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| Written by Miles Spencer

The BBC Looks into the Benefits of Drinking Coffee

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You may be a listener of the BBC radio series ‘Just One Thing’, in which journalist and former doctor, Michael Mosley, takes a look at a range of simple, everyday ways in which we can improve our mental and physical health.

In a recent episode, we were happy to hear the focus turn to caffeine and coffee drinking, revealing the ways in which daily coffee consumption can benefit our body and mind in a variety of fascinating ways.

There is plenty of well-researched evidence that suggests a number of positive effects that coffee drinking has on us, and we have looked into some of these effects in more detail in the past, focusing on the relationships between coffee and cardiovascular health, our moods and dementia.

What ‘Just One Thing’ Had to Say About Coffee

This coffee-themed episode took a very enthusiastic look into the positive effects of coffee drinking, citing a number of benefits that related to boosting physical and athletic performance, improving heart health and even promoting weight loss.

The episode discussed some of the science behind coffee and its effects on our bodies, pointing out that coffee contains not only caffeine, but also polyphenols, which are antioxidants known to have anti-inflammatory qualities and are thought to promote better heart health. Going on to reference one of the biggest studies of health in the UK, which followed half a million people, we learned that up to three cups of coffee a day is linked to better brain and heart health.

How Much Coffee Should We Be Drinking?

After water, coffee is the most popular drink worldwide, with an estimated 95 million cups consumed in the UK alone each day! Given the frequently reported health benefits, it’s not surprising that coffee is such a globally adored drink. But is there a sweet spot for the number of cups of coffee to drink each day

According to ‘Just One Thing’ this magic number is three to four cups, generally thought to provide a good amount of caffeine for drinkers to enjoy the benefits the most. Studies have shown that participants who drank three cups a day were reported to have a lower risk of stroke, heart disease and dementia, with imaging performed during research demonstrating that, compared to non-coffee drinkers, daily coffee drinkers had healthier sized and better functioning hearts.

‘Just One Thing’ went on to cite short-term studies that have shown the powerful effects of coffee on our brains, referencing one particular study that involved participants consuming a single dose of caffeine (less caffeine than found in a regular cup of coffee). The results suggested that the caffeine dose enhanced attention, alertness, contentment and mood, going on to propose that one cup of coffee taken every four hours has been shown to improve mood over the course of a day.

Caffeine vs Calories

This coffee-focused episode of ‘Just One Thing’ concluded by looking into the perhaps less frequently reported effects of coffee on calorie burning and weight loss. There are suggestions that coffee may help to burn calories, with recent research indicating that women who drank two to three cups of coffee per day had less total body fat and abdominal fat than those who did not drink any coffee.

‘Just One Thing’ looked deeper into the science of this, particularly around the impacts on sporting ability and performance, where almost every aspect can be seen to benefit from caffeine intake – from cognitive ability to strength and endurance. Part of the reason for this wide scope of positive effects appears to be due to the ability of caffeine to be absorbed by almost every tissue in the body. This absorption leads to effects on the central nervous system, as well as on peripheral tissues that may result in the body breaking down lipids and burning fat at a greater rate.

Additionally, the effects of caffeine on muscles were discussed, with the observation that caffeine can potentially cause drinkers to use stored carbohydrate reserves more sparingly, thereby postponing fatigue. There is also evidence to suggest that drinking coffee post-exercise may allow drinkers to store carbohydrates more quickly, and that the best timeframe to drink a coffee beverage pre-workout is around one hour, after which time caffeine levels in the body will usually peak, yielding the best results on physical activity.

All of which came as more great news for us coffee-lovers! You can read more about the positive effects of coffee on our blog.