As we roll toward the long days of summer it might be nice to have an extra jolt of energy. Would you be surprised to know that your favorite get-up-and-go beverage not only allows you to enjoy these extra daylight hours but also may help you live longer and better?

Coffee, one of the most commonly consumed beverages in the world, and certainly in Jackson, is a combination of over 1,000 bioactive compounds. And many of these give your health a jolt, too.

Preventing diabetes, protecting against Parkinson’s disease, treating depression and lowering risk for liver disease are just some of the ways that drinking coffee may provide wellness. Let’s look at each.

In 2014 Harvard published a study that gathered data on almost 100,000 subjects. It found that those who increased their coffee intake by a cup a day decreased their risk of diabetes by 11%. Those that lowered their intake by the same amount increased their risk by 17%. Other studies have shown even better diabetes prevention. Several research reports show a 50% risk reduction, with four or more daily cups of joe.

What is it in coffee that helps? A study in China found that caffeine, chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid seem to improve insulin production and sensitivity. Chlorogenic acid also lowers blood sugar directly. Coffee also seems to decrease production of an amyloid protein associated with diabetes, as well as Alzheimer’s.

Liver disease is becoming more prevalent in the United States. Drinking alcohol and being overweight are two risk factors for diseases of this organ. When the body ingests coffee it makes a chemical called paraxanthine that slows the growth of scar tissue in the liver. This may also help fight liver cancer, and other liver diseases including cirrhosis, hepatitis C and nonalcoholic related fatty liver disease.

Since the 1970s scientific reports of the benefit of coffee on lowering Parkinson’s disease risk have been published. Drinking this beverage seems to produce up to a 30% decrease in this progressive neurological disease. Three or more cups may produce up to a 60% reduced risk in male coffee drinkers. Adding coffee after a Parkinson’s diagnosis also appears helpful to slow progression of the disease.

The pandemic of this past year has had severe consequences on many people’s mental health. According to a report from the University of Minnesota, depression has tripled in the U.S. And that survey was collected in spring of 2020. Young adults age 18-24 are especially at risk, with 63% of them suffering from anxiety or depression.

Coffee has been shown to have anti-depressive effects. According to a study published in Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, there is an 8% reduced risk of developing depression for each average cup of caffeinated joe per day. Two theories are proposed by the journal. First, there are many antioxidants in coffee that may help reduce inflammation of the brain. And second, caffeine binds to adenosine receptors and blocks its production. Adenosine is a chemical associated with drowsiness, low energy and lack of motivation.

This is just a sip of coffee health benefits. It may also help treat or reduce risk of gallbladder disease, pancreatitis and several cancers, as well.

And what about exercise performance?

Do you want to feel better and have more energy in the mountains? Caffeine, including from coffee, has been well studied for sports performance. It seems to be most effective in benefiting endurance exercise, such as running, hiking, climbing, skiing and bicycling. Coffee and caffeine appear to increase adrenaline. Consequently, heart rate and blood pressure increase. Research also shows that caffeine in coffee increases fat oxidation in the body, sparing carbohydrate calories. The result: increased aerobic performance, improved distance to fatigue, decreased pain perception and increased blood flow to the heart and other muscles.

Coffee does have some downsides. Anxiety and sleep disorders might be worsened by this beverage. An anxious body is often amped up by caffeine. And this chemical takes well over six hours to clear the body, possibly even 12. Another health concern: Coffee can upset the digestive track, leading to heartburn and inflammation of the esophagus.

Surprisingly, decaffeinated coffee is not caffeine-free. In fact, Starbucks decaffeinated may have as much caffeine as regular ol’ Folgers. A daily dose of 400 milligrams is the maximum recommended caffeine dose. That could be five small cups of regular joe, or just one mug of a high-test type.

Jacksonites drink lots of coffee, as evidenced by the 15-plus coffee shops just in the town of Jackson. Now you can know that it is a healthy beverage. That is, of course, assuming it is not too adulterated with froufrou additives. But, of course, you already knew that.

Therese Lowe Metherell, a dietitian and nutritionist, has been in private practice in Jackson for 30 years. You can contact her at

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