Brewing Up Health Benefits

June 5, 2017

There's good news for office coffee service providers these days. Recent studies are increasingly showing that coffee provides a variety of health benefits. From offering cancer prevention to pain management to even psychological wellbeing, coffee is continually proving to be a smart choice that is attracting a lot of attention from researchers around the world.  

Cancer Prevention 

Earlier this year, a study published in the International Journal of Cancer found that coffee may have a "protective effect" on prostate cancer risk. In an analysis of approximately 7,000 men from Italy, those who consumed more than three cups of coffee a day showed a 53 percent reduction in prostate cancer disease risk when compared to men who consumed zero to two cups of coffee. The caffeine from the coffee appeared to exert both antiproliferative and antimetastatic activity on two prostate cancer cell lines, which in turn provided a cellular confirmation for the cohort study results. 

Additional studies connecting coffee with cancer protection have also been published. Researchers from the University of Southampton and the University of Edinburgh found that people who drink more coffee are less likely to develop hepatocellular cancer, which is the most common form of primary liver cancer. Using data from 26 studies involving more than 2.25 million participants, those who drank one cup a day had a 20 percent lower risk of developing HCC compared to people who drank no coffee. The effect was also found in decaffeinated coffee. 

Diabetes Risk 

It isn’t exactly new news that coffee is linked with a reduced risk of diabetes. Previous studies have found that people who drink four or more cups of coffee a day have a 50 percent lower risk of getting the most common form of diabetes, type 2 diabetes.  

However, Chinese researchers may have found out why. In a study funded by the National Basic Research Program of China and the Natural Science Foundation of China, researchers found three compounds present in coffee, caffeine, caffeic acid and chlorogenic acid, seem to block the toxic accumulation of a protein linked with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Caffeic acid had the greatest effect while caffeine had the least effect, suggesting that decaffeinated coffee may also reduce risk. In fact, decaffeinated coffee contains higher amounts of caffeic acid than regular caffeinated coffee.   

Chronic Pain 

A recent study from Boston Children’s Hospital suggests that coffee may be a better treatment for chronic pain than over-the-counter pills. Scientists gave tired lab mice either painkillers, coffee or more time asleep. They found the most wide-awake mice, after consuming caffeine or waking up from a long nap, were less sensitive to pain than those given the painkillers. Specifically in the coffee-drinking mice, the scientists reported a rush of dopamine to the brain's pleasure center that alleviated feelings of pain.    

Perhaps most surprisingly, common analgesics including ibuprofen did not block sleep-loss-induced pain hypersensitivity. However, caffeine successfully blocked the pain hypersensitivity caused by both acute and chronic sleep loss. Researchers concluded that rather than just relying on painkillers, patients with chronic pain might benefit from better sleep habits or sleep-promoting medications at night, coupled with daytime alertness-promoting agents such as caffeine.  

Psychological Wellbeing 

Physical health hasn’t been the only focus of wellness studies surrounding coffee. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health found that drinking several cups of coffee daily appears to reduce the risk of suicide in both men and women by about 50 percent. Their findings were based on data from three large U.S. studies which led them to conclude that the risk of suicide for adults who drank two to four cups of caffeinated coffee per day was about half that of those who drank decaffeinated coffee or very little or no coffee. 

Researchers explained that caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and also may act as a mild antidepressant by boosting production of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline. This effect may explain the lower risk of depression among coffee drinkers. 

While the caffeine boost may still be the main reason coffee drinkers turn to their morning cup of joe, continuing research and studies around the health effects of coffee are certainly brewing up more excitement about this continually growing segment of the industry.