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Is coffee healthy for you? There seem to be some mixed ideas about this.
Is coffee good for you or bad? If coffee is good for your health then why is coffee good for you?
Some people say coffee is good, some say not, and others say maybe. In this post we gather some recent information that help answer these questions.
Harvard School of Public Health
We summarize what the Harvard School of Public Health has to say about the effects of coffee on health.
Coffee has been subject to a long history of debate, including being listed as a possible carcinogen by the World Health Organization, but has since been exonerated.
Coffee is a mixture of more than a thousand chemicals. The amount of coffee needed to produce a health benefit varies depending on the type of coffee bean used, how it is roasted, how much grind is used, and how it is brewed.
The chemicals include
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- Plant chemicals such as polyphenols including chlorogenic acid and quinic acid, and diterpenes including cafestol and kahweol
Coffee and Cancer
Coffee may affect how cancer develops, ranging from the initiation of a cancer cell to its death. Caffeine may also lower inflammation, a risk factor for many cancers.
The 2018 uproar in California due to warning labels placed on coffee products stemmed from a chemical in the beverage called acrylamide, which is formed when the beans are roasted. Acrylamide was classified in the 2014 Report on Carcinogens as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen”.
Many cancer experts disputed the ruling, stating that acrylamide metabolism differs considerably in animals and humans, and that drinking coffee may reduce risk for endometrial and liver cancer.
The California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment proposed to exempt coffee from displaying cancer warnings under Proposition 65 in June 2018.
Caffeine and Diabetes
Although caffeine can increase blood sugar in the short-term, long-term studies have shown that habitual coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with non-drinkers. The polyphenols and minerals in coffee may improve the effectiveness of insulin and glucose metabolism in the body.
Caffeine and Heart Disease
Is coffee good for your heart?
Caffeine is a stimulant that can cause different reactions in people. It can cause heart palpitations in some people.
Unfiltered coffee contains diterpenes, substances that raise bad LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. Filtered and instant coffee contains almost no diterpenes.
A meta-analysis of 83,076 women in the Nurses’ Health Study found that drinking 4 or more cups of coffee each day was associated with a 20% lower risk of stroke. A large cohort of 37,514 women found that moderate coffee drinking was associated with a 21% reduced risk of heart disease.
Caffeine and Anxiety
Caffeine may increase alertness, reduce anxiety, and improve mood, and may have neurological benefits in some people. However, high amounts of caffeine may increase anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia in sensitive individuals.
A prospective cohort study of 263,923 participants found that those who drank 4 or more cups of coffee a day were almost 10% less likely to become depressed than those who drank none. A meta-analysis of observational studies found that caffeine was the key factor in decreasing suicide risk.
Caffeine Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease
Low dopamine levels mainly cause Parkinson’s disease. Caffeine may protect cells in the brain that produce dopamine and may decrease risk of developing PD. A Finnish cohort study showed that those who drank at least 10 cups of coffee daily had a significantly lower risk of developing PD than non-drinkers. A large cohort study showed that women showed the lowest risk of developing PD when drinking moderate intakes of 1-3 cups coffee daily.
Another study suggested a protective effect of caffeine against late-life dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but no definitive statements could be made.
Coffee and Mortality
Two large scientific studies showed that compared with non-drinkers, those drinking more than 3 cups of coffee a day had a lower risk of early death than those who didn’t drink coffee.  A protective association was also found in those who drank 8 or more cups daily.
Bioactive compounds in coffee may be responsible for interfering with disease development and aging by reducing inflammation and insulin resistance.
Caffeine and Gallstones
Caffeine may prevent gallstones by stimulating the gallbladder and bile flow, and preventing cholesterol from forming into crystals.
A study of 46,008 men found that men who consistently drank coffee were less likely to develop gallstones than men who did not.
In a large cohort study, those who drank 3-5 cups of coffee daily were 15% less likely to die early from all causes than non-drinkers. In a larger prospective cohort study, those who drank 6-7 cups daily had a 16% lower risk of early death.
A large body of evidence suggests that drinking caffeinated coffee does not increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancers. However, some individuals may not tolerate higher amounts of caffeine due to symptoms of jitteriness, anxiety, and insomnia. Pregnant women are advised to aim for less than 200 mg of caffeine daily.
Coffee and Calories
There are two main types of bean, Arabica and Robusta. Arabica coffee originates from Ethiopia and produces a mild, flavorful tasting coffee, while Robusta coffee is more economical to grow because it is resistant to disease and survives in a wider range of temperatures between 65-97 degrees Fahrenheit.
Adding sugar, cream, and milk to coffee can quickly bump up the calorie counts. A tablespoon of cream contains 52 calories, and a tablespoon of whole milk contains 9 calories.
Specialty coffee drinks can be very high in calories and sugar, so stick with plain, minimally sweetened coffee.
Sources of Caffeine
Caffeine is found in many foods, drinks, and supplements such as cacao, Coca-Cola ®, Pepsi®, all coffee drinks (including decaffeinated), and guarana plants.
Mixed Messages on Health and Coffee
Thomas Merritt Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Laurentian University has a different view on the effects of coffee and health.
In this summary, Professor Merrit says that coffee doesn’t enhance health. This is from his article on The Conversation.
Coffee is good for you, or it’s not. Studies have come to mixed conclusions, but the answer seems to be human nature and scientific practice.
Globally, we consume about two billion cups of coffee daily, and many want to know what that coffee is doing to us.
The health benefits of coffee are attributed to other molecules in the brew, including polyphenols, which are also found in many plants.
We drink coffee for the caffeine, not the antioxidants. Hopefully, coffee isn’t killing us as quickly as other things.
There are almost three and a half million scientific articles focused on coffee, and many aspects of coffee are subject to scrutiny, study and debate.
The health status of coffee changes as we explore the world around us and learn new things.
In 1981, a high-profile New York Times opinion piece loudly proclaimed that coffee was driving us to an early grave. Three years later, the study was refuted by some of the same scientists.
The original study was well done, and included more than 1,000 patients from almost a dozen hospitals, and five reputable scientists. But a follow-up study failed to replicate the results, and the authors found no link between drinking coffee and premature death.
Coffee can help you wake up, brighten your mood and get out of the house, but it won’t make you healthier or live longer.
Coffee’s Health Benefits Not Straightforward?
Charlotte Mills (Lecturer in Human Nutrition, University of Reading) and Ashley Hookings (PhD Candidate, Coffee Intake and Cardiometabolic Health, University of Reading) think that coffee’s health benefits are not straightforward.
In the following summary of their article in The Conversation, Dr Mills and Ashley Hookings discuss why they think the health benefits of coffee aren’t that clear.
Studies have shown that drinking a moderate amount of coffee is associated with many health benefits, including a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. But proving that coffee reduces disease risk is complicated.
Coffee contains several important compounds, including caffeine, trigonelline, polyphenols, and diterpenes, which may help to prevent cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Melanoidins are compounds that give coffee its color and flavor, and may also have a prebiotic effect.
The way your coffee is grown, brewed and served can affect the compounds your coffee contains and hence the health benefits you might see.
The growing conditions and consequent processing of the coffee beans can affect the levels of caffeine and chlorogenic acids the coffee contains. For example, coffee grown at high altitudes will have both lower caffeine and chlorogenic acid content. The two types of coffee beans, arabica and robusta, have also been shown to have different caffeine, chlorogenic acid, and trigonelline levels. Although neither type is more beneficial to health.
Roasting raw coffee beans will also affect its chemical composition. The more severe the roasting, the more melanoidins formed, which lowers chlorogenic acids and trigonelline content.
The chemical composition of coffee depends on how it is prepared, including the amount of coffee used.
Every compound in coffee has different effects on your health. Chlorogenic acids, for example, may improve the function of your arteries and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Adding cream, sugar and syrup to your coffee will increase its caloric content and increase your risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
There’s evidence that people may respond differently to some of these compounds, and the gut microbiome may play an important role in determining what health effects coffee may have.
Four Reasons to Drink Coffee
Emma Beckett (Senior Lecturer (Food Science and Human Nutrition), School of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Newcastle) thinks that the current evidence is in favor of drinking coffee and there are potential health benefits.
In the following summary of Dr. Beckett’s article in The Conversation, systematic reviews suggest that drinking coffee leads to a decreased risk of premature death, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer.
Coffee drinkers live longer. People who drink one to two cups a day have an 8% lower risk of dying prematurely than those who don’t drink any.
Coffee drinkers have a lower risk of liver cancer, particularly men, based on the number of cups drunk per day.
Type 2 Diabetes
Coffee drinkers have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes than non-drinkers. This risk is lower for both regular and decaffeinated coffee.
Coffee contains chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid, which improve glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity and have immune-stimulating and anti-inflammatory properties.
In 13 studies, those who drank the most coffee had a 10% lower risk of prostate cancer than those who drank the least. However, advanced or terminal types of prostate cancer were not protected.
Watch your total coffee intake to lower your risk for lung cancer. High coffee intake was associated with greater risk of lung cancer. Decaffeinated coffee is the opposite of caffeinated coffee in terms of risk.
Pregnant women should limit their coffee intake to one to two cups daily. This may reduce the risk of miscarriage, but it’s worth being cautious.
Caffeine can increase blood pressure and homocysteine levels, but it is not associated with the long-term risk of heart disease.
There are potential health benefits of drinking coffee. The four potential benefits of drinking include lowered risk of prostate cancer, Type 2 Diabetes, liver cancer, and living longer.
The potential problems of drinking coffee include lung cancer and blood pressure. Pregnant women also need to be careful drinking coffee.
Most research on coffee comes from observational studies, and it would be hard to do a randomized controlled trial. It is often difficult to specifically attribute benefits or problems of coffee drinking.
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This is Not Medical or Health Advice
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