Coffee, a Healthy Addiction?

Medically reviewed in January 2022

I am addicted to coffee and proud of it. I look forward to the ritual of that morning cup of coffee to start my day. I felt guilty for many years with the thought that maybe it was not such a healthy thing to be drinking. However, as more studies have been done, I feel pretty good about my morning java.

In the early coffee drinking years there was a concern that it caused pancreatic cancer. That’s because when the studies were done they did not control for cigarette smoking and other risk factors for pancreatic cancer. It turns out that coffee drinking and cigarette smoking go together for many people, and that is how coffee got the bad rap. It was the cigarette smoke and not the coffee that increased the risk for pancreatic cancer.

Now we know that there are actual benefits to coffee drinking. Here are three reasons I love coffee.

1. Your brain on coffee
Coffee helps with alertness and the ability to focus. A study done at Pennsylvania State University found that one to two cups of coffee a day improve concentration and memory.

A different study, done by the University of South Florida and the University of Miami, found that in patients with mild cognitive impairment, those who drank three cups of caffeinated coffee regularly had a slower progression to Alzheimer’s disease by several years. Coffee may prevent dementia altogether.

Several studies have found that those who drink caffeinated coffee have a decreased risk for developing Parkinson’s disease. In addition, a recent study found that those with Parkinson’s disease who were given caffeine (the equivalent of two to four cups of coffee a day) had significantly improved movement.

A research study of more than 50,000 women found that drinking four or more cups of caffeinated coffee daily decreased the incidence of depression by 20 percent as compared to those who did not drink coffee. A smaller study done in Finland found that men who were frequent coffee drinkers were less likely to commit suicide.

2. Coffee and cancer prevention
Research has found that women who drank the equivalent of three or more cups of caffeinated coffee daily had a 20 percent decrease in the risk of developing basal cell cancer. Men had a 9 percent decreased risk.

Yet another study found that women who drank four or more cups of caffeinated coffee daily had a 25 percent decreased risk of developing endometrial cancer when compared to women who drank one cup or less daily.

Yet another study found that those who drank four or more cups of caffeinated coffee daily had a 39 percent decrease in oral cavity cancers.

3. Coffee as diabetes fighter
Several studies have confirmed that people who drink four or more cups of coffee daily have a 50 percent decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Another study found that coffee in moderation (described as two cups a day) decreased the risk of heart failure by 11 percent.

Of course, coffee does have some risks. It can precipitate heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux. Some people may get jittery if they overindulge, and it can cause palpitations in others. Adding sugar, syrups and cream can turn coffee into a high-calorie drink. Caffeine addiction is real for habitual coffee drinkers and withdrawl can cause a wicked headache. However, overall it is relatively safe.

The happy conclusion
I am not urging anyone to start drinking coffee, but I would like to ease the guilt of those coffee drinkers who have been worrying about its safety. Drink your coffee but remember (which will be easier for you to do if you drink coffee!), as in all things, moderation is the key.

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