The Coffee Myth Resolved

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Introduction

The smell of fresh coffee in the morning when you wake up and open your eyes is something very special even for people who don’t drink coffee. It is the sign that morning is here and it is a fresh new day worth looking forward to. The popularity of coffee is unmatched given the fact that approximately 350 million cups of coffee are consumed in the US alone every day. Many other countries follow suit including Finland, and we all love celebrating the international coffee day.

It is however important to note that the healthiness of coffee is still an ongoing discussion. It has in fact become a myth whether drinking coffee is healthy or not. Have you ever asked yourself these questions; Is it safe to drink coffee? Am I drinking too much coffee? Does it dehydrate me or can I take a cup of coffee before going to bed? These are typical every day questions asked by coffee drinkers around the world. Luckily, at least for me because I’m a “user”, the science today is speaking for the coffee. In fact, there are lots of randomized controlled trials and meta-analyses that promote the health benefits of drinking this beloved beverage.

However, there are some considerations that must be kept in mind when drinking coffee in order to avoid possible health issues. This article will give you the answer to this very common question; is coffee healthy or not? We will go through the benefits, considerations and recommendations on coffee consumption.

 

From the seed to the cup

One of the essential things in weighing whether a product is healthy or not is understanding the processes it goes through until it ends up in the hands of consumers. Fortunately, coffee is one of the products that undergo minimal amounts of destructive processes until it’s in our favorite coffee mug.

A coffee plant takes approximately 3-4 years to mature and produce ripe coffee beans which are ready for harvesting. Thereafter, the beans are dried under the sun or by using a fermentation tank called “wet method” in order to prevent spoilage. The beans then proceed to coffee milling plants where some parts of the beans are removed using machines. After the tasting and sorting process, the coffee beans enter the “roasting” phase which is probably the only un-natural process. Roasting involves heating the coffee beans through temperatures of approximately 550F for some time in order to transform the beans into the aromatic brown coffee powder we purchase. Therefore, unlike sodas and most of the milk products we consume, no preservatives or additives are used to make coffee which makes the beverage quite healthy processing-wise.

 

All the good things

Before looking into the pros and cons of the beverage, one thing should be kept in mind. We are all unique in our own ways so our body’s reactions to one thing can be very different. How our bodies utilize coffee depends on many individual factors such as age, gender, weight, genetics etc. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you listen to your body’s reactions carefully when consuming coffee on a regular basis.

 

Antioxidants

Surprisingly, coffee is a rich source of antioxidants which play a vital role in our body’s immunity and disease prevention. In fact, coffee contains more antioxidants than most fruits and vegetables. This is probably the main reason why it has multiple health promoting effects. However, it lacks the water, oxygen and vitamins that live foods have so don’t replace your veggies for coffee yet. In addition, coffee contains potassium and magnesium which both are essential substances in body metabolism. (Svilaas et al 2004)

 

Disease protection

Alzheimer’s disease, Dementia, Parkinson’s disease and type 2 diabetes are difficult chronic conditions managed mainly by healthy life styles. However, according to the studies, people who drink coffee regularly have been proven to have a reduced risk in developing these conditions. In addition to regular healthy eating and exercising, drinking coffee should play a part of the healthy program.

(Hernán et al 2002, Eskelinen and Kivipelto 2010, Van Dam and Hu 2005)

 

Physical performance

Caffeine improves exercise performance by 10% according to meta-analysis of 21 studies. This incredible result was published in 2005 by Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. Caffeine stimulates the nervous system and increases the levels of an adrenaline hormone called “epinephrine” in the body. Therefore, it is highly recommended to take between a half a cup and a full cup of coffee before heading to the gym or jogging track in order to boost your performance. It is also worth noting that drinking coffee doesn’t dehydrate the body. However, pure water is still the most important liquid to drink before and after any physical performance.

(Doherty and Smith 2005)

 

Effects on mood

Caffeine is a strong stimulant. Drinking caffeinated beverages has been shown to have beneficial effects on alertness and reaction time throughout the day. However, that being said, it can also interfere with your sleeping patterns stimulating your nervous system. This is according to scientists. Based on this fact, it’s not wise to drink coffee before bed time.

(Hindmarch et al 2000)

Depression is a serious fast growing disorder affecting many people especially women. Luckily, studies seem to reduce the risk of developing depression at least among females. A large study conducted for 50 739 female participants found out that depression risk decreases with increasing coffee consumption.

(Lucas et al 2011)

 

Liver protection

Cirrhosis is a common liver disease caused by alcoholism or hepatitis B or C in most cases. However, there seems to be a substance in coffee that protects against cirrhosis according to scientists.

(Klatsky et al 2006)

 

Considerations

Since coffee is a strong stimulant, it should be consumed with limits and by using common sense. If ingested too much, symptoms like, restlessness, nervousness, insomnia and digestive problems such as bloating might appear. Some smaller studies have even linked coffee overconsumption to inflammations in the digestive tract leading to colon cancer. Moreover, overstimulation of the nervous system can lead to muscle twitches disturbing the fine body movements.

One proven negative effect of drinking coffee is that it raises the blood pressure. Therefore, people who have issues with elevated blood pressure should keep an eye on coffee consumption. However, it is a false myth that there’s an increased risk for developing heart disease by drinking coffee regularly.

(Lovallo et al 2004)

 

Adding stuff

There are dozens of coffee beverages to choose from. You can order latte, mocha, cappuccino, espresso, decaf, macchiato or pocillo and many more depending on where you are. These beverages contain natural coffee however, they also contain multiple additives. Some of the most common additives in coffee include; processed sugars, sweeteners and dairy. It is however important to understand that everything synthetically processed and added might cause several health issues. Therefore, this article focuses purely on coffee which is natural and free of additives.

If you wish to sweeten your coffee, try to find unprocessed sweeteners such as unpasteurized honey or stevia (plant based sweetener). In addition, if you wish to add cream or milk in your coffee, choose the later one in an unpasteurized, un-homogenized and hormone-free form. Many of the well-equipped supermarkets already have more natural milk options for you to choose from. Or if you have the privilege of living near a cow farm, use it to get more natural products that don’t pose health risks.

 

How much then?

Most of the studies mentioned above recommend up to six cups of coffee on a daily basis so drinking 1-6 cups of coffee daily shouldn’t be harmful. However, a very recent study displayed on the world renowned news agency CNN indicated that people who drink more than 4 cups of coffee on a daily basis are prone to serious health risks. Therefore, the daily recommended average should be between 4-6 cups.

 

Conclusion

Drinking coffee is safe. In fact, it has many health promoting benefits from energy boosts to preventing serious chronic health conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. It is recommendable to keep the daily consumption of coffee at 4-6 cups. If consumed more on a regular basis, some health issues might appear such as digestion problems and insomnia. In addition, people with high blood pressure should consume less amounts of coffee in order to prevent the provocation of symptoms.

In addition, try to learn to enjoy the natural aromatic smell and taste of coffee without the added sweeteners or dairy products. These products are highly processed and might cause metabolic disorders such as inflammations and weight gain. However, if you really need to add these substances, try to find natural and organic solutions.

 

I’ll be heading for a fresh cup of organic Mexican coffee, aprovecho!

Teijo Vienola is a writer for Kikulife, focusing on functional health. He is helping people to Thrive by providing information on natural nutrition and functional exercise.

 

References

Svilaas, A. Sakhi, L. Andersen, T. Svilaas, E. Ström, D. Jacobs, L. Ose and R. Blomhoff. Intakes of Antioxidants in Coffee, Wine, and Vegetables Are Correlated with Plasma Carotenoids in Humans. The American Society for Nutritional Sciences. Journal of Nutrition. March 2004. Vol.134. No. 3. P.562-567.

Hernán, B. Takkouche, F. Pharm and J. Gestal-Otero. A meta-analysis of coffee drinking, cigarette smoking, and the risk of Parkinson’s disease. Annals of Neurology. Septemper 2002. Vol. 52. No. 3. P. 276-284.

Eskelinen and M. Kivipelto. Caffeine as a Protective Factor in Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. February 2010. Vol. 20. No. 1. P. 167-174.

van Dam and F. Hu. Coffee Consumption and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes. The Journal of the American Medical Association. July 2005. Vol. 294. No. 1. P. 97-104

Doherty and P. Smith. Effects of caffeine ingestion on rating of perceived exertion during and after exercise: a meta-analysis. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. April 2005. Vol. 15. No. 2. P. 69-78.

Hindmarch, U. Rigney, N. Stanley, P. Quinlan, J. Rycroft and J. Lane. A naturalistic investigation of the effects of day-long consumption of tea, coffee and water on alertness, sleep onset and sleep quality. Psychopharmacology. April 2000. Vol. 149. Issue 3. P. 203-216.

Lucas, F. Mirzaei, A. Pan, O. Okereke, W. Willet, E. O´reilly, K Koenen and A. Ascherio.Coffee, Caffeine, and Risk of Depression Among Women. JAMA Internal Medicine. Formerly Archives of Internal Medicine. September 2011. Vol 171. No. 17. P.1571-1578.

Klatsky, C. Morton, N. Udaltsova and G. Friedman. Coffee, cirrhosis, and transaminase enzymes. JAMA Internal Medicine. Formerly Archives of Internal Medicine. June 2006. Vol. 166. No. 11. P.1190-1195.

 Lovallo, M. Wilson, A. Vincent, B. Sung, B. McKey and T. Whitsett. Blood Pressure Response to Caffeine Shows Incomplete Tolerance After Short-Term Regular Consumption. Hypertension. American Heart Association. February 2004. Vol. 43. P. 760-765.

 

Teijo Vienola

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