International Coffee Day 2014: Six reasons coffee is good for your health

 
Emma Haslett
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Coffee can reduce depression and increase women's sex drives, studies show (Source: Getty)

It's International Coffee Day (or #InternationalCoffeeDay if that's the way you swing) - the annual occasion on which we all raise a mug to our morning cup of joe.

But is this a marketing ploy dreamed up by Starbucks and its international coffee corporation chums (er, a bit, obviously) - or does it have a more serious meaning? It turns out coffee actually has a surprising number of health benefits...

1. It lowers the risk of depression

A 2013 study by the American Academy of Neurology found those drinking four cups of coffee a day were at lower risk of depression (albeit "weakly"), whereas drinking four cans of sweetened beverages - ie. Diet Coke - may actually increase your risk.

2. ... which may explain why it also lowers the risk of suicide

A study by the Harvard School of Public Health published last year found drinking between two and four cups of coffee a day lowers the risk of suicide by 50 per cent. Caffeine "not only stimulates the central nervous system but may act as a mild antidepressant" by producing "happy hormones" like serotonin and dopamine, said the researchers.

3. Just smelling it can reduce stress

Excellent news for those who haven't quite acquired a taste for coffee - according to a South Korean study in 2008, a mere whiff of it can release proteins that protect nerve cells from stress-related damage. So next time you're feeling tense, just have a sniff of the office coffee machine...

4. If you're a woman, it can increase your sex drive

Another 2008 study - this time by Southwestern University - found when female rats were given a dose of caffeine, they were quicker to return to their male partners after a "romp" for another go.

There was a caveat, though: this is only likely to work on humans who haven't tried caffeine before. Oh well. There's always oysters...

5. It's good for your liver

That cup of coffee after a heavy night out may be more rejuvenating than you realise: according to a paper published by the Archives of Internal Medicine, those who drank both coffee and alcohol were less likely to develop cirrhosis of the liver than those who just drank alcohol. In fact, for each cup of coffee study participants drank per day, they were 22 per cent less likely to develop cirrhosis. What's interesting is that tea didn't have the same effect - suggesting caffeine isn't the magic ingredient.

6. It's the US' biggest source of antioxidants

We keep hearing about antioxidants, the magic molecules that can protect against heart disease and cancer. Research published by the University of Scranton in 2005 found coffee was the number one source of antioxidants in the US. The researchers pointed out that although dates have more antioxidants per serving than coffee, "since [they] are not consumed at anywhere near the level of coffee, the blue ribbon goes to our favourite morning pick-me-up".

According to the scientists, one to two cups of coffee per day is "beneficial".

And if you're not a coffee person, black tea is also a great source of antioxidants.

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