Skip to content
Home » Does coffee have health benefits?

Does coffee have health benefits?

  • by
Coffee beans spilling out of a hessian bag

There has long been conflicting advice on whether coffee is good or bad when it comes to health. The latest research from Harvard University shows that when drunk in moderation, coffee has some clear health benefits. The key nutrients found in coffee are Vitamin B2 and Magnesium, along with the plant chemicals polyphenols and diterpenes. But beyond the scientific names, what do these do for us?

The key themes coming out of the research were based on the impact of coffee on key risk factors associated with some of our most common diseases.

Heart health:

Caffeine is a stimulant, and therefore its presence in coffee naturally means it has the potential to increase heart rate. However, the benefits of consuming the other components in coffee have been shown to reduce the overall risk of heart disease and stroke in regular coffee drinkers.


Across the study it was shown that the main impacts of coffee on cancer were through: a reduction in inflammation (a risk factor in many cancers); prevention of cancer cell growth in tissue; and caffeine’s interference with the growth and spread of cancer cells. The study also showed that previous reports suggesting a compound in coffee is a carcinogen were actually based on research in animals, and that this is not comparable to the impact on human cells. The follow up research showing that there was no evidence for the compound being carcinogenic to humans was backed up by the World Health Organisation. 

Type 2 diabetes:

When you first ingest caffeine, it can cause a short-term increase in blood sugar. However evidence shows that over the long term, habitual coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. This has been shown to be due to the polyphenols and minerals in coffee improving the effectiveness of insulin and glucose metabolism in the body.


The polyphenols in coffee can act as antioxidants that reduce stress and inflammation of cells. This has been shown to have neurological benefits in some people and act as an antidepressant. Caffeine has also been shown to increase alertness and attention, and reduce anxiety – all contributing to improved mental wellbeing.

Parkinson’s disease:

The main known cause of Parkinson’s is low dopamine levels. Consistent clinical evidence has shown that higher consumption of caffeine in coffee can reduce risk because it protects the cells in the brain that produce dopamine. As part of the research, a review of 26 studies on the link between coffee and Parkinson’s disease concluded that there was a 25% lower risk of developing the condition with higher intakes of caffeinated coffee. 

Longevity of life:

There are a number of large long-term studies that have followed the impact of coffee on the drinkers’ risk of early death. In these studies it has been shown that coffee drinkers are less likely to die early from disease, largely thought to be due to the properties in coffee that interfere with disease development by reducing inflammation and insulin resistance. 

Key takeaways:

Overall, the data therefore shows that coffee does actually do us some good! Along with these implications for common diseases, the polyphenols in coffee are also good for your gut microbes, because they stimulate the production of beneficial chemicals that the latest research shows have a positive impact on our overall health. 

It’s important to note that adding sugar, flavoured syrups and high-fat milks and cream can cancel out some of the benefits, so remember this when ordering coffee out! It also goes without saying – higher quality coffee will contain more of the good beneficial compounds that give coffee its good name! The good news is that decaffeinated coffee can offer many of the same health benefits as caffeinated, so if you’re avoiding caffeine you don’t miss out on the other perks!

Data sources: University of Harvard, School of Public Health, and 

If you’re interested in hearing more, there is a Zoe Science and Nutrition podcast available on Spotify called “Is coffee healthy” with Tim Spector and Jonathan Wolf.