To many of us, coffee is a godsend. Without it, we’d be zombies bumbling through the early morning haze. Its dark, rich taste and jolt of caffeine imbues us with life during those hours when many of us would prefer to be asleep. But that’s not the only reason we’re thankful for coffee. If any good news has come out of 2017, it’s that the beverage has more health benefits than we probably realized. So pour another cup and read on to discover some of the most insightful studies to emerge this year in regards to our favorite morning drink.

Coffee might prevent heart disease.

Researchers from the University of Colorado studied data from the Framingham Heart Study, which has gathered information on American eating patterns and cardiovascular health since the 1940s. They were originally looking for habits that increased the risk of heart disease but instead stumbled upon this tidbit. Subjects who drank an eight ounce cup of coffee every day had a 7 percent less chance of heart failure, an 8 percent less chance of having a stroke and a 5 percent less chance of coronary heart disease. These patterns were also replicated in similar studies including  the Cardiovascular Heart Study and the Atherosclerosis Risk In Communities Study.

However, as the old psych major adage goes, correlation does not equal causation. So while there is a clear trend, coffee may not be the entire reason behind it. Even if the link is tenuous, coffee drinkers can still pride themselves on being included in the healthier group.

Coffee could help ward off dementia

A few studies suggest drinking three or more cups of coffee a day can help prevent cognitive decline. The better to remember all those lovely espressos you consumed on your last trip to Italy. Comparable results were not replicated with tea, so it’s not just the caffeine at work, but other chemical compounds such as polyphenols as well. They work in tandem to prevent the accumulation of toxic proteins in the body. Some studies have gone as far as to suggest coffee can even prevent Alzheimer’s. We’ll drink a latte to that!

Coffee can help relieve chronic pain, at least if you’re a mouse.

According to a study published in Nature Medicine in May, coffee may be more effective at relieving pain than ibuprofen. But there’s a non-human catch. Researchers in Boston subjected a bunch of sleep-deprived mice to various painkillers, including Morphine, but it was coffee that had the greatest impact on their sensitivity. The caffeine likely triggered the release of dopamine for some happy relief. While we have no idea if coffee can make human pain more bearable, it certainly makes mornings more tolerable. We’ll take all we can get.

Coffee can help you live longer.

In the largest analysis of its kind, a study showed those who drink three cups of coffee a day are likely to live longer. Not only were subjects  at lower risk for heart disease, but they had a reduced risk for lung, pulmonary, and digestive tract issues. You know what a longer life means? More time to enjoy coffee!

Coffee can help your workout.

Yes, seriously. A physiology professor at the University of São Paulo claims that it can increase your exercise speed and thus your ability to burn calories. He tested this theory on 400 subjects on stationary bikes. He gave one group 400-mg caffeine pills (the equivalent of four brews) while another group got a placebo and another got nothing to serve as a control.  The caffeinated bunch sped 3.3 percent faster than the control group. While this may seem like an obvious outcome, it’s always nice to have science validate our gym boost of choice.

Are there any downsides to drinking too much coffee?

Well, too much caffeine can definitely throw off your sleep and trigger insomnia. It can also exacerbate gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), so if you’re prone to heart burn it’s probably best to avoid it. But otherwise, make another pot of that hot stuff and enjoy!

Header image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Jessica is an Associate Editor at Chowhound. Follow her on Twitter @volume_knob for updates on snacks and cats.
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