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National Coffee Day: 5 surprising health benefits of drinking coffee

Coffee gives you that jolt of energy to wake you up in the morning but handfuls of studies have pointed to a string of health benefits, too.

Your morning pick-me-up’s perks extend into boosting memory, fighting Type 2 diabetes and lowering risk of premature death overall, scientists have suggested in recent studies.

“These findings further demonstrate that, for most people, coffee can have health benefits,” Dr. Frank Hu, a nutrition professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, said.

“Coffee may be the healthiest beverage you can drink,” Dr. Sanjiv Chopra, of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, wrote.

For National Coffee Day, here’s a look at five bonus health benefits from your cup of joe:

Coffee helps to jog your memory

In a John Hopkins University study, scientists found that your morning coffee “enhances” certain memories for at least up to 24 hours.

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“We’ve always known that caffeine has cognitive-enhancing effects but its particular effects on strengthening memories and making them resistant to forgetting has never been examined in detail in humans,” Dr. Michael Yassa said.

READ MORE: Your morning cup of coffee also wakes your memory, study suggests

In Yassa’s work, he had one group of people take a 200-milligram caffeine pill, which is about the same as a mug of strong coffee, while another group received a placebo.

The next day, the group that was supplemented with caffeine did better at recognizing and identifying images.

“It’s not clear if it’s due to caffeine’s effects on attention, vigilance, focus or other factors,” Yassa said.

Coffee may help to reduce Type 2 diabetes

People worried about developing Type 2 diabetes should consider increasing their coffee intake based on a 2014 study.

Researchers found that people who drank more each day over a four-year period had an 11 per cent lower risk of diabetes than those who made no changes to their coffee drinking.

READ MORE: Good news, coffee lovers – Caffeine doesn’t tamper with heartbeat

If people decreased their coffee consumption by more than a cup per day during the same timeframe, their Type 2 diabetes risk went up by 17 per cent.

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“Our findings confirm those of previous studies that showed that higher coffee consumption was associated with lower Type 2 diabetes risk,” Dr. Shilpa Bhupathiraju said.

“But coffee is only one of many factors that influence diabetes risk. More importantly, individuals should watch their weight and be physically active,” Hu said.

WATCH: A new study suggests that two extra cups of java – or four in total – can significantly help reduce the risk of liver damage after drinking too much.

Click to play video: 'Can coffee counteract liver damage caused by drinking alcohol?' Can coffee counteract liver damage caused by drinking alcohol?
Can coffee counteract liver damage caused by drinking alcohol? – Feb 23, 2016

Coffee protects against Parkinson’s, MS

American and Swedish doctors say that drinking lots of coffee – to the tune of six cups a day – is linked to a reduced risk of multiple sclerosis.

In the research, scientists quizzed people about their coffee drinking – the risk of developing MS was higher in people who didn’t drink as much java, even after taking into account other important health markers, such as smoking, and weight.

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In other studies, scientists pointed to caffeine and a link in lowered risk of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Coffee’s packed with antioxidants

For those of us who drink it, coffee is a major source of antioxidants in our daily diets, according to U.S. researchers.

“Americans get more of their antioxidants from coffee than any other dietary source. Nothing else comes close,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Joe Vinson, said.

READ MORE: Addicted to coffee? Your DNA may be to blame, study suggests

You think of fruits and vegetables as being the traditional sources of antioxidants, but Vinson and his team found that coffee is a primary source for caffeine lovers.

The antioxidants in coffee protect against heart disease and cancer, especially quinines, which become stronger after roasting. This antioxidant helps with managing blood sugar levels.

A University of British Columbia study found that roasting coffee beans to a dark brown brought out the best of antioxidants’ benefits.

Coffee might have anti-cancer properties, heart health benefits

The laundry list of coffee’s benefits stretches into potentially aiding in staving off cancer and heart disease.

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Harvard researchers found that coffee drinkers were 50 per cent less likely to get liver cancer than non-drinkers. Other studies have pointed to coffee’s link to lower rates of colon, breast and rectal cancers.

It didn’t matter if people drank their coffee black, decaf, half-caff, or even instant in a University of Southern California study – coffee, across the board, lowered risk of colorectal cancer.

Three to five cups of coffee could cut death from cardiovascular disease by up to 21 per cent, according to another report.

carmen.chai@globalnews.ca

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