Coffee and I are in a constant battle—while my brain is always telling me I should cut back, every morning I find myself desperate for a second cup before I’m even through with my first. Turns out my love of the bean might not be as bad for me as I thought, since studies show that coffee actually provides a variety of health benefits, including a reduced risk of stroke and diabetes.
Though coffee-drinking has long been considered an unhealthy habit that can lead to various health problems including cancer and heart disease, one study actually found the opposite to be true: Swedish researchers followed the diets of nearly 35,000 women ages 49 to 83 for 10 years. They found that the women who drank at least one cup of coffee per day were about a quarter less likely to have a stroke than women who drank less coffee or none at all.
That’s not the only health benefit coffee’s been linked to: researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health discovered a connection between coffee consumption and a lowered diabetes risk. The study found that people who drank three to four cups of coffee a day were 20 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes, and people who drank five or more cups were 30 percent less likely. Decaf coffee was also found to be beneficial, but it’s effects were weaker—it’s thought that caffeine may lower blood sugar levels by driving sugar from the bloodstream into muscles. Other studies have shown that coffee may help treat memory loss and reduce the risk of certain cancers. It’s even been shown to increase endurance and ease muscle soreness.
Though no one still really knows why coffee offers these benefits, Swedish researchers in the stroke study speculate that antioxidants found in coffee reduce inflammation—which is known to damage cells in our bodies and can lead to a variety of chronic diseases and conditions—and improve insulin resistance, both of which are risk factors of stroke and diabetes.
As many health benefits as coffee may provide, it’s still recommended only in moderation. While drinking five cups a day might reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the caffeine in all that java can still contribute to insomnia, increased heart rate, and headaches, while high levels of acidity could cause indigestion. But that doesn’t mean you have to give it up entirely—just stick to consuming no more than 300 mg of caffeine a day, which is about three cups of brewed coffee. With all these potential perks, it looks like I might be having that second cup of coffee after all.