Don’t you just love it when something you may have considered a “vice” turns out to be good for you?
Coffee has been on this upward trajectory for a while now, which just as well, as we drink a massive 1.4 billion cups a day across the globe. Although in the past, coffee consumption has been linked to heart disease, asthma and increased risk of stroke, many of those early studies have slowly been discounted.
These days, risks are considered to be minimal, although further research into the impact on children, pregnant women and those suffering with high blood pressure is still needed. More recently, scientific research has solidified some positive benefits of the hot drink. These include improved energy levels due to the stimulant caffeine, which also contributes to increased brain activity. And coffee as a whole has also been linked to better memory, mood, alertness and increased reaction times when it comes to brain function.
Now, brand new research from the University of Southampton has found that drinking coffee could also be protective against severe liver disease. An analysis of data from 494,585 participants showed that those who drank coffee had a 20 percent lower risk of developing chronic liver disease or fatty liver disease than those who didn’t consume it. The coffee drinkers also had a 49 percent lower risk of dying from chronic liver disease, which is predominately caused by alcohol misuse, undiagnosed hepatitis infections and obesity. With non-alcohol-related fatty liver disease on the increase in the Middle East, this is good news for the health of the UAE.
This new research follows a 2017 study from the University of Southampton and the University of Edinburgh, which found that those who drank one cup a day had a 20 percent lower risk of developing hepatocellular cancer (HCC), the most common form of primary liver cancer, than those who drank no coffee at all.
As a personal trainer, I’ve seen first hand the pre-workout benefits of a quick coffee before hitting the gym in many of my clients and colleagues. It’s that burst of energy that can increase performance, focus and help sidestep feelings of fatigue due to the way caffeine affects hormones and breaks down fat for energy. In addition to this, your regular brew can also aid weight loss, as caffeine works as a natural fat burner by boosting metabolism by anywhere between three and 11 percent, with some studies showing a rise of as much as 29 percent in lean people.
Outside of physical benefits, coffee has a mixed relationship with mental health, with links between high daily intake and increased anxiety, nervousness, insomnia and even addiction. However more recent studies have shown that coffee can in fact help lift mood and combat stress, with this particularly being the case during Covid-19 lockdowns. Other studies have shown that women who drank four or more cups of coffee a day had 20 percent less risk of becoming depressed, and both men and women were 53 percent less likely to die by suicide.
Aside from physical and mental health factors, being a nutrition coach has enabled me to study the many other ways your cappuccino, flat white or expresso can impact a healthy lifestyle. Drinking multiple cups of coffee a day can actually mean you end up taking in a good amount of essential vitamins and minerals, with just one cup containing 11 percent of your required daily vitamin B2, six percent of vitamin B5 and 3 percent of magnesium and potassium. Those numbers start to add up when you’re on your fourth brew of the day. On top of this, coffee is one of the best sources of antioxidants on the planet, beating many fruits and vegetables when it comes to fighting free radicals that cause cell damage, illness and aging. One other thing to note is the impact of coffee on digestion. The hot drink aids the release of the hormone gastrin, which speeds up colon activity, and that can be useful for that morning “clear out.” However, this teamed with caffeine’s ability to speed up bowel movements does mean large quantities of coffee can cause diarrhea.
But overall, the pros of that morning cup very much outweigh the cons. In addition to the new research about coffee and liver disease, the beverage has also been linked with lowering the risk of getting Type 2 diabetes, with observational and review studies showing a reduced risk of anywhere between seven percent and 67 percent for those who regularly drink coffee. And it’s not just diabetes: studies have shown that coffee can lower the risk of Alzheimers disease, Parkinson’s and colorectal cancer; it can reduce stroke risk and might even help you live longer — with studies showing a 20 percent reduced risk of death in men and a 26 percent decreased risk of death in women.
With all that in mind, go ahead and treat yourself to a refill.
Devinder Bains is journalist of 20 years, working as a writer and editor on some of the biggest national magazines, newspapers and online publications in the UK and the Middle East. She specialises in women’s empowerment, fashion, race, culture and travel, and as a qualified personal trainer and nutrition coach, she is an expert in health and fitness. She splits her time between freelance writing and running Fit Squad DXB – Dubai’s largest personal training and wellness company.