Why Coffee May Be a Magical Elixir
This brew may help you live healthier, happier, and even longer.
Posted November 17, 2021 | Reviewed by Davia Sills
"We want to do a lot of stuff; we're not in great shape. We didn't get a good night's sleep. We're a little depressed. Coffee solves all these problems in one delightful little cup." —Jerry Seinfeld
Coffee, one of the world’s most ancient brews, is today considered by many to be a powerful superfood. Each cuppa holds the promise to make you healthier and perhaps even happier.
- Coffee is an eye-opener that delivers an energizing boost to each new day.
- A cup of coffee is a warm and luxurious tonic on cold winter days.
- Coffee breaks are a powerful generator of office collegiality.
- Coffee incentivizes families to gather and discuss the meanderings of everyday life.
Coffee houses, for many, have replaced the local bar. Throughout the world, they provide a community hub, a local watering hole where neighbors cross paths and regularly sit and chat with a latte, dark roast, or espresso in hand.
Legend has it that coffee originated in the small village of Kaffa in Ethiopia during the 9th century. It was there a goat herder noticed that in one particular pasture, the goats were unusually frisky and animated. He investigated and learned they were nibbling on purple-brownish berries from a tree.
Intrigued, the goat herder made a brew from the berries and was immediately enthralled by the taste. Legend has it he soon shared this novel drink with a monk at a nearby monastery. The monk joined in the herder’s jubilation when he discovered that the brew enabled him to remain awake for late-night prayers.
Coffee houses like Starbucks, Dunkin’, and the fictional Central Perk from Friends are not modern inventions. The first coffee houses, originating in the Muslim world during the 14th and 15th centuries, were called “schools of the wise.” They became important centers for information exchange, where one could enjoy this mysterious, stimulating beverage while engaging in conversation, listening to music, playing chess, and chattering about the news of the day.
From that point, coffee exploded in popularity throughout the world as more and more people experienced its seemingly magical properties. But coffee has not been free of controversy. In each successive century, people both enjoyed yet feared this mystical brew.
The debate was more or less settled when in early 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) awarded coffee a strong, meaningful approval, stating: “Strong and consistent evidence shows that consumption of coffee within the moderate range is not associated with increased risk of major chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer and premature death in healthy adults.”
Also in 2015, the USDA characterized coffee as “a functional food with health benefits.” The 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee went even further, stating “consumption of coffee has positive health benefits and therefore can be incorporated into a healthy dietary pattern.”
Here are just a few of the more recent findings that confirm the health benefits of coffee, as detailed in Sanjiv Chopra’s latest book, Coffee! The Magical Elixer, Facts that will Astound and Perk You Up:
- Heart disease. Individuals who drank five or more cups of coffee a day reduced their risk of death from heart disease by 44 percent. (2008 Nurses’ Health Study, Annals of Internal Medicine)
- Cancer. Coffee drinkers have a lower risk of seven common cancers: head and neck, breast, endometrial colorectal, prostate, skin, and primary liver cancers. In fact, a recent study showed the stunning finding that those with advanced and metastatic colon cancer who drank both regular and decaffeinated coffee had improved, disease-free survival. (Journal of the American Medical Association Oncology, 2021; Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, 2011; The American Journal of Epidemiology; The International Journal of Cancer 2008; Gastroenterology, 2017; International Journal of Cancer, 2008; Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2011; among others)
- Type 2 Diabetes. People who drink coffee regularly exhibit a lower risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes, as seen in studies that examined both regular and decaffeinated coffee. (Clinical Gastroenterology, 2013)
- Chronic liver disease. Drinking two cups of regular coffee a day confers a 50 percent reduction in mortality from chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis of the liver. This could potentially benefit the 1.5 billion people in the world experiencing chronic liver disease. (Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 2013)
- Gout. The incidence of gout was 40 percent lower in individuals who drank four cups of coffee per day and almost 60 percent lower in those who drank six cups. (Arthritis Rheumatism, 2007)
- Kidney health. There is research that concluded coffee has a beneficial effect on kidney function. (Journal of Kidney Diseases, 2019)
- Depression and suicide. Coffee appears to have a mediating effect on depression and self-harm. It was found that for each cup of coffee an individual drank, there was an 8 percent reduction in depression (New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry). In addition, it was determined that coffee consumption was associated with a significant decrease in suicidal ideation in women—but not men. (Journal of Affective Disorders, 2019)
Then there’s this: A small, double-blind, placebo-controlled cross-over study reported that a moderate dose of caffeine consumed before and during a round of golf improved performance and reduced fatigue in skilled golfers. (Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 2016)
These findings only tell only part of the story. Benefits are being identified for neurodegenerative disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, stroke, bone health, and even creativity. Coincidentally, many of these studies denote what is called a “dose-dependent effect,” which means the more coffee one drinks, the more powerful the benefit.
One can’t help but conclude that scientific research increasingly indicates that coffee drinking correlates with improved health, longer life, and even greater happiness. After all, who among us would not be not happier if we could maintain good health while engaging in social activities with friends and family, for which coffee is often a central libation?
Taking all this into consideration, we both second what a wise man once said: “Everyone needs to believe in something. We believe we’ll have another cup of coffee.”