In 10 seconds? Good news for coffee drinkers! Your morning cup of joe might lower your risk for certain cancers. Researchers are looking into coffee’s bioactive properties to understand why.
Really? I’ve been doing something right all these years? Yes! Coffee is one of the world’s most popular beverages. In a time where it seems like almost everything delicious (and addictive) is bad for your health, coffee comes in as a welcome exception. Multiple observational studies suggest that high levels of coffee consumption pose no overall cancer risk, and may even be protective against certain types of cancer!
What types of cancer does coffee protect against? Drinking coffee may help protect people from head and neck cancers. An observational study showed that heavy coffee drinkers (4+ cups a day) were about 40% less likely to develop head and neck cancers than those who don’t drink coffee. Researchers believe that the antioxidants in coffee may be to thank.
What are antioxidants again? Our bodies produce chemicals called ‘reactive oxygen species’, or ROS, that are crucial for healthy bodily functioning. However, in certain conditions, like chronic inflammation, too many ROS may be produced, which can damage our cells’ DNA and increase our risk for cancer. Antioxidants work to eliminate ROS, thus protecting us from their cancer-promoting properties. Coffee is rich in many types of antioxidants, although the types and amounts depend on the variety of coffee, the roast, and the brewing process.
Good to know! What about other types of cancers? Seems like coffee helps prevent cancer at the ‘other’ end of the digestive tract as well. Heavy coffee drinkers are about 30% less likely to develop colorectal cancers than occasional or non-drinkers. While antioxidants are thought to play a protective role, coffee’s bowel movement-inducing properties may help as well by reducing exposure time to carcinogens present in the food we eat.
Glad to know my morning ritual is helping me. I know, right? And there’s more! Multiple studies show that coffee may decrease the risk of developing liver cancer by as much as 40%! Beyond cancer, coffee is known to help livers fight disease and infection. It may even help prevent diabetes and Parkinson’s disease (again, likely due to its antioxidant properties).
Anything else? Remember: these are observational studies that identify correlations. How coffee may protect against cancer is largely speculative and subject to evolve or change with further investigation. At the very least, however, even with the strength of the data we have now, you can have a reason to enjoy your morning coffee even more! (Just one caveat: if you are migraine-prone, monitor your drinking habits. For some people, skipping their coffee might unleash a right royal headache.)
Is it safe to drink coffee while pregnant?
There has been some debate over whether it is safe to drink coffee while pregnant or not. Some studies have tied drinking coffee during pregnancy to an increased risk of childhood leukemia for the child–particularly a subtype called acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
But further analysis has brought up mixed results. Bigger, better studies need to be done before we can conclude whether coffee drinking during pregnancy should be avoided!
Dr. Talia Henkle has distilled 7 papers saving you 24.5 hours of reading time.
The Science Integrity Check of this 3-min Science Digest was performed by Flávia Oliveira Geraldes