To drink or not to drink coffee and the debate as to whether it is good or bad for us has been controversial throughout the years. In this quick article we have a look at the health benefits of drinking coffee, are there types of coffees that are better ( or worse ) for us, is the amount of coffee something to consider, does coffee affect women and men differently perhaps, and finally are there side effects or health risks to drinking coffee.
This article is not meant to be a medical journal although references to studies will be made. Click on the reference links if you would like to read about the study in detail.
When I finished writing this blog post, I thought I’d go into my photo library and assess whether I had photos for this article. To my surprise, I not only had quite a few photos but I also had photos in different social settings and pictures of types of coffees consumed. At this point, I realised coffee played a large part in my life and this article would benefit myself and not only the reader.
The Main Ingredients of Coffee
Now, let us talk about coffee itself first. What is in that cup of coffee that has us enamoured? We wake up thinking about coffee, mid-morning and mid-afternoon we head for the coffee machine.
Coffee contains a variety of compounds such as caffeine, antioxidants and diterpenes. These three compounds contribute to the unique flavour and the way in which it effects our body – our physiology. With over 400 billion cups of coffee consumed every year, coffee is one of the most popular drinks surpassing orange juice, soft drinks and wine.
Caffeine is a major active compound in coffee and acts as a stimulant to the brain and nervous system.
Caffeine stimulates the brain and can effect the way people feel and act. Many people drink coffee to assist in alertness, when they wake up or when they are feeling drowsy, and improve concentration and focus.
Coffee naturally contains certain compounds with antioxidant properties. These compounds are chlorogenic acids and melanoidins. As our bodies are in constant attack by free radicals, which can damage protein and our DNA, the raised levels of antioxidants in our blood system after consuming these antioxidants in coffee have protectant properties against these free-radicals.
Diterpenes are natural present in the oils of coffee. Research suggests a high consumption of Diterpenes ( and thus a higher consumption of coffee can raise LDL Cholesterol. Some studies suggest that these diterpenes may help to protect us against some cancers, although this is not conclusive yet.
What is really important to note, Diterpenes are largely affected by the brewing method.
There are other compounds present in coffee due to the way the coffee bean is processed. OTA produced by mould found in badly stored green unprocessed coffee beans, and a compound called acrylamide formed due to the heat processing. Manufacturers monitor these compounds therefore it is important to only consume a good quality coffee bean.
Manufacturers monitor compounds formed through storing and processing of the coffee bean therefore it is important to only consume a good quality coffee bean.
The Low Down – The Benefits of Drinking Coffee according to Science
Studies have shown that drinking coffee moderately ( three to four cups a day ) have health benefits including, protecting against Parkinson Disease, Type 2 Diabetes, Liver Disease and Cancer. Coffee also improves cognitive function and decreases the risk of depression.
In fact a clinical trial is being conducted to assess Caffeine as a Therapy to Parkinson’s Disease, not just as a preventative compound. With 1.2 Million people in Europe alone having Parkinson’s Disease, there is no debate as to whether to drink coffee.
A Harvard School Study showed a higher consumption of coffee was associated with lower type 2 diabetes risk. The study in fact found those participants who drank more than one coffee a day over the span of 4 years had an 11 percent lowered risk of type 2 diabetes.
Coffee consumption has been found in reducing the risk of liver disease such as liver cancer and cirrhosis. The World Health Organisation has confirmed this reduced risk after reviewing more than 1000 studies.
Coffee Makes you Happy
Drinking coffee has been found to help you fight depression and generally make you happy. In a Harvard Study published in 2011 it was found those people who drank 4 or more cups of coffee had a 53% less likely chance of dying from suicide.
Coffee can protect you against Some Cancers
Drinking 4 – 6 cups of coffee a day can offer some protection against some type of cancers, such as skin cancers, brain cancers, oral and prostate cancer.
Coffee and Its Negative Effects – Risks
Coffee can be harmful, and is not always the superhero. As with anything that is good for you, too much coffee can lead to some unpleasant side effects.
High Consumption of unfiltered coffee has been associated with mild elevation in cholesterol levels. People with high cholesterol levels should drink filtered coffee.
Research has shown that in some individuals there can be some adverse effects of caffeine in the diet such as disturbed sleep patterns, trigger migranes and can cause digestive problems. Caffeine is addictive which means you will have withdrawal symptoms if you cut it out of your diet.
Avoid Coffee if Your PregNant
If your a pregnant female, drinking high amounts of coffee would be best avoided. High coffee intake has been linked to low birth weight, premature births and pregnancy loss.
For women, studies also indicated there is an association between coffee drinking and risk of fracture in women but not in men.
A Myth Debunked
Years ago, coffee was thought of to be carcinogenic. Drinks that are too hot, whether coffee or another drink may increase cancer risk. Research has caught up to the facts and in fact it was the very hot temperature of the drink rather than the coffee itself which made it harmful.
What Kind of Coffee is Best for Us?
What is really important to note, Diterpenes are largely affected by the brewing method. Soluble coffee and espresso contains a negligible quantity of these cholesterol raising compounds. Apparently, the antioxidants are trapped in the paper filter in filtered coffee , but pass into he brew of Scandinavian boiled coffee, plunder pot coffee and Greek and Turkish Coffee. Boiled coffees such as the Greek and Turkish and Scandinavian mentioned earlier are rich in polyphenols and antioxidants and contain only a moderate amount of caffeine.
Drinking Decaf coffee may contain residue due to the solvents used to extract the caffeine. Decaf does not have the same health benefits as regular coffee.
So What is The Verdict?
In conclusion, if you have a sensitivity to caffeine or have a family history of heart or liver disease or diabetes, or in general are looking to decrease your chances of developing Parkinson’s , Type 2 Diabetes, or Liver Disease then changing your brew to the boiled variety mentioned earlier would carry some serious advantages to your long term health.
As well, drink your coffee at a temperature lower than 65 degrees to ensure your coffee has the most antioxidants.
If your sleep patterns are disturbed by caffeine, avoid drinking your coffee at later times of the day, and only drink the boiled variety of coffee as it contains less caffeine.
Drinking coffee also poses some social advantages. Meeting with friends over a cup of coffee is relaxing and contributes to feeling good in general.
There is no yes, or no answer. It is recommended to look into your own life and assess your own cardiovascular risk factors to make a decision about what kind of coffee, how much coffee and whether to drink it.
Also avoid coffee if your pregnant, or not an adult.
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