The Healthiest Drink in the World
That's it. The contest is over. We knew coffee lowered the risk of heart disease, thwarted different types of cancer, protected your liver, lowered your risk of type 2 diabetes, and made you live longer in general, but the results of a new study cinch it.
Coffee, I'm naming you the healthiest drink in the world.
Granted, your previous accomplishments were all praiseworthy, but when the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that drinking coffee has been found to elevate testosterone while simultaneously lowering estrogen in both men and women, I ordered the cake, rented out the local Moose Lodge, sent out all the invites, and blew up all the celebratory balloons for your coronation.
Epidemiologists from Harvard University looked at data from 15,551 women and 7,397 men who'd participated in the Nurses' Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-Up study.
They wanted to know how drinking coffee affected C-peptide levels, estrone, total and free estradiol, total and free testosterone, total adiponectin, high-molecular-weight adiponectin, leptin, C-reactive protein, interleukin 6, and soluble tumor necrosis factor receptor 2, among other things.
Compared with non-drinkers, subjects who drank four or more cups of coffee a day had lower concentrations of estrone (-6.4%), total estradiol (-5.7%), and free estradiol (-8.1%), while displaying higher levels of free testosterone (7.3% in women and 3.6% in men), and total testosterone (9.3% in women and 5.3% in men).
Levels of C-peptide, leptin, C-reactive protein, IL-6, and sTNFR-2 all went down too, while levels of the fat-burning hormome adiponectin went up (9.3%).
The effects were dose dependent, meaning that while one daily cup of coffee had some beneficial effects, two cups worked better and three worked better still, while four or more cups showed maximum benefits. Perhaps surprisingly, it didn't seem to matter whether the participants were drinking caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee – the effects were largely similar.
The researchers concluded the following:
"Our data indicate that coffee consumption is associated with favorable profiles of numerous biomarkers in key metabolic and inflammatory pathways."
So what is it about coffee that makes it so damn healthy to drink? It definitely has nothing to do with caffeine, as this study and numerous others – including at least one that measured the ergogenic benefits of coffee – found that the advantages were conveyed equally well by decaf coffees.
Instead, it likely has something to do with the over 1,000 biologically active compounds found in the drink, but while many of them are highly anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative, there's one that appears to be particularly gifted in those areas. It's known as chlorogenic acid, or CGA.
Therefore it makes sense that we should seek out brews that are particularly rich in CGA. Here's how to make sure you're getting the stuff that raises testosterone and lowers estrogen the most:
- Opt for Kenyan, Ethiopian, or Colombian, because coffee beans grown at high altitudes and near the equator have the highest amount of CGA.
- If you're buying grocery store brands, opt for Dunkin' Donuts Original Blend and McCafe Premium Roast Decaf, medium roast.
As far as general CGA guidelines, keep the following in mind:
- Flavored blends don't usually have a high CGA content because they typically use low-quality, low CGA beans (the artificial flavor negates the need for good-tasting, high-CGA beans).
- Light and medium roast coffees preserve CGA, while dark roasts destroy them (along with generating undesirable byproducts like acrylamide, the carcinogen found in French fries and potato chips).
- Use fresh ground coffee beans when possible. Pre-ground versions usually lack flavor and are short on CGA.
- Very fine grinds are the most healthful, but also the most bitter. Medium grinds have an acceptable amount of CGA.
- Hang D et al. Coffee consumption and plasma biomarkers of metabolic and inflammatory pathways in US health professionals. Am J Clin Nutr. 2019 Mar;109(3):635-647.