Mind and Body

Here’s how much coffee it takes to get the biggest health benefits

Your morning coffee can do more than wake you up.

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For many coffee drinkers, brewing a pot first thing in the morning isn’t so much a choice as a reflex. Without it, they might as well be half asleep.

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That addictive quality — and coffee’s tendency to give some people the jitters — have given the drink a bad rap. But research suggests coffee could help you live a longer life.

The key is how much you drink.

Here’s how drinking the right amount of coffee can protect against 4 killer chronic diseases.

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1. Liver disease

A recent study from the U.K. followed 495,585 participants for more than 10 years to find the effects of coffee consumption.

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The result: Coffee drinkers had a 21 percent lower risk of chronic liver disease, and a 49 percent reduced risk of dying from liver disease. Decaf and caffeinated coffee both had an effect.

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Drip and instant coffee were used in the study. No matter the type, three to four cups per day provided the maximum benefit.

2. Type-2 diabetes

A 2017 meta-analysis found wide-ranging health benefits from coffee.

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In numerous studies, coffee has been shown to reduce type-2 diabetes risk by up to 30 percent. Comparable effects were seen in caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee.

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Drinking just one cup a day can lower risk by around five percent, and the benefits increase all the way to six cups.

3. Heart disease

Multiple studies have found a surprising link between coffee and heart health.

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Caffeine is responsible for both coffee’s famous energizing effect and the anxiety that puts some people off the drink. A 2021 analysis found the caffeine in coffee cuts heart failure risk by 5–12 percent per cup.

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Some studies have shown that caffeine’s protective effects on the heart only kick in with the second cup. A 2018 study found that it takes four cups to see the biggest benefit.

4. Cancer

Coffee was once seen as a cancer risk, but more recent studies have changed the picture.

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According to the American Cancer Society, coffee has shown a protective effect against prostate, liver, mouth, throat, and endometrial cancers.

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Studies show drinking four to six cups per day has the most benefit in reducing cancer risk.

What makes coffee good for longevity isn’t always clear.

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Cafestol and kahweol are chemicals in coffee associated with health benefits, but they also increase bad cholesterol. Filtered coffee has lower levels of these chemicals but the biggest health benefits — meaning other substances may contribute to coffee’s protective effects.

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Whatever is behind its health effects, current research suggests three to six cups of drip coffee per day is the sweet spot to get the health benefits without overloading on caffeine.

Read more stories on food here.

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