What would you find if you followed three quarters of a million people and took notes on their longevity in light of their coffee drinking habits? That was the premise of two huge studies that lasted nearly 16 years in 10 European countries. What they concluded at the end — that a “moderate” three cups a day is perfectly fine — should be encouraging to people who’ve decided they don’t really care about the outcome; that’s just how dedicated they are to that cup of liquid energy.
But the outcome was this: Coffee may not keep you from dying, but it may impact how soon it occurs. As Reuters reported, men were about 12 percent less likely to die during the follow-up period if they were coffee drinkers compared to men who didn’t indulge at all. Similarly, coffee-drinking women were about 7 percent less likely to die during the same period.1
So the next logical question is, what’s the reason? Well, researchers found that while people differ in numerous ways in those 10 countries, they had one thing in common: For all the participants, coffee was associated with a decreased rate of death from digestive diseases.2,3 For women there was a lower risk of death from circulatory and cerebrovascular diseases. Medical News Today noted:
“Compared with subjects who never or rarely drank coffee, participants who consumed one cup per day were found to have a 12 percent lower risk of death from cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease, and kidney disease. Mortality risk from these conditions was found to be 18 percent lower for subjects who drank three cups of coffee every day.”4
Scientists from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer and Imperial College London conducted the research, which echoes previous studies done in the U.S. and Japan. But while some say they’re not sure about all the implications, for now at least, they feel comfortable reporting that moderate coffee-holics needn’t worry and may even benefit from their coffee habit.
Comparing Participants and Their Coffee-Drinking Habits
During the study, differences were both anticipated and noted, such as a prevalence among Danes to drink more coffee, and Italians, who generally drink smaller but higher concentrations of coffee, like espresso. The second study perused consumption among 185,855 Americans between 45 and 75 years of age. As a melting pot, the study encompassed coffee-drinking habits of whites, blacks, Latinos, Native Hawaiians and Japanese America
EurekAlert noted that it didn’t matter if people drank regular or decaf coffee, the mortality rates were the same, which suggests it’s not about the caffeine. The Multiethnic Cohort Study, which is ongoing, takes in data from more than 215,000 participants and is known as “the most ethnically diverse study examining lifestyle risk factors that may lead to cancer.”5
Veronica W. Setiawan, lead author of the study and an associate professor of preventive medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, noted that coffee contains many antioxidants and phenolic compounds that may play crucial roles in cancer prevention, particularly liver cancer and chronic liver disease.
Alice Lichtenstein, director of the Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, suggested one reason for the positive numbers among coffee drinkers may have been that while they were busy drinking coffee, they weren’t consuming high-calorie, high sugar beverages like apple juice.
But many people who drink coffee do so with all kinds of additives. Some refer to these with the collective term “cream and sugar,” but either one can introduce a whole host of products such as fake creamer and conventional milk, both of which can cause serious health problems and impact people in more or less negative ways, as opposed to organic, raw and grass fed real cream or milk.
As it turns out, fat and coffee are two of the most controversial foods in the world. But ample evidence in recent years shows that not only is coffee is good for you, but certain fats are, too, including coconut oil and MCT oil.
They’re good for your brain, for memory and in balancing your hormones and helping to protect against disease and inflammation — and though it may sound unconventional, both can be used in your coffee in place of creamer, significantly increasing the health benefits. Comparing benefits between caprylic acid (C8), medium-chain triglyceride (MCT) oil and coconut oil, the Bulletproof Blog notes:
“The problem is that studies show you can’t get enough of the really useful MCTs from just eating coconut oil or a so-called ‘MCT oil’ that is diluted with lauric acid, a useful, but cheap, and hugely abundant part of coconut oil that is marketed as an MCT oil. Coconut oil is good for you. Eating it provides cheap and abundant lauric acid, a useful oil that is sold as an MCT oil even though it does not act like an MCT in the body.”6
Bulletproof Coffee® is a well-known product these days, made from coffee free of mitochondrial-inhibiting mold toxins, Brain Octane Oil (a more concentrated form of MCT oil) and grass fed butter or grass fed ghee. Others add butter, coconut oil or MCT oil to black coffee, but it doesn’t raise ketones as much. As your ketone level rises, CCK, a satiety hormone, is also activated. As a result, food cravings and hunger pangs vanish. Ketones are also a preferred fuel for your brain; hence, the improved mental clarity.
There are many benefits of C8, such as increased blood ketone levels, increased energy and reduced blood glucose levels, body fat, antimicrobial activity and even reduced risk of certain metabolic diseases. Coconut oil provides a mix of all the medium-chain fats, including C6, C8, C10 and C12 fats, the latter of which (lauric acid) makes up over 40 percent of the fat in coconut oil. (The exception is FRACTIONATED coconut oil, which contains primarily C8 and C10.)
There are benefits to all of these fatty acids. However, caprylic and capric fatty acids increase ketone levels far more efficiently. Most commercial brands of MCT oil contain close to a 50/50 combination of C8 and C10 fats. My personal preference, even though it is more expensive, is straight C8 (caprylic acid), as it converts to ketones far more rapidly than do C10 fats and may be easier on your digestion.
Medium-Chain Fatty Acids (MCTs)
There are two forms of fatty acids: saturated and unsaturated. C8 is a saturated fatty acid, and it’s given that designation based on the number of carbon atoms in the hydrocarbon chain. Generally, the shorter the carbon chain, the more efficiently the MCT will be turned into ketones, which are an excellent source of energy for your body and far better than glucose. Here’s a quick tutorial on the long and the short of it, according to Ketosource:
- Less than six carbons denotes short-chain fatty acids (SCTs)
- Six to 12 carbons denotes MCTs, which have beneficial effects on energy, atherosclerosis, weight control and aging
- More than 22 carbons denotes very long-chain fatty acids
Because C8 has 8 carbons, it belongs in the MCT category, which explains why it’s sometimes called C8 MCT, found in such products as coconut oil, palm oil and grass fed butter. Capric acid (C10) and lauric acid (C12), both being longer-chain fatty acids, are not as good at producing ketones as C8.
Removing the fatty acids from palm and coconut oils produces C8 MCT, which is essentially 100 percent caprylic acid. For instance, just over 25 percent of full-fat yogurt is made up of fatty acids other than those mentioned above while the rest is caproic acid (C6).
In comparison, full-fat cheese is almost an even mix between C6 and other fatty acids; butter is almost entirely other fatty acids, the rest being tiny amounts of C10, C12 and C6. Ghee, or clarified butter, is roughly 78 percent other fatty acids, the remainder being C8. Significantly, coconut oil is about half C12, about 40 percent other fatty acids and the remainder an almost-even split between C8 and C10.
What Is C8 and What Are Its Benefits?
Ketosource cites a Journal of Dairy Science study7 and explains:
“It’s worth noting that the lowest carbon MCT, Caproic acid (C6), may be more effective at raising ketone levels than C8. This may be due to its lower carbon number. The current evidence to this is research showing that it induces higher ketone levels in animals than the other MCT oils.
Currently C6 MCT oil products are not available. C6 is generally excluded from MCT oil, because it is such a small component in palm and coconut oil products. Unlike C8, high quantities are not found in coconut and palm oils. Instead C6 is found in greatest quantities in various animal fats.”8
As if there’s not enough confusion, other names designate C8. Sometimes it’s referred to as octanoic acid, as “octo” means “8.” “Caprylic triglyceride” or “caprylic acid triglycerides” are other identifiers because the C8 in MCT oil products comes from triglycerides, but the latter two contain slightly different molecules compared to C8. Further, C8 is a free fatty acid. With the above triglycerides, Ketosource explains, a glycerol molecule is bonded with three caprylic fatty acids. In short:
“C8 and caprylic acid triglyceride are functionally the same. The pancreas secretes an enzyme — called lipase — that breaks down these triglycerides into its component three fatty acids and a glycerol molecule. Once the triglyceride oil is broken down by lipase it becomes simple Caprylic Acid and is converted into ketones in the same way as the stand alone Caprylic Acid.”9
Studies10,11 show that taking in C8 significantly increases ketone production. One study indicates that a modicum of C8 improved the blood lipid profiles in hypertensive rats, although human data is still limited.12 The bottom line is, C8 has great potential for putting your body into a state of ketosis, which clinical nutritionist Dr. Josh Axe explains:
“… [I]s a metabolic state that occurs when most of the body’s energy comes from ketone bodies in the blood, rather than from glucose. This is in contrast to a glycolytic state, where blood glucose (sugar) provides most of the body’s fuel (or energy). Once ketone levels in the blood rise to a certain point, you officially enter into a state of ketosis.”13
The Significance of MCT Oil in Place of Coffee Creamer
MCT oil has several ways of improving many aspects of your health:
- Appetite reduction for weight loss
- Improved athletic performance
- Better mitochondrial function
- Reduced disease risk
- Prevention of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease
- Increased energy levels
- Improved cognitive and neurological function
- Dietary therapy for treating epilepsy
One thing to note about MCT oil is that it can be used as a salad dressing as well as a cooking oil, but shouldn’t exceed 320 degrees F, as it begins to oxidize and break down, which adversely impacts the flavor. Further, you should begin with small doses, say 1 teaspoon per day, in the beginning, which can be increased to larger amounts over time, up to 4 tablespoons per day. If you stop using MCT oil for a while and begin again, start slowly because it will take your body time to adjust.
Getting back to coffee, MCT oil is typically tasteless and odorless, and it makes a healthy substitution for cream in your morning coffee. As for additional coffee health benefits, higher coffee consumption is also associated with a significantly lower incidence of Parkinson’s disease,14 and caffeine may help control movement in those with Parkinson’s disease, according to other research.15 Liver cancer and liver disease are also inversely associated with coffee consumption.
Interestingly, coffee appears to contain an ingredient that even protects against alcoholic cirrhosis.16 According to another study, drinking two or more cups of coffee daily may reduce your risk of dying from liver cirrhosis by as much as 66 percent.17 Italian research also found that coffee consumption may reduce your risk of liver cancer by about 40 percent, and if you drink three cups a day, the risk may be reduced by more than half.18
What Type of Coffee Is Best?
Coffee is a heavily pesticide-contaminated crop, so always choose organic. Organic coffee contains no chemicals or synthetic fertilizers. The beans have a richer flavor and come with natural antioxidants. It’s healthy for you, more sustainable for the farms that grow it and vastly better for the planet.
Additionally, coffee is a shade-loving plant, but growers often strip forests to make growing and harvesting easier. This destroys the ecological habitat of many natural pest deterrents, such as birds and lizards, while the pests flourish, resulting in additional pesticide use.
The downward spiral to the environment involves chemical run-off, erosion and potentially contaminated water supplies. Organic, shade-grown coffee, which is superior, is available at numerous retail markets, but you can also order it online. You’ll also want to purchase coffee in whole bean form and then grind it yourself to prevent rancidity. Pre-ground coffee may be rancid by the time you drink it.
Drink your coffee black, without sugar or cream, or, if you’d like to add a health boost, with MCT oil. No matter the type, the coffee should smell and taste fresh, not stale. If your coffee does not have a pleasant aroma, it is likely rancid and poor quality, so let your nose be your guide — and enjoy!
This post originally appeared on Mercola.com.