(This article previously appeared on Grandparents.com.)
The verdict is in: If you take your coffee daily and often, and abstain from smoking, you’re likely to live longer than the average adult, says a study of 500,000 men and women that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2012.
“Moderate coffee drinkers live longer than non coffee-drinkers,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, manager of Wellness Nutrition Services at Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute. “In general studies of coffee, the benefits are clearly documented.”
Part of coffee’s health-sustaining power is derived from its caffeine content. Long life isn’t the only proven benefit of this natural, get-up-and-go energy source. Read on for other ways caffeine improves your health:
The promise: Drinking two or three cups of caffeinated coffee per day may protect you from Parkinson’s Disease, an incurable, debilitating disorder that attacks your nervous system and is marked by tremors, stiffness and difficulty of movement.
The proof: Higher coffee and caffeine intake is associated with “significantly lower incidence” of Parkinson’s Disease, says a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2000, which followed 8,000 men aged 45-68 over a 30-year period. Participants who drank at least 28 ounces or more of coffee per day were less likely to get Parkinson’s than people who drank less.
“When you take out the other additives [in coffee], it still works — it’s really the caffeine that’s helpful,” says Dr. Miran Salgado, chairman of the Department of Neurosciences at New York Methodist Hospital and medical director for the American Parkinson Disease Association Information and Referral Center at New York Methodist Hospital.
Caffeine crosses the blood-brain barrier and speeds up brain activity, which can protect brain health, slow the progression of Parkinson’s and as some studies have shown, help improve compromised motor skills and involuntary movements brought on by Parkinson’s.
The promise: Work out harder and rev your metabolism for longer when you caffeinate pre-workout.
“Caffeine is good for exercise because it increases energy and alertness,” says Kirkpatrick. Plus, if you tend to metabolize substances slowly, caffeine might help you work harder during exercise session, she adds. “The harder you workout, the more your metabolism is increased afterwards.”
To reap the exercise benefits, ingest 3 to 9 mg of caffeine per kilogram (kg) of body weight (which translates to 1 to 2 cups on the lower end and 5 to 6 cups on the higher end) one hour before working out, according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
The promise: Healthy men and women who drink 3 to 5 cups of coffee are less likely to develop heart attack-inducing clogged arteries over time.
The proof: In 2015, the journal Heart published an article that reported on the dietary habits and corresponding coronary artery calcium in 25,000 men and women (average age 41) who had no evidence of cardiovascular disease. Participants who self-reported drinking three to five cups of coffee a day had the lowest amount of calcium build-up in their hearts.
“A recent large, meta-analysis found that moderate coffee consumption (3 to 5 cups per day) was associated with lower risk of coronary heart disease and heavy coffee consumption was not associated with risk of heart disease,” says American Heart Association spokesperson Rachel Johnson. In this case, caffeine may not be the only compound helping your heart stay healthy. “In addition to caffeine, coffee contains antioxidant phenols, which improve endothelial function and thus may prevent atherosclerosis.”
The promise: Decrease your risk of erectile dysfunction by drinking coffee daily.
The proof: A 2015 study of 3,724 men found that participants who drank 2 to 3 cups (170 to 375mg) per day had the lowest incidence of erectile dysfunction, a problem that affects 22 percent of men at age 40 and 49 percent by age 70, according to the Boston University School of Medicine, Sexual Medicine.
This effect is similar to why coffee reduces your risk of heart disease, says Kirkpatrick. “If you think about heart disease, it occurs because you have a blockage somewhere,” she says. “ED is like a heart attack in your penis — you’re not getting enough blood flow to be able to do what you need to do. A lot of studies show that coffee improves function of blood vessels.”
The promise: Increase your caffeine intake and you’ll decrease your chances of getting painful kidney stones.
The proof: A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2014 revealed that people who drink caffeine-containing beverages have a lower risk of incident kidney stones. “Caffeine does make you pee more!” says Kirkpatrick. “It’s the build-up of [deposits] that are not being released that leads to stones. Having urine and waste move through the body decreases the potential for stones to form.”
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