Wellness & Education

Coffee Perks Up Your Health

Women enjoying a cup of coffee

Unlike many of our favorite foods, coffee isn’t just delicious, it’s also healthy. This is good news for coffee drinkers, who make up over half the world’s adult population. It also isn’t surprising, given that coffee is a natural plant food made from beans. If you feel bad about the coffee you drink, don’t worry. Your “cuppa joe” contains hundreds of compounds similar to those found in fruits and vegetables.


Caffeine is the most famous compound found in coffee. In fact, it’s the reason many people drink coffee in the first place.

In case you’ve wondered how caffeine perks us up so quickly, it’s quite simple. Caffeine keeps us awake by keeping us from feeling tired. During the day our body produces a compound called “adenosine”. As adenosine levels rise, this compound binds to receptors in the brain, triggering feelings of being tired. When we drink coffee, caffeine replaces adenosine at these receptors. This blocks the feelings of fatigue that would normally make us drowsy.

Caffeine’s effect on people varies because different people metabolize it at different rates. Some people are very sensitive to it and should limit how much coffee they drink. Others can drink more without any ill effects. General recommendations are to keep caffeine consumption at or under 400mg/day for most adults. Pregnant women should keep caffeine consumption under 200 mg/day for women. Children should drink even less, since their smaller bodies can be more susceptible to caffeine.

The amount of caffeine a cup of coffee contains varies according to what type of coffee plant the bean is grown on, how the bean is roasted and how the coffee itself is prepared. Arabica coffee beans contain about half the caffeine of Robusta coffee beans. Caffeine is most concentrated in espresso coffee (63 mg per 1 oz or 504 mg per 8 oz), followed by cold press coffee (102 – 159 mg per 8 oz). It is least concentrated in regular decaf coffee (2 mg per 8 oz) and regular instant coffee (62 mg per 8 oz). Regular brewed coffee contains 80 to 100 mg per 8 oz).


Coffee contains many antioxidants. Antioxidants are compounds that help protect us from substances called “free radicals”. Free radicals are normal and necessary. They don’t harm us unless we have too many of them. When this happens, they can damage our cells. This damage increases our risk for certain diseases, especially cancer. The antioxidants in coffee help maintain the balance between free radicals and antioxidants.

Specific Disease Protection


The exact way in which coffee is associated with lower rates of cancer is complex and still somewhat mysterious. We know a few things, however. In addition to antioxidant activity, coffee also affects gut bacteria. Gut bacteria plays an enormous role in our health and well-being. Research has shown that coffee is associated with a lower rate of:

  • Colon cancer
  • Rectal cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Endometrial cancer

Type 2 Diabetes

If you have prediabetes, you’ll be happy to hear that drinking two to three cups of filtered coffee a day may help. Research shows that it may reduce your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes by 60%. Part of this effect may be due to the anti-inflammatory effects of coffee since Type 2 Diabetes is considered to be a partially inflammatory disease. Perk Up Your Health: Uncovering Coffee’s Role in Reducing Type 2 Diabetes Risk (scitechdaily.com)

Heart Disease

Drinking 2-3 cups of coffee a day can be good for your heart. It’s associated with significantly fewer cases of irregular heartbeat and heart disease. Coffee is also associated with fewer deaths from both cardiovascular disease and general “all-cause” mortality. This means it may even help you live longer!

Alzheimer’s Disease

One of the symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s Disease is the development of clumps of tau protein in the brain. While the role of these clumps is unclear, in the lab espresso extracts were found to help prevent their formation. Espresso: More Than Energy Buzz, it’s A Potential Defense Against Alzheimer’s – Neuroscience News

In 2021 a long-term study found that coffee drinking may protect against the development of mild cognitive impairment. Participants had no sign of dementia at the beginning of the study. Ten years later, fewer coffee drinkers than non-coffee drinkers had developed impairment. Since mild cognitive impairment usually precedes the development of Alzheimer’s Disease, results suggest that coffee may offer some protection against this devastating disease. Frontiers | Higher Coffee Consumption Is Associated With Slower Cognitive Decline and Less Cerebral Aβ-Amyloid Accumulation Over 126 Months: Data From the Australian Imaging, Biomarkers, and Lifestyle Study (frontiersin.org)

Depression and “bad moods”

Coffee can pick us up in more ways than one. One study reported that participants who drank four cups of coffee a day were less likely to develop depression than those who drank less than one cup of coffee a day. Coffee Consumption and the Risk of Depression in a Middle-Aged Cohort: The SUN Project – PMC (nih.gov)

Don’t Overdo It

While coffee offers many health benefits, as with most good things, too much coffee can be harmful. Drinking six cups of coffee a day or more “is associated with smaller total brain volume and an increased risk of dementia.” 6 Surprising Ways Coffee Can Boost Your Health (aarp.org)

Too much coffee can also increase blood pressure and have other harmful consequences. Because different people metabolize coffee differently, you may have to figure out how much coffee works for you. If it makes you feel jittery or increases your blood pressure, you may be drinking too much.

When drinking coffee, timing matters. Because caffeine prevents feelings of fatigue, coffee can interfere with sleep. Some people have to cut off their coffee drinking by as early as noon in order to get a good night’s sleep. Others can drink it at dinner and still fall asleep at night. If you’re having trouble falling asleep at night, you may need to experiment to see when you need to cut off the caffeine.