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More Reasons to Drink Coffee

It may cut your risk of diabetes, uterine cancer, and dementia.

Key points

  • A study found that drinking as much as four cups coffee a day cut uterine cancer risk by almost 20 percent.
  • Research on type 2 diabetes found that six cups of coffee a day may reduce risk by a third.
  • Researchers reported that drinking two to three cups of coffee a day lowered chances of dementia by 28 percent over 11 years.
Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash
Source: Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash

Many of us all love news that stimulants like coffee and chocolate are good for us. But just because it's what you want to hear doesn't mean it isn't true! Evidence is growing that drinking coffee cuts the risk of uterine cancer (also known as endometrial cancer), according to a 2020 meta-analysis and a separate 2017 overview. Researchers are also exploring the ways that coffee may lower risk of type 2 diabetes. And a large population-based study found that enthusiastic coffee drinkers had a lower risk of dementia.

Coffee and Uterine Cancer

The effect of coffee may be dramatic. In a 2015 study, researchers concluded that drinking as much as four cups a day cut uterine cancer risk by almost 20 percent.

The researchers analyzed data about a large pool of women—more than 450,000—in two ongoing studies, including about 2,800 women who developed uterine cancer. The research team looked into their diets over time, following more than 80 foods, including drinks. Although one study seemed to show that women who ate more fat, carbohydrates, butter, yogurt, cheese, or potatoes were at more risk, those leads weren’t confirmed by the second study. However, drinking coffee was a clear plus.

The result made sense because coffee affects how much estrogen a women produces. Estrogen and progesterone are two hormones that regulate female reproduction. A surfeit of estrogen over progesterone can increase your risk of uterine cancer.

Many women take estrogen to make their menopause more comfortable—reducing hot flashes and vaginal dryness. But the extra estrogen can increase the risk of uterine cancer, so, often, women take progesterone or something like it alongside the estrogen, an approach called combination hormone therapy.

A history of no pregnancies or having many menstrual periods—usually because your menstrual cycle both began early and ended later in life—are both risk factors. More body fat can increase estrogen levels. As a result, uterine cancer is twice as common in women who are overweight, and more than three times as common in those who are obese, the American Cancer Society reports.

So, if you’re an overweight childless woman who got her period early in life, you have more reasons to drink coffee. This year, an estimated 66,600 American women will be diagnosed with uterine cancer, a number that has been increasing since the mid-2000s, and nearly 13,000 die. Symptoms include pelvic pain, pain during sexual intercourse, and bleeding in between periods.

On the other hand, if you use birth control pills, your risk of uterine cancer is lower, especially if you take them for a long time. A history of many pregnancies helps, too.

Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash
Source: Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash

Coffee and Type 2 Diabetes

Extra fat also can go along with type 2 diabetes, and, interestingly, coffee may also protect us against diabetes, another meta-analysis found. Evidence from more than a million participants and more than 45,000 cases of type 2 diabetes has suggested that drinking six cups of java a day is associated with a reduction in risk by a third, compared to drinking no coffee at all. The researchers argued that the effect was true for coffee, rather than just caffeine. One possible reason: Chlorogenic acid, which is plentiful in coffee, seems to reduce the absorption of glucose in the intestines.

Coffee may act like a powerful dose of the healthy nutrients in vegetables, other researchers suggest.

Your genes may make a difference in how coffee affects you. A study of 250 premenopausal women who drank an average of one cup of coffee a day found that the coffee reduced estrogen levels slightly in white women, but increased it in Asians. However, caffeinated cola and green tea reduced estrogen regardless of race. The estrogen level changes did not affect ovulation.

Coffee and Dementia

The UK Biobank is one of the largest surveys we have. In a study of nearly 366,000 volunteers aged 50 to 74, researchers concluded that drinking two to three cups of coffee a day lowered your chance of dementia by 28 percent over 11 years.

Many people find that coffee is rough on their stomachs. If you tend to get acid reflux or gastritis, you’ll be warned against coffee. If you want to drink coffee, try low-acid types like Mexican and Sumatran, and dark-roasted beans. Some research suggests that roasting beans produces a component that blocks stomach-acid production; the darker the roast, the more stomach-friendly your coffee may be.

A version of this story appears on Your Care Everywhere.

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