetes as well as increased insulin resistance. However, a 2018 study showed that our genes play a role in caffeine metabolism in relation to how it affects our blood sugar levels. For example, those who are genetically predisposed to metabolise caffeine more slowly showed higher post-meal blood sugar levels in response to consumption, in comparison those who metabolised caffeine at a faster rate 4.
However as coffee is made up of over 1000 bioactive compounds, there could be other components aside from caffeine that may play a role with diabetes. Interestingly long term consumption of coffee has been associated with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and these effects have been noted from the consumption of both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee 5.
Whilst a large umbrella study of meta-analysis shows that coffee consumption is more often associated with health benefit rather than harm, it appears that the type of coffee may be an important factor to consider.
It is important to note that most of the positive associations between coffee consumption and health outcomes come from observational research and can be subject to confounding factors. It is also clear that there is a genetic component determining whether coffee will be positively associated with with beneficial outcomes, and this may vary between individuals.
For adults up to 400 mg/day of caffeine per day is considered safe, which equates to 4 small cups. Pregnant or breastfeeding women are advised to consume no more than 200 mg/day caffeine as higher intakes can cause miscarriage or low birthweight. People with high blood pressure should also be mindful of limiting intake as well as those with diagnosed health conditions, or where coffee contraindicates with prescribed medications.
Lily is a Nutritionist in London who graduated from Newcastle University with a BSc (Hons) degree in Food and Human Nutrition (AfN accredited) where she was awarded the Sage Faculty for Excellence Scholarship on an annual basis. She then went on to complete a 2-year post-graduate Diploma in Nutritional Therapy and is currently working towards her MSc in Nutritional Medicine (AfN accredited) at the University of Surrey. Lily’s extensive knowledge of the science of food and health, enables her to regularly write for The Times, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail, The Independent, Women’s Health and Cosmopolitan.
Her frequent TV appearances include ITV’s This Morning with Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield, and ITV’s primetime series Save Money: Lose Weight with Dr Ranj Singh. Lily’s passion is to simplify the science around nutrition, to provide health hacks and smarter eating strategies to empower people to enjoy a healthy and successful lifestyle. Her specialities lie in workplace wellness, implementing nutrition-focused wellbeing programmes within corporate organisations across the UK.
Lily also sees individual clients from her london nutrition clinic in Chelsea and a private medical practice based in Notting Hill.