The consumption of coffee goes back centuries. Coffee is probably the most commonly used and abused drug (caffeine) in our society- and in many other cultures for that matter.
Nowadays, with over 400 billion cups consumed every year, coffee is one of the world’s most popular drinks. But what makes it special? The caffeine-containing coffee bean is roasted and ground and then “brewed” by passing boiling water through the coffee grounds.
People who use caffeine regularly and responsibly to make the most of their day, often face conflicting and confusing statements regarding the effects of caffeine on a person’s health. A cup of coffee in the morning may pack more than just an energy boost. Caffeine has a number of metabolic effects as a central nervous stimulant.
It increases: Heart rate; blood pressure; respiration gastrointestinal activity; stomach acid output; kidney function; mental activity
Coffee abuse may create cardiac sensitivity, with: Abnormal heart beats; anxiety & irritability; stomach and intestinal irritation; insomnia
Withdrawal symptoms such as: Fatigue and headaches
Coffee can also interfere with the absorption of many vitamins and minerals, such as calcium and Iron.
However, latest researches show that there are some health benefits from drinking coffee:
“The evidence for the benefits of coffee consumption is even more convincing than it was five years ago, especially when it comes to preventing type 2 diabetes and reducing risk of heart disease and stroke,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Although caffeine is by far the most studied compound in coffee, the beverage is a complex brew that contains hundreds if not thousands of bioactive components. Among these are vitamins, minerals, and potent, plant-based anti-inflammatory compounds known as polyphenols. Most likely, it’s the combination of these substances rather than caffeine that confer coffee’s potential health benefits.
On the flip side, people who get their caffeine from other sources, such as sodas and energy drinks, do not see any cardiovascular benefits.
Heart & Coffee: A Harvard University study confirmed that caffeine intake does not “appreciably increase the risk of coronary heart disease or stroke.” In fact, the Framingham Heart Study examined potential links between caffeine intake and cardiovascular disease and concluded that caffeinated coffee drinkers (in moderation) had a 43 per cent less risk of cardiac death.
Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health concluded that drinking coffee in moderation protects against heart failure. They defined ‘in moderation’ as 2 European cups (equivalent to two 8-ounce American servings) per day. People who drank four European cups on a daily basis had an 11 per cent lower risk of heart failure compared to those who did not.
But, caffeine can be dangerous for those with underlying heart conditions. This is especially dangerous for minors because they may not yet have been diagnosed.
Diabetes & Coffee: Coffee may protect against Type 2 Diabetes. Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers gathered data from three studies. The researchers found that the participants who increased their coffee intake by more than one cup a day (on average, an increase of 1.69 cups per day) over a 4-year period had an 11 per cent lower type 2 diabetes risk over the subsequent 4 years, compared with people who did not change their intake.
Liver & Coffee: Coffee may lower the risk of liver cancer. Italian researchers found that coffee consumption lowers the risk of liver cancer by about 40 per cent. In addition, some of the results suggest that if you drink three cups a day, the risks are reduced by more than 50 per cent. The lead author of the study said, “Our research confirms past claims that coffee is good for your health and particularly the liver.”
Research published in April 2014, suggests that drinking coffee is linked to a decreased liver cirrhosis death risk. The researchers suggest that drinking two or more cups of coffee every day can reduce the risk of death from liver cirrhosis by 66 per cent.
Parkinson’s Disease and Coffee: Coffee may help prevent Parkinson’s disease. Researchers in the U.S. carried out a study that assessed the link between coffee consumption and Parkinson’s disease risk. The authors of the study concluded, “higher coffee and caffeine intake is associated with a significantly lower incidence of Parkinson’s disease”. In addition, caffeine in coffee may help control movement in people suffering from Parkinson’s according to a study conducted at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC) that was published in the journal Neurology.
Coffee and Cancer: The results of a new 26-year-long study were just published by The American Cancer Society recently.
The study concluded that people who drink more than 4 cups of caffeinated coffee daily have a 49 per cent lower risk of developing cancers of the mouth and throat.
This is good news because those types of cancer are often fatal. Those who consumed 4 or more cups a day had the least risk (49 per cent) and the risk increased by each fewer cups of coffee consumed. Decaffeinated coffee only had a marginally significant decrease in risk, while tea showed no decreased risk.
It also shows us that coffee closest to its natural state is the best. Coffee that has been altered, i.e. decaffeinated, doesn’t seem to offer the same health benefits since some of the antioxidants are also stripped away during the decaffeinating process.
Coffee isn’t a magical potion that will guarantee a person remains cancer free, but as part of a healthy, whole foods based diet, it can be a good beverage choice to promote overall better health and less cancer risk.
Women who plan on becoming pregnant should be cautious. Researchers from the University of Nevada School of Medicine reported in the British Journal of Pharmacology that regular coffee might reduce a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant.
The Anatomy of a coffee drink
- Straight coffee—minus the cream and sugar—is a nearly calorie-free beverage brimming with antioxidants.
- A Grande Caffè Mocha from Starbucks contains about the equivalent amount of coffee as two cups brewed, but will cost you close to 400 calories, 35 grams of sugar, and 19 grams of fat.
- The evolution of coffee drinks in the last decade may have actually changed the potential health benefits people might get, because they are taking in too much added sugar and too many calories, which can lead to weight gain and, over time, diabetes.
- The best health option is to prepare your coffee using a brew or drip method and a paper filter rather than boiling it. Adding a small amount of sweetener and some low-fat milk is an acceptable option if you need to take a bite out of the bitterness.
Source: Harvard Medical School