Mmmmm, coffee… There’s nothing quite like the smell of a fresh cup of joe in the morning. I’m even taking a sip as I write this (I take mine with just a splash of creamer, no sugar). But throughout the years, researchers have sought to find a definitive answer to this question: “Is coffee good or bad for you later in life?”
Sure, there’s plenty of “coffee-isms” that caffeine lovers like to list off. They say things like “Coffee helps me wake up” and “I couldn’t survive Mondays without a cup of coffee.” We even have a sign in our company rec room that says “Instant Human: Just Add Coffee.”
But the truth is there have been plenty of studies done over the years about the impact of the beverage on seniors. Why seniors? According to the National Coffee Association (yes, that is a real thing), Americans 60 years and older drink more coffee than any other demographic in the nation. Who knew?
Grab a seat with your favorite mug and check out a few more surprising coffee facts:
- Coffee may have anticancer properties.
According to the National Cancer Institute, around 40% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetimes. How can you fight back? One cup at a time. Studies have found that coffee drinkers are 25%-75% less likely to get colon, liver, or breast cancer. This is likely due to antioxidants in coffee that help reduce cell damage from free radicals in our bodies. So sip away!
Ward off Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
- Coffee can ward off Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.
Here’s two more for you: Coffee can reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. How? Parkinson’s disease is caused by a lack of dopamine. Researchers suggest that by drinking coffee, which increases dopamine, you are 2-3 times less likely to develop the disease.
And when it comes to Alzheimer’s, studies have found that those who drink 3-5 cups of coffee per day in their 40s and 50s had a 65% lower rate of developing the disease than those who drank only 2 cups a day. So if you’re 40-50 years old, I guess there’s never been a better time to start brewing.
Filtered Coffee is Better for Your Cholesterol
- Filtered coffee is better for your cholesterol than unfiltered coffee.
For those of us with a standard coffee machine, we know those paper filters… maybe too well. Although it’s a pain to go out and purchase more every month from the supermarket, it actually might be beneficial to our health. According to the American Heart Association, two ingredients in coffee (“kahweol” and “cafestol”) can raise cholesterol levels. How do we get rid of these ingredients? You guessed it: coffee filters. If you are at risk for conditions due to high blood pressure, it’s probably best to stay away from unfiltered beverages like lattes and cappuccinos.
Coffee and Bone Loss
- Coffee may contribute to bone loss.
Unfortunately, it’s true: Coffee has a few downsides (jitters, upset stomach, and trouble sleeping to name a few). For seniors, the caffeine in coffee can increase urination, which can lead to a loss in calcium. This, in turn, can lead to bone loss. But there’s good news: Just be sure to be getting enough calcium in your diet to combat this effect. By keeping an eye on your calcium intake, you can still enjoy all of the health benefits your drink can offer!
No Increased Risk for Heart Attack
- Blood pressure can develop a tolerance to caffeine.
Worried that your coffee habits might provoke a heart attack or chronic hypertension? According to OhioHealth, studies have shown moderate coffee drinkers eventually lose the spike of blood pressure caused by the beverage. Our bodies, over time, eventually build a tolerance to the caffeine, allowing us to reap all of the benefits without worries. Just don’t overdo it with too much java. Keep the slurping to around 3 cups a day.
Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- Regular (or even decaf) coffee can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), 9.3% of the American population has diabetes. That’s 29 million people! What’s even scarier is that 1 in 4 people don’t even know they have the disease. That’s where coffee comes in. Whether it’s regular or decaf, coffee has been shown to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. What a great reason to drink up!
Moderation is Key
- Moderation is key for seniors.
As with many things in life (such as that dessert that just beckons to be gobbled up), moderation is important. Sticking to around 3 cups (8-ounce cups) of coffee per day is a good idea according to the American Medical Association. That’s around 250 mg of caffeine. If you exceed 3 cups a day, or if you drastically change your coffee-drinking habits overnight, you could be at risk for conditions due to raising your blood pressure. So just take it slow. Sit back, relax, and enjoy those 3 cups of coffee.
SUMMARY: So is coffee good or bad later in life? Many studies show that, yes, coffee can be beneficial in warding off cancer and other diseases… if drank in moderation. However, there’s a downside as well. In our Top 10 Summer Tips for Seniors blog post, we discussed the dangers of seniors drinking caffeine during the summer months. So drinking coffee is by no means risk-free. The best solution is to ask your doctor about your coffee consumption. If he/she gives consent, stick within the 1-3 cup limit. If not, perhaps you might want to switch to decaf, which also has plenty of health benefits.
Well… my morning cup’s officially dry. Guess it’s time to start another pot.
Do you have anything to add to the conversation? Maybe a favorite beverage or coffee shop? Or perhaps you’ve cut coffee out of your life and you’re feeling better than ever? I’d love to hear it. Let me know in the comments below!
MedCentral.org, AARP, National Cancer Institute, 101 Mobility® Blog, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention