Sunday, Sept. 29, is National Coffee Day 2013. One way to celebrate the day is by picking up a couple of freebies, such as those suggested by The Consumerist. Another is to simply relax knowing that your morning cup may be good for you… or at the very least, not as unhealthy as previously thought. Or so say researchers from Spain who conducted a review of studies published between Jan. 1990 and Dec. 2012.

After conducting their search for scientific articles about coffee, the authors narrowed their focus to 318 papers. First, they provided a detailed assessment of coffee's phytochemistry, and then they considered the short- and long-term effects on various organ systems of the body.

They discovered evidence of coffee’s impact on disease, but first they noted the limitations of the evidence at hand. Most investigations have been conducted through observational studies (as opposed to randomized, clinical trials), plus most of the research includes few participants. Nevertheless, the authors deliver an opinion. Although coffee has a significant impact on the cardiovascular system, the various forms of arterial cardiovascular disease seem unaffected by coffee intake. On the downside, coffee may be a potential risk factor for osteoporosis. The authors found that coffee consumption might reduce the incidence of diabetes and liver disease, and may also protect against Parkinson's disease. In terms of cancer, coffee consumption “appears to favor risk reduction,” though that is dependent on the tissue concerned. Generally, coffee consumption may reduce mortality.

“The case of coffee seems similar to that of chocolate in many ways,” the authors suggested; most opinions of the beverage have moved in a positive direction. This is due to the wealth of bioactive substances it contains, up to 1,000 phytochemicals, which are compounds made by plants commonly thought of as beneficial to health, including phenols (chlorogenic and caffeic acid), lactones, diterpenes (cafestol and kahweol), niacin, and the vitamin B3 precursor trigonelline. Additionally, coffee has been found to contain vitamin B3, magnesium, and potassium.

“Despite the good news, it must be stressed that much still needs to be known,” the authors concluded. Perhaps a second cup of java would have inspired more optimism.

Source: Cano-Marquina A, Tarin JJ, Cano A. The impact of coffee on health. Maturitas. 2013.