Health Benefits of Coffee & Caffeine


Mostly Harmless
Staff member
A recent MSNBC article sheds light on the FUD people have been spreading about coffee for years:

Coffee… java… joe we all need our caffeine... But there are still many questions about the benefits and side effects of caffeine. TODAY nutrition and diet editor Joy Bauer helps seperate fact and fiction.

1. Three cups of daily Joe helps retain memory.
Fact.About a year and a half ago (in November, 2005), Austrian researchers confirmed that caffeinated coffee can temporarily sharpen your focus and memory. After giving volunteers the caffeine equivalent of about two cups of coffee, their brain activity was increased in two locations—the memory-rich frontal lobe and the attention-controlling anterior cingulum. Results were observed using MRI technology.
Now a brand new study published in the August 7 issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology found the effects of coffee may be longer lasting — specifically in women.
At the onset of this 4-year long study, all participants went through thorough baseline evaluations — cognitive function was tested, along with other vascular issues like high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Participants were re-evaluated at the 2-year mark, and again at the 4 year mark. Memory was scored using a standardized set of tests (tests that measure the ability to generate a list of words in specific categories).

At the end of the four year period, researchers found that women age 65 and older who drank more than three cups of coffee per day (or the caffeine equivalent in tea) had 33% less decline in memory over time than women who drank one cup or less of coffee or tea per day.

The results held up even after researchers adjusted for other factors that could affect memory abilities, such as age, education, baseline cognitive function, depression, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, medications, and other chronic illnesses.

This caffeine-memory association was NOT observed in men — the authors hypothesize that perhaps that’s because men and women metabolize caffeine differently.

This is exciting news for women, but certainly too premature to recommend caffeine as a cure all for memory! And it’s important to point out that this study found no protective effect for true dementia or Alzheimers disease.
2. Coffee and exercise may prevent skin cancer.

Perhaps. According to a new animal study conducted at Rutgers University, the combination of exercise and caffeine increased the destruction of pre-cancer cells that had been damaged by the sun's ultraviolet rays. This positive outcome still has to be tested on humans, but there was a clear correlation shown with mice.
The caffeine consumption alone helped destroy pre-cancer skin cells. The exercise alone helped destroy pre-cancer skin cells… BUT the two together provided significant protection. Dr. Allan Conney, director of Rutgers’ Cullman Laboratory and one of the paper’s authors points out the possibility of some sort of synergy between the two.
Of course this is not a substitute for sunscreen!

3. Coffee is a potent diuretic.
False. It’s true the stimulant effect of coffee can act as a slight diuretic, however the overall volume of water you consume while enjoying your cup of coffee will more than make up for the small amount lost in your urine.
4. Energy drinks have more caffeine than coffee.
False. It varies from drink to drink. For example, Red Bull is known as an ultimate “energy drink”… but you’ll only get 80 milligrams of caffeine in one 8-ounce can, that’s less than an average cup of coffee @ 100 milligrams. That said, this is a case by case comparison…. you’ll have to check labels and caffeine amounts to know for sure.

5. Coffee can enhance your workout.
Fact. Yes. A burst of caffeine before a workout can give you a slight edge when you workout: As little as 100 milligrams of caffeine — the amount in about a cup of coffee-has been shown to improve athletic performance of dedicated exercisers (casual exercisers won't experience THE SAME BOOST). Researchers aren't sure why, but it may be because caffeine signals your muscles to ignore fatigue and contract differently.

Very important information: the following folks should avoid caffeine altogether:
People who are caffeine sensitive: the stimulant affects of caffeine will exacerbate restlessness, anxiety, irritability and/or headaches

People with sleeping issues: caffeine tends to stay in your system anywhere from 3-8 hours. So depending on your personal sensitivity – you’ll want to stop drinking accordingly.
People with gastrointestinal problems: A dose of caffeine may irritate your stomach if you have irritable bowel syndrome or ulcers.
People with elevated blood pressure or abnormal heart rhythms: in this case, your personal physician knows best.
People with bad PMS and cystic breasts. Caffeine has been shown to worsen these conditions.
How much caffeine is in your favorite hot beverage?

Average varieties:
8-ounce cup of average coffee = 100 milligrams
Black Tea (8 ounce cup) = 40 milligrams
Green Tea (8 ounce cup) = 20 milligrams
Red Bull (8-ounce can) = 80 milligrams

Tall (12oz) = 95 milligrams
Grande (16oz) = 260 milligrams
Venti (20oz) = 325 milligrams
1 single oz shot of espresso = 65 milligrams

Dunkin Donuts brewed:
Small (10oz) = 129 milligrams
Medium (14oz) = 181 milligrams
Large (20oz) = 258 milligrams
Well friend, I don't believe there are any health benefits of coffee. Caffeine speeds up your heart rate and causes insomnia in a lot of people. I've never actually researched this, but now I will. All I know as a nurse, is pts are told not to drink coffee if they have cardiac disease....but decaf is really worse for you with all the interesting question.
Hi Carlos,

I'm no doctor, but I must agree with what you just said about decaf.... It's like the idiots who buy diet Pepsi and add tons of sugar or aspartame..

But I love (caffeinated) coffee.... so I dunno. I quit Pepsi and other Cola beverages after all those thousands of studies, coffee is all I got left :smile: