So what does the research show?
The latest study, published in the journal, Circulation this month, indicates, “higher consumption of total coffee, caffeinated coffee, and decaffeinated coffee was associated with lower risk of total mortality.”
In the study, those who drank less than one cup, but no more than three cups of coffee per day had a six to eight percent lower risk of dying than those who consumed no coffee. Those who drank three to five cups of coffee, or more than five cups daily, had a 12 to 15 percent lower rate of death.
The study also showed that those who consumed more coffee were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases, and suicide.
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“Based on numerous research studies, coffee is life- and liver-saving,” said Michael Charlton, MD, medical director of Intermountain Medical Center’s liver transplant program. “If coffee was a medication, we would be prescribing a lot of it.”
An article published in Gastroenterology in 2013 states: “Specific to the study of liver disease, coffee has been demonstrated to have beneficial effects on weight gain, development of diabetes, the prevention of hepatic fibrosis in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and other chronic liver diseases, including chronic hepatitis C.”
Research about the health benefits of coffee dates back to a New England Journal of Medicine article in May 2012, which “showed significant inverse associations of coffee consumption with deaths from all causes and specifically with deaths due to heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and infections.”
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“Coffee consists of a unique, complex collection of naturally occurring substances,” explained Dr. Charlton. “While we’re still unraveling the mechanisms by which coffee exerts its overall effects, the scientific evidence for important health benefits of coffee consumption is now overwhelming.”
Dr. Charlton adds that initial studies point to caffeine and coffee polyphenols as being important contributors. Effects include resistance to weight gain, decreasing fat production in the liver, and slowing inflammation and scar tissue formation in the liver. Caffeine on its own, which is found in sodas and other products, doesn’t seem to have these beneficial effects.
Dr. Charlton says it is important that people with sleep issues or uncontrolled diabetes need to be careful regarding caffeine to their diets, as should pregnant women, as there is some concern about caffeine's effect on fetal growth and miscarriage. And some of the latest research seems to say that our genes may be responsible for how we react to coffee, explaining why some people need several cups to get a boost while others get the jitters on only one.