Coffee production is at an all-time high right now – according to the International Coffee Organization, worldwide production of coffee reached 145.1 million bags between 2012 and 2013(1).
A stimulant, coffee is what many people throughout the world rely on to get them going in the morning – but recent studies are showing that there may be even more to it than that.
The Research To Date
In 2011, a study in the journal Molecular Nutrition and Food Research revealed that coffee consumption was “correlated to a prevention or delay of degenerative diseases connected with oxidative cellular stress.”(2)
Basically, coffee reduces the damage caused by free radicals.
Unregulated free radicals can cause significant damage to cells, including at the DNA level. When DNA is damaged, it can lead to compromised function or even mutation – which can potentially develop into diseases such as cancer.
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How Coffee Protects Your DNA
A new study in the European Journal of Nutrition looked at the level of spontaneous DNA strand breaks in subjects who consumed dark roast coffee regularly, as opposed to subjects who consumed water instead(3).
They focused on the level on spontaneous DNA strand breaks as those are a well-established marker of health risk and had not been reported on yet with regards to coffee consumption. What they found was surprising:
“At baseline, both groups exhibited a similar level of spontaneous DNA strand breaks,” they reported.
“In the intervention phase, spontaneous DNA strand breaks increased in the control (water only) group, whereas they significantly decreased in the coffee group, leading to a 27% difference within both arms.”
These results are consistent with previous research on the subject, including one study from 2007 that showed significant protection against oxidative DNA damage within just five days of regular coffee consumption(4), and another study from 2010 which showed a reduction of DNA strand breaks in volunteers who drank instant coffee(5).
Benefits Of Coffee Don’t Come Without A Cost
Of course, the increase in production and consumption of coffee isn’t all good – while it may have its benefits for humans, much of the coffee production industry is highly environmentally unsustainable.
According to a study from the University of Texas, modern coffee farms are worse for the environment today than they ever have been before(6).
“Intensive coffee production is not sustainable,” say the study authors.
“You exhaust the soil and after a couple of decades, it can no longer grow coffee. On the other hand, the oldest coffee farms in the world have thrived for centuries because the forest replenishes the soil for them.”
Many are calling for increased funding and resources to be dedicated to independent and sustainable coffee farming operations, especially those that are worker-run.
So before you rush out to reap the DNA-protecting benefits of a steaming cup of joe, take a moment to check whether the coffee you’re about to drink is ethically produced.