Coffee – the Legend and Health Benefits

“Coffee – The favorite drink of the civilized world” – Thomas Jefferson


The Legend of Coffee

Although no one can pin-point the exact time that coffee was discovered, the legend goes that around 800 A.D., Kaldi, a goat herder in the Ethiopian plateau first noticed that one of his goats was far more energetic than usual and would not sleep at night after eating berries from a particular tree. He then reported his findings to the abbot (a man who is the head of an abbey of monks) of the local monastery. The abbot then went on to make a drink from these berries and found that it kept him alert through the long hours of prayer in the evening. After the abbot had shared this information with his fellow monks, word spread east to the Arabian Peninsula.

By the 15th century, coffee was being grown in the Yemeni district of Arabia, and by the 16th century, farming of coffee had spread to Turkey, Egypt and Syria. Coffee houses developed where people socialized and exchanged information, and were subsequently known as “Schools of the Wise”.

Coffee farming and trade has since developed into a global industry with world coffee export statistics documenting over 83 million bags of Arabica and 46 million bags of Robusta exported on average over a 12-month cycle. In the 2017/18 year, over 161 million bags (60kg) of coffee was consumed.

Coffee is considered a staple drink enjoyed by millions around the world. As the internet became more prevalent and accessible, so too has the information generated about any topic you could think of. There have been myriads of magazine articles about the benefits of coffee for health, and some warnings about consumption too, so we bring you the facts as revealed from actual research studies.


Health Benefits

The UN has projected that the world population will reach 8.5 billion by 2030, and the total number of Type 2 diabetes cases are projected to rise to 552 million by the same time. This means that 6.5% of the worldwide population will be afflicted with this disease.

Various observational studies have associated coffee consumption with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes, insulin sensitivity, glucose intolerance and high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia). Additional epidemiological studies (which determine whether a reaction is correlated with or caused directly by a stimulus) support the findings that coffee consumption is linked to reduced cardiovascular disease (CVD), offers some protection against neurodegenerative conditions and certain cancers, as well as supporting better liver function.

Chronic inflammation has been associated with the disease progression of insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes, and the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Inflammation can be affected positively or negatively through diet. In some observational studies, coffee has been associated with high levels of anti-inflammatory marker adiponectin and a few others. Exercise also increases Adiponectin levels and insulin sensitivity.

Coffee contains a bioactive component called Chlorogenic Acids (CGA) which are the main polyphenols and have a potent antioxidant property.

Coffee also contains antioxidant diterpenes such as Kahweol which behave as anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic compounds. The latter function is associated with reduced blood flow to malignant tumors and other cancerous organisms, slowing the rate of disease progression.

More research has associated coffee with reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, gallstones, gout and there is an association with modest reduced risk of stroke in women.  There is research showing an inverse reaction with depression in women.

Caffeine ingestion increases plasma epinephrine and exercise endurance.


Health Concerns:

Excessive coffee consumption can have adverse effects on sleep quality, but there is no definitive conclusion on the effects as reactions are different per person. People who have difficult with sleep, are advised to avoid coffee during afternoon/evening hours.

Any person with arrhythmias have been advised in some research to avoid caffeinated coffee but other research shows no overt benefit to limiting intake, as heavy coffee drinking was not found to be a risk factor for Coronary Heart Disease (CHD).

Coffee has been tipped as a natural diuretic but research has shown that ingestion of low to moderate caffeine does not promote dehydration at rest or during exercise.

A cross-sectional study has shown a relation that exists between moderate-to-high coffee consumption and increased inflammation in the body.

Chlorogenic Acid (CGA) is also associated with the inhibition of iron, which may be good for some people (who suffer with too much iron, called hemochromatosis), and bad for others such as pregnant mothers whose consumption may contribute to anemia of the infant and the mother.

Excessive coffee consumption has been linked with gastritis, glaucoma, headaches

In summary, coffee has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which support the fight against certain types of cancer, lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases, as well as reduced risk in developing gallstones, gout and some cases of reduced risk of stroke and depression. Excessive coffee consumption should be avoided and any concerns about coffee’s personal reactions in individuals should be address with a qualified physician.

In conclusion, moderate coffee consumption is associated with many health benefits. This list of benefits excludes circumstances when people add any ingredient to black coffee such as milk and sugar. The inclusion of milk and sugar requires an entirely different discussion as it brings into the fore, various allergens and factors linked to obesity which is also linked to diabetes. The recommended take-away is to cut out the milk and sugar, and enjoy the potent health effects of black coffee.


The information provided in this article is based on internet-based research of published research articles which may or may not become outdated as new research emerges, and does not in any way constitute as medical advice. If you have any questions about coffee and its benefits or concerns related to your personal health, please consult your physician.