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The Surprising Science behind Coffee

Posted by Erwin Bryan Young on

Image of Coffee Cup

Clinical studies have found significant benefits related to coffee consumption – everything from cancer reversals to reduced stroke risk. Yet, at the same time, it is known that high consumption of caffeine, which is found in high amounts in coffee, can actually cause health issues.

Let’s take a look at the surprising science behind coffee.

How are these benefits possible? Is there something beyond caffeine at play here?

Scientists and medical researchers appear to believe so.  While caffeine is a prime catalyst of the possible medical benefits, experts believe other ingredients are also involved. Why? Because some studies have found positive effects even when drinkers have decaffeinated coffees.

So that’s the mystery of coffee: exactly what are these ingredients?

Coffee has been researched by scientists for hundreds – maybe even thousands – of years. Top-notch medical institutions, including UCLA, Harvard Medical School, and the Dana-Faber Cancer Institute, have done extensive research. Studies have included a look at short-term and long-term benefits. And research on coffee has been published in prestigious medical journals, such as the New England Journal of Medicine.  

But still we’re not entirely sure why coffee does what it seems to do.

Let’s look at some of the more surprising findings about the science behind coffee’s benefits:

  • Coffee’s effects on insulin and blood sugar levels appear to be only temporary. Moderate coffee drinkers enjoy a somewhat lower risk, but heavy drinkers (of 3 to 6 cups daily) see an even greater impact. Harvard finds that elevated levels of the hormone adiponectin may offer protection to users by effecting insulin and blood levels.
  • In the journal Diabetes, UCLA medical researchers have discovered a possible molecular mechanism behind coffee’s protective effect. A protein called SHBG regulates select biological activity in the body, and coffee increases plasma levels of SHBG.
  • Harvard Health scientists also found that filtering out certain ingredients in coffee offset the “bad” LDL cholesterol elevations in unfiltered coffee. For example, studies found that unfiltered coffees brewed in a French Press or certain Turkish coffees can boost cholesterol levels.  But filtering out oily substances in coffee using paper filters offsets all of that. The net result is that the mystery continues – because when cafestol and kahweol are filtered out, so too are their benefits of anticancer effects and improved liver function.
  • In the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute looked at patients who had undergone both surgery and chemotherapy for Stage III colon cancer. Caffeinated coffee drinkers were 42% less likely to have their cancer return than non-coffee drinkers. They were also 33% less likely to die from cancer or other causes.

Other studies from Dana-Farber suggest coffee’s beneficial effects on other types of cancers as well, including melanoma, liver cancer, advanced prostate cancer and even postmenopausal breast cancer.

However, in this case, caffeine alone also achieved the positive results — not other components of coffee, the Institute found.  But the issue needs further study. It may be that the caffeine in coffee reduces inflammation in the body, a risk factor in diabetes and cancer.

If you don’t currently drink coffee and suffer from health issues, you should consult with a physician first. But for those who already drink it? You may want to continue – because the short- and long-term benefits that scientists continue to uncover may surprise you.

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