We Don't Need to Tell You to Celebrate National Coffee Day

Sean Johnson

Why? Because you've likely already had your first cup of coffee, at least according to a recent survey ranking professions that have the most coffee drinkers.

Why? Because you’ve likely already had your first cup of coffee, with another possible cup on the horizon. Today is national coffee day, and the folks over at Career Builder and Dunkin’ Donuts claim that YOU, health care professional, lead the way in coffee drinking. That’s right, nurses and physicians, respectively, top the list of coffee-drinking professions. The study took place between August 17 and September 2 and included responses from 3,600 workers nationwide.

Since the spotlight is on coffee today, and since it's quite the popular beverage in the health care professional community, it seems appropriate to take a look at some recent studies on the beverage.

First, let’s take a look at the negative associations with coffee. Yes, many associate coffee drinking with smoking, and yes, it can stay in your system for up to 12 hours, which can make falling asleep difficult. It’s also a diuretic, which means that coffee drinkers will urinate more often, possibly leading to dehydration. And, of course, caffeine can raise blood pressure and epinephrine, which is not helping coffee’s reputation. Perhaps these are the reasons that coffee’s more PR-friendly cousin, tea, is always reaping all the positive press.

But don’t get down on coffee just yet. The aromatic drink is trying to reinvent itself, and the positive press is beginning to pour in.

In fact, researchers are finding that the “devil’s brew” actually has some angelic features. First and foremost, coffee contains antioxidants, which protect the body’s cells against the effects of free radicals. Not a bad start. The American Heart Association also recently released posted a news release about how coffee can be good for the heart. The release states that “coffee drinkers may be less likely to develop heart rhythm disturbances than people who do not drink coffee,” and that “drinking four or more cups of coffee daily is associated with reduced hospitalization for rhythm disturbances by a significant 18 percent.”

But wait, there’s more!

NPR tells us that there’s a lot of research percolating in the coffee world, and that the results are mixed. The most recent catch-22 seems to be that coffee may protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease, but only when large amounts (500 mg; about 5 cups) are consumed daily. Backing that up is a 2009 study from Finland and Sweden, which followed 1,400 people for about 20 years and found that those who reported drinking 3-5 cups of coffee a day were 65% less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Obviously those who drink that amount of coffee on a daily basis are also subjecting themselves to less than desirable health outcomes such as frequent bathroom trips, jitters, and insomnia, so the tradeoff may not be worth it.

The bottom line is this: coffee, which has had plenty of stigmas and negative connotations attached to it in recent years, is on the rebound, as researchers grind out studies that are revealing health benefits that were previously unknown. So raise your cup proudly, and next time that rival tea drinker tries to get all high and mighty on you, knock them off their soap box by sending them here.