Coffee: Good or Bad?

Updated: May 26


To drink or not to drink, that is the question? One day it is a super healthy beverage and the next it is harmful. It is high in antioxidants and linked to a reduced risk of many diseases, however it also contains caffeine, a stimulant that can cause problems in some people and disrupt sleep - what is a girl to think? I’m so confused. Let’s put an end to this right now. As always, I turned to the internet to do some in-depth investigation on the truth about COFFEE. Here are both sides to the argument.

GOOD SIDE

Coffee contains some essential nutrients and is extremely high in antioxidants that come from the coffee beans. A typical 8 oz cup of coffee contains 11% of the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) of Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), 6% of Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid), 2% of Vitamin B1 (Thiamin), 2% of Vitamin B3 (Niacin), 1% of Folate, 3% of Manganese, 3% of Potassium, 2% of Magnesium and 1% of phosphorus.

This may not seem like a lot, but if you drink 3 or 4 cups per day, it can add up to a significant portion of your daily nutrient intake. But where coffee really shines is in its high content of antioxidants. The average person who eats a typical Western diet actually gets more antioxidants from coffee than the fruits and vegetables they eat.

Coffee contains caffeine, a stimulant that can enhance brain function and boost metabolism. Caffeine is the most commonly consumed psychoactive substance in the world. Soft drinks, tea and chocolate all contain caffeine, but coffee is the biggest source. The caffeine content of a single cup can range from 30-300 mg, but the average cup is somewhere around 90-100 mg. Caffeine is a known stimulant. In the brain, it blocks the function of an inhibitory neurotransmitter (brain hormone) called adenosine. By blocking adenosine, caffeine actually increases activity in the brain and the release of other neurotransmitters like norepinephrine and dopamine. This reduces tiredness and makes us feel more alert. There are numerous studies showing that caffeine can lead to a short-term boost in brain function including improved mood, reaction time, vigilance and general cognitive function. Caffeine can also boost metabolism (calories burned) by 3-11% and even increase exercise performance by 11-12%, on average. However, some of these effects are likely to be short-term. If you drink coffee every day, then you will build a tolerance to it and the effects will be less powerful.

Coffee may help protect your brain in old age, leading to reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease and a leading cause of dementia. Studies have shown that coffee drinkers have up to a 65% lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative disease and caused by the death of dopamine-generating neurons in the brain. Coffee drinkers have a 32-60% lower risk of Parkinson’s disease. The more coffee people drink, the lower the risk.

Coffee drinkers have a lower risk of liver diseases. The liver is an incredibly important organ that has hundreds of different functions in the body. It is very sensitive to modern insults like excess alcohol and fructose intake. The end stage of liver damage is called Cirrhosis, and involves most of the liver being replaced with scar tissue. Coffee drinkers have up to an 84% lower risk of developing cirrhosis, with the strongest effect for those who drink 4 or more cups per day. Liver cancer is also common—it is the second leading cause of cancer death worldwide. Coffee drinkers have up to a 40% lower risk of liver cancer. WOW – truthfully I gave up drinking coffee over a year ago; I may have made a big mistake! Dig the coffee pot out, honey!

O.K. now I said I was going to give you both sides. Here is the bad stuff about coffee.

BAD SIDE

The truth is… there are some important negative aspects to coffee as well (although this depends on the individual). Consuming too much caffeine can lead to jitteriness, anxiety, heart palpitations and may even exacerbate panic attacks. If you are sensitive to caffeine and tend to become overstimulated, then perhaps you shouldn’t be drinking coffee.

Another unwanted side effect is that it can disrupt sleep. If coffee reduces the quality of your sleep, then try avoiding coffee late in the day, such as after 2:00 pm. Caffeine can also have some diuretic and blood pressure raising effects, but this usually goes away with regular use. However, an increase in blood pressure of 1-2 mm/Hg may persist.

Caffeine is addictive and missing a few cups can lead to withdrawal. When people consume caffeine regularly, they become tolerant to it. It either stops working as it used to, or a larger dose is needed to get the same effects. When people abstain from caffeine, they get withdrawal symptoms like headache, tiredness, brain fog and irritability. This can last for a few days. Tolerance and withdrawal are the hallmarks of physical addiction. A lot of people (understandably) don’t like the idea of being literally dependent on a chemical substance in order to function properly.

Unfiltered coffee —such as Turkish coffee, or coffee made with a French press —can increase your LDL ("bad") cholesterol levels. And women who drink more than five cups of coffee a day may have more trouble getting pregnant with in vitro fertilization than women who don't. In addition, a 2006 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that for people who metabolize caffeine slowly can increase the risk of nonfatal heart attacks. If your body isn’t used to caffeine, the chemical causes your blood vessels to narrow, which in turn cranks up your blood pressure. But a few hours later, your vessels return to normal and the effect fades.

There are also reports hinting that people with cholesterol issues may have more problems if they drink some kinds of coffee. Compounds called cafestol, present in coffee beans, appear to raise LDL cholesterol—though paper filters eliminate most of those compounds, making it more of a concern with French press and espresso-style brews. The caffeine in coffee increases catecholamines, your stress hormones. The stress response elicits cortisol and increases insulin. Insulin increases inflammation and this makes you feel lousy. Unfiltered coffee has the highest amount of beneficial antioxidants yet also leaks the most diterpenes into your system. These diterpenes have been linked to higher levels of triglycerides, LDL and VLDL levels. The helpful chlorogenic acids in coffee may delay glucose absorption in the intestine and have also been shown to increase homocysteine levels – an indicator for increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The acidity of coffee is associated with digestive discomfort, indigestion, heart burn, GERD and dysbiosis (imbalances in your gut flora).

Now, I’m not sure what to think!! I suppose it is just like anything else – everything in moderation. Too much of a good thing can be bad for you. It sounds like there are some very healthy benefits of drinking coffee, but there are some concerns also.

The decision must be up to the individual to decide.

Author: Kathryn Hartwell

References: authoritynutrition.com, livescience.com, drhyman.com




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