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Does coffee really extend life?

Picture of coffee in a cup by a window

The news that drinking coffee could extend life generated masses of coverage in last week’s popular press(1).  More specifically, research indicated that coffee may help prevent cirrhosis of the liver, a life-threatening disease, usually caused by alcoholism or the hepatitis C virus.  

A further, very large meta-analysis concluded that increased coffee consumption could possibly reduce the incidence and lower the risk of contracting gastric cancer(2). Powerful stuff!

So, is coffee the new elixir of life? Let’s examine the facts.

Coffee is an antioxidant

Our bodies are bombarded daily by free radicals (unstable molecules that, left unchecked, can cause untold damage to cells).  Although our bodies have very clever antioxidant enzyme systems that protect them from attack, it’s also important to include lots of antioxidants in the diet as further protection. The liver, the main organ of detoxification, is especially open to free radical damage and drinking around four cups of coffee a day seems to help protect it.

Coffee is a stimulant

Many of us are severely time-pressured, stressed and tired most of the time.  Coffee naturally contains lots of caffeine (unless you drink decaffeinated), which helps to keep us going throughout the day.  Nothing wrong with that unless it’s totally ‘propping’ you up!  An over-reliance on stimulants can often make stressed people more anxious and tired but wired.  

Coffee upsets blood sugar balance

Good blood sugar balance is the key to effective weight management and sustained energy throughout the day.  While coffee is a stimulant, some of us are more susceptible to high intakes of caffeine which can cause blood sugar imbalance, sugar cravings and mood swings.

What’s the verdict?

Research suggests that drinking around four cups of coffee a day can be beneficial.  The maximum caffeine intake should be no more than 400 mg daily, which is equal to around the four cups.  Interestingly, drinking decaf coffee still has antioxidant benefits but you won’t get the ‘pick-me-up’ effect! If you’re not getting the ‘jitters’ from drinking four cups daily, then there certainly seems to be some benefits. Enjoy! 

  1. Kennedy OJ et al. Systematic review with meta-analysis: coffee consumption and the risk of cirrhosis. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2016, March, 43(5):562-74
  2. Xie Y et al.  Coffee consumption and risk of gastric cancer: an updated meta-analysis.  Asia Pac J Clin Nutr 2016: 25(3):578-88
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