One of the world’s favorite beverages might be somewhat addictive, but truthfully, coffee has the potential of positively contributing to your health. While there are surely reasons to avoid drinking too much, coffee can also help its consumers avoid various conditions, as coffee drinkers have been proven less likely to acquire certain cancers, strokes, heart problems, as well as Parkinson’s disease, dementia and type 2 diabetes. According to Frank HU, MD, MPH, PhD of the Harvard School of Public Health, “There is certainly much more good news than bad news, in terms of coffee and health.”
While coffee can’t prevent those conditions, studies have shown that those who drink it have a lower probability of becoming ill with them. Additionally, coffee is loaded with antioxidants, which help lower your risk of cancer, improve digestion, and increase immunity. The most benefits can be derived from a moderate consumption of coffee. Another benefit is that you won’t be rated up for health insurance by being a caffeine drinker.
However, there are a few risks to consider. Unfiltered coffee (for example, the crema-topped espresso to the right) has a very high cholesterol and fat content, and can be dangerous in large quantities for increasing your cholesterol levels.
Research also showed that drinking two or more cups of coffee every day can increase certain people’s risk of heart disease. What you put in your coffee also says much about the future of your health. Using heavy cream, hormone-charged milk products, or processed sweeteners can also be a detriment. Switch to organic milk and use a natural sweetener like raw honey to lower your risk of additional health problems. Caffeine is, of course, another important consideration. Four to seven cups of coffee each day can lead to insomnia, irritability, anxiety, and other problems, especially for those who are already prone to such problems. It can also raise blood pressure and the levels of epinephrine (adrenaline) in your blood.
Coffee and Your Health
Type 2 Diabetes
Back to the upside, Hu says that the evidence that coffee and non-inherited diabetes is very strong after 15 published studies. “The vast majority of those studies have shown a benefit of coffee on the prevention of diabetes. And now there is also evidence that decaffeinated coffee may have the same benefit as regular coffee,” said Hu, who reviewed nine of the studies. In summary, participants who claimed to drink six or seven cups per day were 35 percent less likely to have type 2 diabetes than those who drank less. Those who drank 4 to 6 cups daily were 28 percent less likely to have type 2 diabetes. There were over 193,00 people surveyed in the U.S. and Europe.
Is it just because these people have more energy and are therefore running around more often? Actually, it’s more than simply an energy boost. The antioxidants and minerals that coffee contain also play a significant role. Magnesium and chromium increase the body’s insulin capacity, so the hormone functions more normally in controlling blood sugar levels – which is the opposite characteristic of a type 2 diabetic. Caffeine is a less important factor, as Hu reports the same results with decaf coffee.
Alzheimer’s & Parkinson’s Diseases
A clear parallel between people who drink coffee and a lower risk of Parkinson’s has been made through several studies. The evidence points to caffeine as the reason, though with no precise explanation. Coffee drinkers also have a reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. A study conducted over the course of about 20 years showed that participants drinking 3-5 cups daily were 65 percent less susceptible to developing dementia and Alzheimer’s, compared to those who drank none or only occasionally.
Heart Disease & Stroke
As coffee reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke are less likely to occur in those who consume coffee regularly. Coffee has also been connected to lower risks of heart rhythm disturbances, which can cause stroke, in both men and women. It has also been tied to a reduced risk of stroke in women. A recent study featuring 130,000 coffee-drinking Kaiser Permanente policyholders who drank 1 to 3 cups each day showed these individuals were 20 percent less likely to be hospitalized for abnormal heart rhythms than those who didn’t drink coffee.
Caloric Intake and Urine Output
A basic cup of black, brewed coffee is very low in calories (7 in a 6 oz cup according to the USDA) until you add your sweeteners and milks. For the espresso gurus who favor the shots, you’re sitting at one calorie in a 2 oz cup. Lattes are about 80 percent milk, so expect around 163 calories in a 16 oz drink with whole milk, and 92 calories for a 16 oz skinny latte. And so on.
As coffee is a diuretic (causes us to urinate more than usual), you will find yourself frequenting the bathroom more with coffee in your diet. Decaffeinated coffee also holds the same urine-inducing properties as regular. For those with heartburn or acid reflux, coffee might be good to avoid, regardless of caffeine content, because of the acidity.
Drinking too much caffeine while pregnant is still potentially hazardous, though research is still being done. However, moderate caffeine consumption during pregnancy (a 12 oz cup of coffee or <200 mg daily) shows no evidence of harmful side effects. Miscarriage, premature delivery and fetal growth have not been altered by a mother drinking less than 200 mg per day.
While there is less support for coffee’s prevention against cancer, there has been consistent data showing the risk for liver cancer is reduced among coffee drinkers. Hu says, “All of the studies have shown that high coffee consumption is associated with decreased risk of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.” It is still unclear how coffee actually works to reduce such risks, leaving us only with a potential link between coffee and liver problems.
1. WebMD. Health Benefits of Coffee.
2. Mayo Clinic. Coffee and health: What does the research say?
3. Image: labourmobility.com