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Coffee: An Emerging Superfood.


In addition to being one of the most popular drinks in the world, recent studies have shown that coffee may also be the world's top superfood. Brewed coffee is one of the world's richest food sources of antioxidants, containing more antioxidants than blueberries, cranberries, and dark chocolate. In the past, it was thought that coffee was unhealthy, but many new studies are proving that coffee has a multitude of health benefits. The American Institute for Cancer Research reports coffee contains hundreds of potentially bioactive compounds, including those with anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidative, and anti-cancer effects. (1) There is new science to prove that coffee is beneficial for health, performance, and longevity. This is the first in a series of articles written to educate the healthcare community about the science behind the healthy benefits of coffee.

Coffee Antioxidants

There are numerous antioxidants in coffee that can reduce inflammation by neutralizing harmful free radicals, as well as decrease the risk of diseases related to inflammation, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease. Some of the powerful antioxidants include the following:

* Chlorogenic Acid--A compound that plays an integral role in antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial activities in the body.

* Quinine--An antioxidant known for its ability to fight diseases. Quinine has positive effects on blood sugar levels and boosts athletic performance.

* Plant Phenols--Similar to the antioxidants found in berries, plant phenols are responsible for protecting the body from cellular damage, certain types of cancer, and cardiovascular disease. They are also known for breaking down lipids and carbohydrates in the body, which helps with weight loss.

* Cafestol--An antioxidant found in decaffeinated coffee, cafestol acts as an anti-inflammatory substance in the brain, and also as a modulator for bile acid in the intestines.

* Melanoidins--These compounds have anti-bacterial as well as antiinflammatory properties.

The Health Benefits of Coffee

Regular coffee consumption has been shown to have multiple health benefits, including the following:

Enhancing brain function. Coffee helps the brain function more efficiently, including improving focus, concentration, cognitive function, and working memory. Research shows that coffee consumption increases attention span, the ability to reason logically, and dramatically improves reaction time. Focus is heightened when you combine an L-theanine supplement with coffee. (2)

Reducing the risk of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, and dementia. Those who drink coffee on a daily basis have a 65% less chance of developing Alzheimer's or other dementia as they age. It's also reported that coffee drinkers are also up to 60% less likely to develop Parkinson's due to the caffeine content. (3) Drinking decaf coffee will not lower the risk of Parkinson's.

Increasing energy. Coffee can provide increased energy and potentially improve mental performance. (4)

Protecting the heart and cardiovascular system. An analysis of 36 studies, totaling more than one million study subjects, found those who regularly drank coffee were less likely to develop heart disease. (5) Many heart conditions are caused by inflammation, including atherosclerotic blockages. Antioxidants have been shown to reduce the incidence of death in these cases.

Fighting cancer. According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, the antioxidants, phytochemicals, phenols, and nutrients found in coffee all play an important role in helping reduce the risk of many cancers. (6) These cancers include the following:

* Breast cancer: Helps to reduce the risk or delay onset.

* Oral cancer: Reduces the chance of developing oral cancer as much as 39% according to the American Association for Cancer Research. (7)

* Brain cancer: Both men and women see a 40% reduction in certain forms of brain cancer. (6)

* Colorectal Cancer: Researchers at the University of Southern California Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center of Keck Medicine examined more than 5,100 men and women who were suffering from colorectal cancer plus 4,000 women and men who had never suffered from the disease (control group). Researchers reported that coffee consumption was associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer, and the more coffee the subjects drank, the lower their risk became. (8)

* Liver Cancer: Studies suggest that people who drink at least one cup of coffee a day have a lower risk of liver cancer compared to those who only indulge occasionally. (9)

* Skin Cancer: Coffee drinkers are less likely to develop melanoma. (10)

* Prostate Cancer: Men who drink coffee regularly appear to lower their risk of prostate cancer, especially the most lethal form, according to researchers at Harvard School of Public Health. (11)

* Uterine Cancer: Researchers from Harvard Medical School found there is an association between drinking coffee and lower endometrial cancer risk. The scientists found that coffee is a protective factor for uterine cancer. (12)

Reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Studies have shown that coffee drinkers can reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes by as much as 50%. The research suggests that the main antioxidant in coffee, chlorogenic acid, inhibits the absorption of glucose, thereby stabilizing insulin levels. (13)

Protecting the liver. There are several diseases that affect the liver, including fatty liver disease, and hepatitis. These diseases can result in cirrhosis of the liver. Those who drink coffee every day can protect their liver from cirrhosis, reducing the risk of liver disease. (14)

Promoting weight loss. Coffee promotes weight loss by burning fat, suppressing appetite, and increasing metabolism. A 2015 study that included more than 93,000 subjects, found that those who drank coffee had a lower risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. (15)

Improving sports performance. Coffee boosts fatty acids within the blood stream, allowing muscle tissue to absorb and burn fats for fuel, enabling the body to save its carb reserves for use later in the workout. The caffeine found in coffee improves muscular contractions and blood flow, allowing for smoother neuro-muscular transitions and increased force of contraction. Coffee also assists with muscle repair and muscle pain after exercise. (16)

Helping to fight depression and enhancing mood. Consumption of coffee increases brain chemicals that promote a sense of wellbeing, allowing one to perform in a state of emotional efficiency. (17)

Reducing the risk of retinal damage. Chlorogenic acid in coffee beans can reduce the risk of retinal damage caused by oxidative stress. (18)

Reducing the risk of multiple sclerosis. The anti-inflammatory properties of coffee are believed to prevent the inflammation that leads to the development of multiple sclerosis. (19)

Suppressing pain. The caffeine in coffee acts as a pain suppressant and anti-inflammatory.

Extending human life. If coffee can reduce the risk of so many diseases, it is logical to extrapolate these results to life extension. Many studies have shown the correlation of coffee drinking and longevity. According to studies from the Annals of Internal Medicine, coffee drinking lowers the risk of premature death for women by 26% and for men by 20%. (20)

A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, which looked at total and cause-specific mortality, examined the association of consumption of total, caffeinated, and decaffeinated coffee with risk of subsequent total and cause-specific mortality among 74,890 women in the Nurses' Health Study (NHS), 93,054 women in the NHS 2, and 40,557 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The study concluded, "Higher consumption of total coffee, caffeinated coffee, and decaffeinated coffee was associated with lower risk of total mortality." The study leader hypothesized that the combination of lignans, magnesium, quinines, and other key phytochemicals in coffee worked together to reduce risks for disease and extend lifespan. (21)

Since the benefit of increased lifespan in this study was seen with both caffeinated and decaffeinated varieties, caffeine was not likely to be the source of the increased lifespan. Also noteworthy is that the reduced risk of death was lacking among study subjects who were smokers or former smokers.

Not All Coffees Are Created Equal

The best quality coffee yields the greatest potential health benefits. The way coffee is grown, handled, and roasted has a direct effect on its quality. Where it is grown (high altitudes are best), how it is farmed (whether organic or pesticides are used), and whether mold or mycotoxins (toxins produced by mold) are present, all affect the quality of the coffee. Most conventional coffees test high for pesticides and herbicides, and low-quality coffees may contain up to 50% mold or mycotoxins.

Under-roasting or over-roasting can also have a dramatic effect on the health benefits of coffee. The optimal preparation is a medium roast that preserves high antioxidant compounds to maximize chlorogenic acids and keeps acrylamide levels low. Acrylamide is a toxin that can result from under-and over-roasting.


Many studies have been conducted showing the positive impact of coffee consumption on health. New studies are consistently being added to the already large body of scientific evidence indicating that drinking antioxidantrich coffee daily has a wide range of diverse health benefits, including disease prevention and, in some cases, disease reversal. The majority of these findings have yet to reach the health community and general public; but as information becomes more available, health professionals are learning that moderate, daily, high-quality coffee consumption can have a variety of health benefits for their patients.


(1.) Giovannucci EL. Coffee doesn't need cancer warning. American Institute for Cancer Research (online). Available at: Accessed February 2, 2018.

(2.) Haskell CF. The effects of L-theanine, caffeine and their combination on cognition and mood. Biol Psychol. 2008;77(2):113-22.

(3.) Ross GW, et al. Association of coffee and caffeine intake with the risk of Parkinson disease. JAMA. 2000;283(20):2674-2679.

(4.) Harvard Health Letter. What is it about coffee? Harvard Health [online]. Available at: Accessed February 1, 2018.

(5.) Ding M. et al. Long-term coffee consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease: A systematic review and a dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Circulation. 2014;129:643-659.

(6.) Holick C, et al. Coffee, tea, caffeine intake, and risk of adult glioma in three prospective cohort studies. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. January 2010;19(1):39-47.

(7.) Gapstur S, et al. Associations of coffee drinking and cancer mortality in the cancer prevention study-ll [abstract]. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. 2017 Oct;26(10):1477-1486.

(8.) Schmit SL, et al. Coffee consumption and the risk of colorectal cancer. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. 2016;25(4):634-639.

(9.) Petrick JL, et al. Coffee consumption and risk of hepatocellular carcinoma and intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma by sex: The Liver Cancer Pooling Project. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. 2015;24(9):1398-1406.

(10.) Loftfield E, et al. Coffee drinking and cutaneous melanoma risk in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. JNCI. 2015;107(2):dju421.

(11.) Wilson KM, et al. Coffee consumption and prostate cancer risk and progression in the health professionals follow-up study. JNCI. 2011;103(ll):876-884.

(12.) Je Y, Giovannucci E. Coffee consumption and risk of endometrial cancer: Findings from a large up-to-date meta-analysis [abstract]. International Journal of Cancer October 1, 2012;131(7):1700-10.

(13.) Boggs DA, et al. Coffee, tea, and alcohol intake in relation to risk of type 2 diabetes in African American women. AJCN 2010;92(4):960-6.

(14.) Klatsky A, et al. Coffee, cirrhosis, and transaminase enzymes [abstract]. Arch Intern Med. 2006;166(11):1190-1195.

(15.) Nordestgaard A, Thomsen M, Nordestgaard B. Coffee intake and risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes: a Mendelian randomization study, Int J Epidemiol. 2015 Apr;44(2):551-65.

(16.) Maridakis V, et al. Caffeine attenuates delayed-onset muscle pain and force loss following eccentric exercise. Journal of Pain. 2007 March;8(3):237-243.

(17.) Lucas M, et al. Coffee, caffeine, and risk of depression among women. Arch Intern Med. 2011;171(17):1571-1578.

(18.) Jang H, et al. Chlorogenic acid and coffee prevent hypoxia-induced retinal degeneration. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2013 Dec 20;62(1):182-91.

(19.) Hedstrom AK, et al. High consumption of coffee is associated with decreased multiple sclerosis risk; results from two independent studies. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry. Available at: Accessed January 28, 2018.

(20.) Lopez-Garcia E, et al. The relationship of coffee consumption with mortality. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2008 Jun 17;148(12):904-14.

(21.) Ding M, et al. Association of coffee consumption with total and cause-specific mortality in three large prospective cohorts. Circulation. 2015;132:2305-2315.

by Steven M. Helschien, DC

Dr. Steven Helschien (a.k.a. Dr. Coffee) is a coffee aficionado and believes that coffee is a powerhouse superfood. He is the founder of Level 1 Diagnostics (a cardiovascular testing program that uses advanced, noninvasive technology to detect and prevent cardiovascular disease), and Level 1 Therapeutics (a health and wellness program dedicated to supporting optimal health). Dr. Helschien is passionate about progressive health issues and encouraging people toward greater health and wellbeing.
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Author:Helschien, Steven M.
Publication:Townsend Letter
Article Type:Report
Date:Apr 1, 2018
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