Coffee Benefits: Perform Better & Live Longer
By: Dave Asprey
November 16, 2011
Coffee will kill you.
At least that’s what some caffeine-deprived people have come to believe. Coffee gets a bad reputation for causing jitters, stomach discomfort, even cancer. You’ll also hear that “acidic” coffee causes osteoporosis. Before explaining how we came around to believing those things, let’s look at some of the proven benefits of coffee. I’m writing this from the perspective of someone who had all of those symptoms when I drank coffee, which led me to give up drinking it for five long, dark years. But being a biohacker, I dug into the research and discovered that not all coffee is the same. I drink 1-2 cups of Bulletproof Coffee every day and experience the health benefits of coffee without the problems coffee allegedly causes.
That said, there are some valid concerns with coffee.
Many of the studies that “prove” coffee is bad for you are based on epidemiological data, but there is also epidemiological data in favor of coffee consumption, as well as lots of clinical research. It is my belief that most studies showing coffee is unhealthy do not control for the production process behind the coffee. People don’t realize it, but different processing methods introduce radically different amounts of potent toxins into the coffee depending on how much and how long the coffee is allowed to ferment and on how damaged the beans were before roasting. That’s why I explain how to find good coffee in your city. It’s that simple: good coffee = good performance. Bad coffee = bad health.
Observational data doesn’t prove coffee is good for you, but its a nice place to start. We will cover some clinical trials at the end of this article that do prove coffee is good for you.
Coffee consumption is associated with increased insulin sensitivity and improved beta cell function.
People who drink six or more cups of coffee per day are 50 percent less likely to develop diabetes.
In a study on 47,911 Americans, there was a correlation between coffee drinking and a lower risk of prostate cancer. Men who consumed the most coffee (six or more cups daily) had a 20% lower risk of developing any form of prostate cancer.
Coffee drinking was even more beneficial for severe prostate cancer. Men who drank the most coffee had a 60% lower risk of dying from prostate cancer. Drinking one to three cups of coffee per day was associated with a 30% lower risk of lethal prostate cancer.
Women who drink coffee are less likely to suffer memory loss later in life.
A Scandinavian study found people who drink boiled coffee (similar to Turkish or French Press) are less likely to get cancer.
Women who drink coffee are less likely to develop depression.
Women who drink coffee are less likely to get a stroke.
Women who drink coffee are less likely to develop breast cancer. The difference is small when adjusted for other factors, but statistically significant.
In one of the largest reviews to date, coffee drinkers had a slightly less chance of overall death.
There’s a fair amount of observational data in support of drinking coffee. Who cares? We don’t want to fall into the same trap as high-carb, low fat extremists like Ancel Keys and T. Colin Campbell who torture data until it tells the story they choose. Correlation does not prove causation, but it does create some questions. Like this one:
What can coffee do for you?
Here are five of the reasons I drink coffee for my health and performance, and why you should consider it too;
1. Better Memory Recall
When Bulletproof practitioner Andrew took the LSAT, his preferred source of brain fuel was a cup of Bulletproof Coffee. The healthy fats, nutrients, a small amount of added dextrose (and a little caffeine-amplifying Aniracetam) along with a few other techniques allowed him to do far better than he would have otherwise.
Besides giving him a burst of energy, caffeine improved his ability to remember the answers. A study in 2005 showed caffeine could improve short term memory recall. The study didn’t use coffee per se, but caffeine tablets, which isolates only one of the complex chemicals in coffee. As long as you aren’t drinking decaf (I’m going to cover that topic as well), coffee ought to improve your mental skills before a test or job interview as long as you don’t have so much you get overstimulated.
Be careful however, one study showed that chronic high dose caffeine caused decrease blood flow to the brain. That’s why I drink one cup of coffee per day on average, or two on very long days. Smaller doses of coffee on a daily basis are beneficial. Large doses all the time are detrimental.
2. High Antioxidant Content
For Americans, coffee is the number one source of antioxidants. This won’t be true if you’re eating The Bulletproof Diet, but it’s important to remember when you think of the average American. If you’re eating a Standard American Diet, coffee might be one of your top health foods.
Coffee contains numerous antioxidants, but something many people don’t know is that caffeine is an antioxidant. The caffeine in cocoa, tea, and coffee is a powerful antioxidant that can even protect against Alzheimer’s.
3. Enhanced Insulin Sensitivity (sort of)
Some studies indicate caffeine can cause insulin resistance. However, the research is conflicting. An eight week study in September of 2011 showed no difference between caffeinated coffee, decaf coffee, and water on insulin resistance, insulin secretion, or glucose tolerance. In another study, coffee consumption improved glycemia markers including insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance.
I’m going to cover this topic in more detail soon, but there’s no reason to stop drinking coffee over fears of insulin resistance. Reasonable amounts of caffeine can improve insulin sensitivity and other markers of glucose tolerance. In general, people who drink moderate amounts of caffeine have better insulin sensitivity.
Coffee is also a rich source of polyphenols which improve carbohydrate metabolism.
4. Rapid Fat Loss
Coffee is a potent thermogenic. It increases metabolic rate and stimulates movement. It also increases fat mobilization and oxidation which promotes fat loss. If you pair this with our XCT oil (another thermogenic) and the nutrients from grass-fed butter in Bulletproof Coffee, it’s no wonder one of my clients was able to lose 75 pounds in 75 days.
5. Improved Performance
Caffeine is an ergogenic aid, meaning it increases power output. This is true for both aerobic and anaerobic exercise. If taken before a workout, caffeine could improve your performance and give you an edge over your opponents.
There is some evidence high doses of caffeine can reduce blood flow to the heart during exercise. The mechanisms aren’t fully understood, and it was in extremely large doses.
People respond to caffeine in different ways, so be sure to test its effect on yourself. If you consume reasonable amounts, it will likely improve your performance. The bottom line is, as always, did you go faster or not?
Coffee has received an undeserved reputation as being unhealthy, when in reality it improves brain function, scavenges free radicals, and decreases your risk of disease. It’s a rich source of polyphenols and antioxidants. The caffeine in coffee can increase memory and improve glucose tolerance, fat loss, and exercise performance.
High amounts of caffeine can cause problems such as decreased insulin sensitivity, impaired brian function, jitters, nervousness, stomach discomfort, and decreased exercise performance. As with any drug, you can overdose. Moderate amounts of coffee will do nothing but good for most people:
- Coffee can improve memory and brain function.
- Coffee is an excellent source of antioxidants.
- Coffee can improve insulin sensitivity.
- Coffee can accelerate fat loss.
- Coffee can improve exercise performance.
- Regular coffee consumption is beneficial as long as the coffee is mycotoxin-free.
- If you need coffee to function – you’re addicted and need to find a better solution.
- One cup a day is perfect.
- Two cups a day is okay.
- Three cups a day is the maximum.
- Use this guide to make sure your coffee isn’t toxic. Or watch this video.
- If you want to get the most out of your coffee, read this and make Bulletproof Coffee.
IMPORTANT: Be even more careful with your decaf coffee sources. For decaf, most coffee processors use the lowest quality beans with the most toxins for decaf. Even the Swiss water process doesn’t use higher quality beans. Once an already damaged bean is stripped of it’s caffeine, until it is roasted, it is at an even higher risk of mold infection as caffeine has a protective effect against mycotoxins. Besides its lower antioxidant value, unless it is carefully processed, decaf is practically guaranteed to contain mold toxins or other bad stuff. Learn more about safe decaf in this article.
If you consume reasonable amounts of coffee on a regular basis, you can get all of the benefits with none of the side effects.
Please feel free to tweet this article if you’re tired of people giving you crap for your daily cup of coffee!
Update: The Washington Post just ran another article highlighting the benefits of coffee. It’s worth a read.