I have always been a coffee fanatic. The day does not officially start, until I take that first sip of pippin’ hot joe. Call it what you want – joe, java, jamoke, café, espresso – without it, I would be in a perpetual fog. An addiction? Definitely. Bad for the health? I say no. But more on that in a minute.
Living in Italy for the last year and half has justified my addiction. To not go to the bar and have a café in the morning, or after a meal, is sac religious in Italy. Cappuccino consumption is only acceptable before 11 am, never, ever after. Fourteen billion espresso coffees are consumed each year in Italy and to Italians, coffee is the essence of life, their water. But they are not the biggest consumers of coffee. Interestingly, the Nordic countries consume the most, with Italy being around the 10th highest consumption per capita. Did you know that coffee is the leading worldwide beverage after water?
So now onto the health impacts. Once a month, you see something in the news letting us know that coffee is bad for our health, and then the next month, it is the opposite. So what is the deal? Is it good or bad? What does the science really tell us on consuming this brew that originated in Ethiopia?
The good news:
The health-promoting properties of coffee are due to the chemicals within – including caffeine, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, and hydroxyhydroquinone. One recent review stated that many studies have shown that with increased coffee consumption, there is decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, some cancers, Parkinsons and Alzheimer’s disease. Several mechanisms for this:
- caffeine helps in proper cognitive functionality.
- coffee lipid fraction containing cafestol and kahweol act as a safeguard against some malignant cells
Other benefits include a reduced risk of gallstones, colon cancer, and liver disease such as cirrhosis. Coffee has also been shown to improve endurance performance with long bouts of exercise.
The bad news:
Those lipids found in coffee mentioned above can raise serum cholesterol, posing a possible threat to coronary health, for example, myocardial and cerebral infarction, insomnia, and cardiovascular complications. However, some studies have NOT found coffee consumption to be associated with significantly increased cardiovascular disease risk. These fats are more prominent when you just boil coffee, so it is recommended to have filtered coffee if you want to decrease the cardiovascular risks.
Also, as I know all too well, caffeine, coffee’s main ingredient, is a “mild” addictive stimulant. I actually don’t find it mild. Have you ever tried to ween yourself off coffee? It is beyond painful – headaches, muscle fatigue, a profound feeling of helplessness, and in my case, the temptation to want to kill myself. Caffeine affects the adenosine receptors that can make withdrawal very difficult…
Data has shown that for adults consuming moderate amounts of coffee (3-4 cups/d providing 300-400 mg/d of caffeine), there is little evidence of health risks and some evidence of health benefits.
So, drink up and drop in to have a cup of coffee, friend.