Lately more and more reports are being linked to drinking coffee —but they must be balanced against the brew’s possible bitter effects, especially in higher, caffeinated doses. An ideal “dose” of coffee is hard to determine, since people’s perceptions of “a cup of coffee” vary as widely as coffee-mug sizes do. But the good news is that many of the benefits are associated with around two to four standard cups a day.
Health Benefit 1. Defeating Diabetes
Studies link frequent coffee consumption (4 cups per day or more) with a lowered risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Scientists suspect that antioxidant compounds in coffee—cholorogenic acid and quinides—may boost cells’ sensitivity to insulin, which helps regulate blood sugar. While most of the research didn’t assess whether the brews were caffeinated, decaf may be even better, since other studies have found that caffeine tends to blunt the insulin-sensitivity boost.
Health Benefit 2. Brain Gains
Moderate coffee drinking—between 1 and 5 cups daily—may help reduce risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as Parkinson’s disease, studies suggest. Coffee’s antioxidants may prevent some damage to brain cells and boost the effects of neurotransmitters involved in cognitive function, say experts. Some researchers speculate that compounds in the brews could activate a DNA-repairing protein in cells—possibly preventing the DNA damage that can lead to cells becoming cancerous.
Health Benefit 3. Hearty Benefits
Some studies show that moderate coffee drinkers (1 to 3 cups/day) have lower rates of stroke than non-coffee-drinkers; coffee’s antioxidants may help reduce inflammation’s damaging effects on arteries. Some researchers speculate that the compounds might boost activation of nitric oxide, a substance that widens blood vessels (lowering blood pressure). Researchers believe excessive caffeine may sabotage the antioxidants’ effects.