For years, we were told that caffeine was bad for us – and in the battle of the hot drinks, coffee always came off worse.
But today, barely a week goes by without the health benefits of the beverage being extolled.
Indeed just last week, Portuguese researchers declared that three cups of coffee a day may help people with chronic kidney disease live longer.
The research adds to the growing body of evidence that the drink has a host of health benefits – and that commonly held beliefs that coffee dehydrates you are just a myth.
So, what is the truth about coffee?
IT COULD HELP YOU LIVE LONGER
Simply drinking three coffees a day could help extend your life, British research has found.
Two major studies independently found consuming up to three cups a day reduces the risk of an early death.
The papers, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found links between coffee and reduced risks of liver disease, circulatory problems and diseases linked to the digestive tract.
IT MAKES WORK-OUTS LESS PAINFUL
Research has shown that people who had a cup of coffee one hour before a work-out could exercise for longer.
‘It’s thought that caffeine may block chemicals that cause the muscles of become tired and uncomfortable during exercise,’ explains Fiona Hunter, a nutritionist for Healthspan.
Caffeine works on a system in the brain and spinal cord (the adenosine neuromodulatory system) that’s involved in pain processing.
BUT CHOOSE YOUR COFFEE WISELY
Swapping that caffe latte, which provides around 170 calories if made with whole milk, for black coffee will save you around 150 calories in one drink.
An Americano contains under 20 calories, so is the best option. The minute you start adding syrups, cream etc, coffee is no longer your friend, and becomes the fastest way to down liquid calories, says Ms Hunter.
And because caffeine blocks adenosine, a biochemical that plays an important role in energy transfer and therefore exercise, lead researcher Professor Robert Motl, from the University of Illinois, wanted to see if it could also reduce the pain that comes when we work out.
He found it did – regardless of whether people consumed caffeine regularly or not.
There were two groups: people who consumed very little, if any caffeine, and those who had around 400 milligrams a day, the equivalent of three to four cups of coffee.
Both groups saw the same reduction in pain during exercise after caffeine consumption.
Professor Motl believes the finding could help us battle through the workout for longer.
‘If we could give people a little caffeine and reduce the amount of pain they’re experiencing, maybe that would help them stick with that exercise,’ he said.
SLASHES MOUTH CANCER RISK
Drinking four cups of coffee a day almost halves the risk of deadly mouth cancer – regardless of whether a person drinks or smokes.
Researchers at the American Cancer Society found that sipping the beverage every day has a powerful protective effect against tumours that form in the mouth and throat.
Scientists found decaffeinated coffee also reduced the risk, although to a lesser extent, while drinking tea did nothing to prevent the disease.