Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages on the planet due its stimulating effect, caffeine content and taste. Worldwide, it is the most highly consumed hot drink. Modern coffee is made from the roasted seeds of the Coffea plant with commonly cultivated species such as Coffea robusta and Coffea arabica. 

Although coffee is now a global community and market, it has a long history and culture dating back to the 15th century. The first coffee seeds were roasted and brewed in a similar manner to its modern preparation in the Middle East and North Africa before later spreading to Europe. 

In addition to caffeine, coffee contains other biochemical compounds that affect human health. While the specific composition of coffee can vary depending on factors such as bean variety, growing conditions, roasting method, and brewing technique, the main components of coffee include:


Caffeine: Caffeine is a natural stimulant found in coffee that acts on the central nervous system, increasing alertness and reducing the perception of fatigue. It is the most well-known and studied compound in coffee.

Polyphenols: Coffee is rich in polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that may help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals and oxidative stress. Polyphenols have been associated with various health benefits, including reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and certain cancers.

Trigonelline: Trigonelline is a compound found in coffee that contributes to its taste. When coffee beans are roasted, trigonelline breaks down into other compounds that provide the characteristic aroma and flavour of coffee.

These components collectively contribute to the flavour, aroma, and potential health benefits of coffee.

Emerging research has linked the antioxidants in coffee with protection against inflammation and oxidative stress, which are implicated in the development of neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. Interestingly, new studies are investigating the association between stroke risk and coffee consumption. 

You might be familiar with the common acronym ‘FAST’ used to delineate the first symptoms of a stroke. FAST stands for facial drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulties and time sensitive!  A stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted or reduced, leading to damage and death of the brain cells. Strokes are a leading cause of disability due to neurological deficits and complications. There are two distinct subtypes of stroke: an ischemic stroke occurs when a clot or buildup of plaque blocks blood flow through an artery whereas a hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures and causes bleeding into the surrounding tissue. A study recently published in BMC Neurology in 2021 by Dr. Chan and his team from Taiwan’s Taipei Medical University investigated the effect of coffee on stroke risk amongst otherwise healthy people. 

They conducted a systematic review and found that coffee consumption had protective effects against both ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke. 

The paper was unable to comment on whether the frequency and amount of coffee consumed had any effect on the findings, nor which exact component of the beverage was responsible for the outcome. But what about non-coffee drinkers? Are similar effects seen with other caffeinated beverages? A similar cohort study conducted in the UK examined coffee and tea consumption amongst over 300,000 participants. The study, led by Dr. Yuan Zhang, and published in PLoS Medicine in 2021 followed the participants for over 10 years – recording both coffee and tea consumption as well as the development of stroke over the course of the study. 

Compared with those who did not drink coffee or tea, participants who drank 2-3 cups of coffee or tea had a lower relative risk of sustaining a stroke. These findings suggest that there could be a shared component between the two beverages that confers the benefits seen on brain health and stroke prevention. 

While we are all too familiar with caffeine’s stimulating effects on attention and energy levels – it seems that coffee has brain benefits beyond the midday ‘pick me up’. If you find yourself making a trip to the coffee machine on your morning break – you might find some solace in knowing that your caffeinated drink can be brain boosting in other ways. It’s important to note that excessive intake or sensitivity to caffeine may lead to negative effects such as insomnia, anxiety, and palpitations. Individual tolerance to caffeine varies, so it’s essential to consume coffee in moderation and be mindful of its effects on personal health and well-being.

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