Skip to main content

This article was made in partnership with my morning cup of coffee. If you're like many of us, few things would be accomplished without the aid of our daily joe(s). According to National Coffee Drinking Trends 2016, a majority of the country—over half of Americans—drink coffee every day. Gourmet coffee consumption for millennials has more than doubled while espresso consumption has tripled since 2008.

Thanks to ongoing scientific studies, we're happy to report that your #dailycortado could benefit far more than your daily Insta likes. When consumed appropriately and in moderation, coffee can be part of a healthy diet. Here are five reasons to be extra grateful for PSL season.

01. Drinking more coffee could lower risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

A Diabetologia study found that changing how much coffee you drink can change your risk for type 2 diabetes in a relatively short amount of time. People who increased the amount they drank each day by more than one cup over a four-year period had an 11% lower risk for type 2 diabetes than those who didn't make changes. The study also found that those who decreased how much they drank by more than a cup per day increased their type 2 diabetes risk by 17%. A cup of coffee was defined as eight ounces, black, or with a small amount of milk and/or sugar.

An analysis of 21 studies in the International Journal for Cardiology noted that habitual coffee drinking was associated with a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular heart disease in women. Sign us up for another mug!

02. Coffee drinkers have a lower risk of some cancers.

The World Health Organization notes that liver and colorectal cancers are the leading causes of death worldwide. Drinking coffee could protect against both. A Gastroenterology review of 9 studies on the relation between coffee drinking and liver cancer concludes, "Overall, an increase in consumption of 2 cups of coffee per day was associated with a 43% reduced risk of liver cancer." 

03. Just a serving a day could keep neurodegenerative diseases at bay.

The Journal of Advances in Nutrition reviewed several studies and observed a stronger effect of lower cognitive decline in women for those who consume caffeine, though the dosage is unclear. In particular, a small study in the European Journal of Neurology found that caffeine exposure (about 1-2 cups per day) was associated with significantly lower risk for Alzheimer's Disease, and an Annals of Neurology study supports that caffeine could protect against Parkinson's Disease by cutting the risk nearly in half. For women, the lowest risk of Parkinson's was observed at an intake of 1 to 3 cups per day. These perks aren't bad for light coffee drinkers!

04. Coffee might decrease depression in women.

The study, “Coffee, Caffeine, and Risk of Depression Among Women,” published in the September 2011 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine found the risk of depression to be 20% lower among women who drank 4 or more cups of caffeinated coffee than those who drank little or none. Those who drank beverages containing less caffeine didn't appear to be protected against depression. The study concludes, though, that more research needs to be done to determine whether usual caffeine consumption can contribute to depression prevention.

05. Coffee could help you live longer.

Harvard researchers have been analyzing data from 3 major studies over a period of 30 years to observe caffeine's effects on human health. Earlier this year, Harvard Health reported that "compared with people who don't drink coffee, those who drank three to five cups of caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee per day had a lower risk of death." Why? "It could be that certain compounds in coffee, such as chlorogenic acid, may help reduce insulin resistance and inflammation, which are associated with many diseases, including type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease," says Dr. Ming Ding, the study's first author and a doctoral student at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Because the study doesn't prove coffee was responsible for the lower risk of early death, Dr. Ding says it's fine to keep your habit if you already drink a moderate amount, but don't increase your consumption for the sake of living longer.

Alas, this news doesn't come without its caveats. Nearly every study reports that more investigation needs to be done to make stronger conclusions about coffee's impact on our health. And it could have a negative effect for some. The 2017 Annual Review of Nutrition reports "Convincing increased risk of low birth-weight was related to caffeine intake in the analysis restricted to US studies. Adverse associations with caffeine were mostly related to pregnancy-related outcomes (including low birth weight, pregnancy loss, and childhood leukemia)." Experts agree that if you're pregnant, one or two cups of coffee is probably safe. "But beyond that," ob-gyn Dr. Nicky Hjort says, "the medical community doesn’t know how much is damaging."

The bottom line: If drinking a moderate amount (about four cups per day) is something you love, it’s probably OK to take it off your list of "things to cut back on" and just espresso yourself. Happy National Coffee Day!

Photo Credit: Cynthia Chung