Enjoy the Benefits of Coffee Without the Buzz

Even the baristas know about this new coffee study…

Last week, my researcher chatted with the barista at our local Starbucks. The topic turned to a brand-new study on the benefits of coffee, regardless of caffeine content. We love when health topics make the headlines… without misleading the public.

Longtime readers know I’ve written about the benefits of coffee many times. We’ve debunked the alarmist rantings in California. And we praised the decision of the World Cancer Research Fund International to list coffee as a way to prevent liver cancer.

The latest research is a correlation study, but an important one nonetheless.

Published in JAMA: Internal Medicine, the study covers about half a million adults in the U.K. They found that coffee drinkers lived longer.

In fact, they found that people who drank a few cups per day – which is about what I enjoy – had a 12% to 18% lower risk of early death.

The really interesting part of this study… decaf-coffee drinkers had the same benefits. And although it was not as beneficial, instant-coffee drinkers did show some benefits as well.

The researchers also looked at folks who had genetic changes that prevented them from breaking down caffeine properly. The idea was that, should caffeine be the contributing factor for longevity, these people won’t have the same effect.

Not only did these folks still have the same benefits for longevity, but so did people who only drank decaf.

Both regular and decaf coffee contain antioxidants. The main ones are hydrocinnamic acids and polyphenols. Caffeine is also a type of antioxidant.

What the antioxidants do well is fight off inflammation. You trigger chronic inflammation from a poor diet, meaning lots of processed foods. It also comes from a sedentary lifestyle.

Inflammation not only damages our cells, but over time it causes diseases like heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and type 2 diabetes.

Many studies don’t look at decaf coffee as an option. But many folks must cut their caffeine intake. That includes people with heart palpitations or an arrhythmia and those with acid reflux and GERD, and lower GI diseases like Crohn’s.

One area that included both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee is type 2 diabetes. You might remember, we wrote about the staggering growth of this disease in the U.S. About 1.5 million Americans receive a diagnosis each year, with about 30 million living with diabetes right now.

But coffee, with or without caffeine, had an inverse relationship with type 2 diabetes. In other words, the more coffee people drank, the lower their risk of getting type 2 diabetes. And I’m not just talking about one study – several studies have shown this same relationship. But they didn’t find the underlying cause at the time.

If you remember though, there are a few causation studies out there which could explain this…

Although strong in their correlation, studies like these don’t pinpoint the actual cause. That’s where studies on mechanisms of action (MOA) come in. Their goal is to find the actual chemical roots of various outcomes.

MOA studies usually involve a highly controlled environment, like a laboratory. Let’s take a look at one example, using coffee, published in 2011 in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry

Our body naturally fights inflammation with antioxidants. That involves a key protein, nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2). That protein triggers the release of antioxidants from our cells.

Scientists from the University of Vienna found that several components in coffee directly boost the activity of Nrf2. This means coffee stimulates your body to produce more antioxidants. That reduces so-called free radicals. This lowers the ongoing levels of inflammation.

Thus, researchers can describe a plausible mechanism of action for coffee’s overall benefits.

That’s why this new study is exciting to us. It means that the main benefit people cite (longevity) isn’t due to caffeine. Coupling that with what we know about Nrf2 and other inflammation-fighting pathways, we think coffee is the best addition to our daily routine.

I like to drink about three cups a day. And remember, don’t add a ton of sugar to your coffee or you’ll effectively cancel out the benefits, since sugar and sugar substitutes cause inflammation.

What We’re Reading…

Here’s to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
July 10, 2018