National Institutes Of Health Discovers Protective Effects Of CoffeeSeptember 2012
By Kirk Stokel
Coffee May Cut Cancer Risk
Coffee, especially brews enriched with chlorogenic acid, protect cells against the DNA damage that leads to aging and cancer development.9-11 That explains in part the findings from large epidemiological studies linking coffee consumption to lower risk for several cancer types. 27,43-47
Women with the highest coffee intake are about 30% less likely to develop endometrial cancer than those who consume none.44 Some studies show an enhanced effect among obese women.43,46
Breast cancer, the second leading cause of cancer death among American women, appears to be responsive to coffee consumption. A 57% reduction in the risk of estrogen-receptor negative (ER-negative, high risk) breast cancers was shown among women who drank 5 or more cups of coffee daily.27 Chlorogenic acid and other polyphenols, according to lab studies, are the likely beneficial agents in such cancers.47
Men also receive important cancer protection from coffee. While prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men,48 consumption of more than 6 cups of coffee per day is associated with an 18% reduction in risk for the disease, and a 60% reduction in risk of aggressive or fatal cancers.26
"Heavy" coffee drinking has been associated in multiple studies with as much as a 57% reduced incidence of colon cancers.49-53 Coffee and its constituents target specific cancer cell signaling systems to suppress colon cancer formation and metastasis.45
Cancers elsewhere in the digestive system are reduced by coffee consumption. A mere one cup daily was associated with at least a 42% reduction in risk of developing liver cancer- even for those with confounding risk factors such as hepatitis C infection.28,54-56 Additionally, consuming at least one cup per day of coffee reduced the risk of death due to liver cancer by 50% compared to non drinkers.57 And more than 3 cups produced a 40% reduction in the risk of cancers of the mouth, throat, and esophagus.58, 59
Coffee Consumption Slashes Diabetes Risk
Large reductions in the occurrence of type 2 diabetes are associated with higher coffee consumption.21 If you aren't already diabetic, you may be able to cut your risk by an impressive 67% by drinking larger amounts of coffee.60
How much more coffee? A large, combined study of data on more than 450,000 people showed that each additional daily cup reduced diabetes risk by 7%.29 Other studies support this finding with reductions of 13% for one cup/day, 47% for 4 cups/day, and 67% for 12 cups/day.60, 61
Even if you do have diabetes, coffee is likely to be beneficial. Chlorogenic acid, coffee's primary polyphenol, inhibits uptake of sugar from the intestine, reducing blood sugar levels.62 By inhibiting several enzymes in the sugar-regulating system, chlorogenic acid reduces production and release of new glucose into the bloodstream.63, 64
Of special importance, coffee's chlorogenic acid can cut the after-meal glucose surge that's known to increase diabetics' (and others') cardiovascular risks.63,64 Other components in coffee enhance this effect by reducing carbohydrate storage and improving insulin sensitivity.65
Coffee Consumption Protects Against Cardiovascular Disease
Coffee was long thought to increase the risks for high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease, but like everything else related to coffee, this has changed abruptly in recent years.
The "secret ingredient," not surprisingly, turns out to be chlorogenic acid. This compound, which can be increased in enriched coffees improves endothelial function and increases availability of artery-relaxing nitric oxide, which reduces any blood pressure increase triggered by caffeine.66 In 2011, a large combination study concluded that there's no correlation between long-term coffee consumption and increased blood pressure or cardiovascular disease.67
The beneficial effects of chlorogenic acid (and other coffee components) are evident from large observational studies. Deaths from cardiovascular disease overall, and from coronary heart disease and stroke, are all significantly reduced by coffee consumption.68,69 Table 2 shows results from one such study of diabetics, who are at especially high risk. Again, the risk reduction seems to be "dose-dependent," meaning that up to a point, the more coffee you drink, the lower your risk.
But there's an important caveat.
If you look at both tables 1 and 2, you'll see that the optimum risk reduction occurs mainly in people who drink somewhere around 4 to 6 cups daily. That makes the newer "polyphenol-retaining" coffees all the more attractive, because they can deliver a much more substantial polyphenol "punch" per cup, potentially avoiding any downside risk associated with very high total consumption.
Studies show a 33% reduction in the risk of dangerous blood clots that can travel from veins to the lungs or brain with devastating consequences.70 And just one cup of coffee can reduce the risk of clots in general, by inhibiting platelet aggregation (stickiness) within an hour.71
The mechanisms by which coffee consumption reduces cardiovascular disease are many and diverse. Polyphenols found in coffee enhance cholesterol outflow from arterial wall cells, reducing the risk of plaque formation and subsequent heart attack or stroke.9
Coffee extracts rich in polyphenols combat the dangerous structural changes in heart and liver associated with the metabolic syndrome, as they improve glucose tolerance, reduce blood pressure, and impede development of fatty liver disease.72
After years of suspecting coffee of having negative impacts on health, scientists have now concluded that it has remarkable health benefits. Most strikingly, a recent study demonstrated sharp reductions in the risks of dying from any cause, in direct proportion to the amount of coffee consumed. This study comes on the heels of numerous others that demonstrate reduced risk of dying from specific diseases such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and neurodegenerative disorders.
Detailed analysis of coffee's many components reveals that polyphenols, especially chlorogenic acid, are the main contributors to coffee's beneficial effects.
Since conventional roasting processes readily destroy these compounds, it's important to seek out coffees that retain the maximum amount of polyphenol content. That way, you can enhance your health without the over consumption of coffee. Those who cannot tolerate coffee should consider taking 200 to 400 mg of standardized chlorogenic acid supplement before most meals.
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