Archives for January 31, 2012

Ahhh my daily Coffee….

I really, really enjoy my coffee.  I look forward to my morning cup of coffee,  and to my afternoon latte.  However, I have been cutting back on the afternoon coffee as my doctor suggested that just one cup a day is enough.  But really, how bad (or good) is coffee?  Several sources point to some really big positives of coffee.

Coffee is a full of antioxidants. Antioxidants help prevent free radicals which can cell damage and contribute to aging.

Regular coffee consumption reduces the risk of Parkinson’s disease. A number of studies [1],[2] have demonstrated that people who drink coffee on a regular basis are significantly less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.

Coffee consumption is potentially protective against the development of type 2 diabetes. A prospective cohort study as part of the US Nurses Health Study found that moderate consumption of both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes in younger and middle aged women.

Coffee drinking may protect against liver cirrhosis, especially alcoholic cirrhosis.  So it seems to do more than just “sober you up”

There is some evidence that coffee drinking may be protective against gallstone formation in both men and women.

Coffee consumption lowers the risk of kidney stones formation. Coffee increases the urine volume, preventing the crystallization of calcium oxalate, the most common component of kidney stones.  Tea on the other hand, especially black tea, is an “oxalate-containing” beverage, and should be avoided if you are prone to kidney stones.  Green tea and herbal tea have much lower oxlate content than black tea.

Caffeine in coffee is a stimulant. Coffee promotes alertness, attention and wakefulness. The cup of coffee can also increase information processing.

Another article I read summarized that researchers reported that volunteers who drank caffeinated coffee in the morning performed better than nondrinkers on tests that involved learning new information. They concluded that coffee can also improve cognitive function as we age. And here’s a plus, one study found that combining coffee with a sweet treat had an even bigger impact, supporting the idea of a synergistic effect between two substances, in which each one boosts the effect of the other.

Regular coffee consumption seems to protect against Alzheimer’s disease. A recent mouse study on mice showed that caffeine equivalent to 5 cups of coffee per day reduced the build up of destructive plaques in the brain.

Caffeine can open airways and improve asthma symptoms. As the caffeine  in coffee is related to theophylline, an old asthma medication.

And lastly, according to the FDA, caffeine is considered safe. (Take that as you will!)

But all is not rosy, here are some of coffee’s negatives:
The relation between coffee consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease has been examined in many studies, and the results are conflicting.  Studies  have confirmed  the cholesterol-raising effect of diterpenes found in unfiltered coffee — such as that prepared with a French Press.  Coffee consumption is also associated with an increase of plasma homocysteine, a risk factor for coronary heart disease.

On the other hand, a lower risk of heart disease has been found among moderate coffee drinkers—perhaps due to antioxidants found in coffee. .

And, caffeine found in coffee can increase the risk of heart attack, especially among those people who carry the “slow” gene variant for the enzyme that metabolizes caffeine.

Heavy consumption of boiled coffee elevates total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”) levels. Unfiltered coffee contains two cholesterol-raising compounds cafestol and kahweol.

Coffee negatively affects the blood vessel tone and function (increases arterial stiffness and wave reflections).

Coffee can cause rapid or irregular heartbeats (cardiac arrhythmias).

Coffee consumption is not a significant risk factor for hypertension, but it produces unfavorable effects on blood pressure, and people prone to hypertension may be more susceptible. Studies have found that coffee drinking can slightly increase the risk for development of sustained hypertension in persons with elevated blood pressure.

Coffee intake may induce an extra urinary excretion of calcium. Heavy coffee consumption (4 cups=600 ml or more) can modestly increase the risk of osteoporosis, especially in women with a low calcium intake.

A cup of coffee can trigger heartburn.

High amounts of caffeine taken before going to sleep, can cause restlessness and difficulty falling asleep, tendency to be awakened more readily by sudden noises, and a decreased quality of sleep. However, some people can drink coffee and fall right asleep.

The caffeine in coffee is a mild diuretic and can increase urine excretion and dehydration. This effect may be easily neutralized by drinking an extra glass of water.

Caffeine is a drug, a mild central nervous system stimulant, and it produces dependence. Caffeine withdrawal is a real syndrome. You may get a few days of headache and irritability. if you choose to quit drinking coffee, however, it is relatively easy to break this habit, and most people are not addicted to caffeine.

And two interesting negatives I found from Care2.com:

Coffee Can Actually Cause Weight Gain
The blood sugar fluctuations that caffeine high produces can contribute enormously to cravings, according to iVillage. Coffee is also socially connected to food. For example, we pair coffee with dessert or that morning powdered doughnut. Additionally, when we crash from our caffeine high that’s when we reach for all sorts of fatty snacks to keep us going.

Conventional Coffee Is Laden with Pesticides 
This one really made me stop and think — The coffee plant is one of the most heavily sprayed crops. It’s coated with chemicals, pesticides, and herbicides, nothing you’d want to be ingesting. I am switching to organic coffee!

So, what is the key? The old principle – “everything in moderation” – holds true for coffee. It is not bad unless you abuse it. Coffee has its downsides, but offers enough good points to make it a worthwhile drink. Researchers believe that for moderate coffee drinkers (3-4 cups/day providing 300-400 mg/day of caffeine), there is little evidence of health risks and some evidence of health benefits.