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10 Things Coffee Does to Your Body

The good and the bad of the world's most popular mood-altering drug.

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6) Con: Ulcers
If you've ever had the misfortune of nursing an ulcer, you know how excruciatingly painful they can be. Coffee can wreak havoc on the lining of your gastrointestinal tract, giving rise to ulcers and other forms of gastric irritation and damage. Add to this the fact that coffee consumption can often lead to anxiety and irritability, and you've got a recipe for some devastating stomach pains.

5) Con: Coffee — not so good for the babies
Numerous studies have pointed to a correlation between coffee consumption in pregnant mothers and an increased likelihood of miscarriage. One of the more recent — and arguably most thorough — of these studies was published in 2008 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and found that the risk of miscarriage is more than double in women who consume over 200 mg or more of caffeine per day. 200 mg/day is also the upper caffeine limit recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

4) Pro: Coffee likely has a preventive effect against type 2 diabetes
While the studies on the correlation between coffee consumption and cancer aren't the most compelling, Harvard epidemiologist Frank Hu calls the data on coffee and type 2 diabetes "pretty solid," based on over 15 recently published studies:

The vast majority of those studies have shown a benefit of coffee on the prevention of diabetes. And now there is also evidence that decaffeinated coffee may have the same benefit as regular coffee.

Hu says the drink's benefits likely boil down to its antioxidant and mineral content — the minerals magnesium and chromium, in particular, are thought to help the body make use of the hormone insulin, which helps your body regulate blood sugar.

3) Pro: Same goes for cognitive disorders
Coffee consumption has also long been associated with decreased risks of cognitive impairments like dementia, most notably Alzheimer's disease. A study conducted in 2009, which followed regular coffee-drinkers for 20 years, found that out of 1400 people, those who reported drinking 3—4 cups of coffee per day were 65% less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer's disease than those who drank 2 cups or fewer.

2) Toss-up : It makes you have to poop
We've all been there. You've just sat down at your breakfast table or favorite coffee shop. You're a few sips into your brew, when the urge to go comes out of nowhere; it can seriously feel like you just mainlined a laxative. (Which is a con, unless you just really need to go; some people even use coffee for enemas, in which case it's definitely a good idea to let it cool off first.)

The basic reason behind why this occurs is that coffee is a stimulant, and one of the things it happens to stimulate is peristalsis — the wave-like muscle contractions in your gastrointestinal tract.

What's interesting, though, is that a lot of people experience the need to go number two only with coffee (but not with, say, energy drinks); and experience the effect with decaffeinated brews, as well. What's more, the urge to go likely comes on too quickly to be directly caused by caffeine alone. According to a study published in the journal Gut:

The speed at which the response occurs (within four minutes after drinking the coffee) suggests an indirect action on the colon as it seems unlikely that coffee would reach the colon in this time either via the intestinal lumen or the blood stream. We suspect that coffee may induce a "gastrocolonic response" by acting on epithelial receptors in the stomach or small bowel. Such a mechanism could be mediated by neural mechanisms or by gastrointestinal hormones. Coffee has been shown to promote release of Gastrin which can increase colonic spike and motor activity.

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