The cup of goodness

A cup of coffee in the morning may pack more than just an energy boost.

More and more research is emerging to suggest that there may be several health benefits associated with drinking this dark beverage, from helping prevent diabetes to lowering the risk of liver disease.

The consumption of coffee goes back centuries:
In 17th century England the popularity of the drink gave rise to a number of coffee houses which were dubbed 'penny universities', because with one penny a person could buy a cup of coffee and have intellectually stimulating conversations with other people.

Nowadays, with over 400 billion cups consumed every year, coffee is one of the world's most popular drinks. But what makes it special?

The potential health benefits associated with drinking coffee include the following:

Coffee may protect against type 2 diabetes
Coffee may be protective against type 2 diabetes. Research has identified that drinking coffee increases plasma levels of the protein sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). SHBG controls the biological activity of the body's sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen) which play a role in the development of type 2 diabetes.

Coffee may help prevent Parkinson and Alzheimer's disease
Researchers in the USA carried out a study that assessed the link between coffee consumption and Parkinson's disease risk. The authors of the study concluded that "higher coffee and caffeine intake is associated with a significantly lower incidence of Parkinson's disease".

In addition, caffeine in coffee may help control movement in people suffering from Parkinson's.

Coffee has also been linked to lower risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. A 2009 study from Finland and Sweden showed that, out of 1,400 people followed for about 20 years, those who reported drinking 3-5 cups of coffee daily were 65% less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, compared with nondrinkers or occasional coffee drinkers.

Coffee may lower the risk of liver cancer
Italian researchers found that coffee consumption lowers the risk of liver cancer by about 40%. In addition, some of the results suggest that if you drink three cups a day, the risks are reduced by more than 50%.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Carlo La Vecchia, from Milan's Istituto di Ricerche Farmacologiche Mario Negri, said "our research confirms past claims that coffee is good for your health and particularly the liver."

Coffee may help prevent liver disease
Research published in 2014, suggests that drinking coffee is linked to a decreased liver cirrhosis death risk. The researchers suggest that drinking two or more cups of coffee every day can reduce the risk of death from liver cirrhosis by 66%.

Another study indicates that drinking decaf coffee also lowers liver enzyme levels, suggesting the benefits are not linked to caffeine content.

Drink a lot of coffee and you may head to the bathroom more often. Caffeine is a mild diuretic - that is, it makes you urinate more than you would without it. Decaffeinated coffee has about the same effect on urine production as water.

In conclusion, here is the 'recipe' of scientists: "Consuming 3-4 cups a day, a healthy person can enjoy the pleasure of drinking a cup of coffee without fear for their health".

Kate Lovell