Coffee has been a favorite morning companion for many adults throughout the years. This beverage is believed to be the motivating power people need whenever they feel they need to wake up and stay alert. However, despite the fact that coffee is an appealing trend and everyday habit for many millions across the globe, how health is it to drink coffee? Opinions definitely vary. Coffee has been both denounced as health destroying and medicinal over time. Coffee break was the outcome of an ad back in 1952 that was quickly promoted to a “daily ritual in workplaces, homes and churches” (American Institute of Cancer Research, 2013), in the US. However, many people believe coffee harms their health. Solid evidence and recent research has shown that coffee can indeed contribute to a healthier life and the reasons are about to be thoroughly analyzed.
- Is coffee responsible for increased mortality rates?
Many people have thought of drinking coffee “as an unhealthy habit, along the lines of smoking and excessive drinking, and they may make a lot of effort to reduce their coffee consumption or quit drinking it altogether, even if they really enjoy it” (Dam, n.d). Others have connected drinking coffee with mortality and high rates in cardiovascular disease and cancer (Sugiyama et.al, 2010). But, the devastating majority of research showcases the beneficial, rather than detrimental effects of coffee on human health. In detail, the latest study conducted by Harvard School of Public Health, looked very deeply into the relationship between coffee consumption and overall mortality (Dam, n.d). They relied their study on the Nurse’s Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (Dam, n.d). The Nurse’s Health Study, is, perhaps, the longest running investigation in regards women’s health, that started in 1976 and gathered information from about 240,000, which gave valuable information about diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, among others, up to year 1989 (Harvard.edu/nhs). The Health Professionals Follow-Up Study started in 1986 and focused on men’s health, in accordance to serious disease, such as cancer and cardiovascular, among others (Harvard.edu/hpfs). One study complements the other and results are solid. Following the lives of approximately 130,000 participants during their 40s and 50s without any health problem, for 18-24 years, and their dietary habits, including drinking coffee, no relationship between coffee consumption and increased mortality rates due to heart disease or cancer has been found (Dam, n.d). For people that perceived coffee consumption as unhealthy, the aforementioned study suggests that they should concentrate more in increasing their physical activity levels and f course quit smoking, in cases they do smoke (Dam, n.d).
- How much coffee is considered acceptable?
On the other hand, everybody knows that crossing the limits can drive people into dangerous situations. For example, if one drinks a glass of red wine with their lunch, it is believed to improve cardiovascular health (Yale-New Haven Hospital, n.d). But, excessive consumption of wine increases serum triglycerides and cause damage to nerve cells, the pancreas and the liver (Yale-New Haven Hospital, n.d). Equally, drinking too much coffee may cause sleeping disorders and tremors, as well as other unpleasant feelings and symptoms (Dam,n.d). For that reason, moderation is strongly suggested; hence, no more than six cups should be consumed on a daily basis (Dam, n.d) to avoid undesirable effects of coffee overconsumption. Also, the study described before, just like most studies that have to do with coffee, a cup of coffee is considered a cup with 100mg of caffeine, which is much less than a cup of coffee one can get in a coffee shop, like Starbucks, where a cup of grante coffee is about 300 mg of caffeine (Dam, n.d). Moreover, when coffee is mentioned, it means black, low-calorie coffee is more taken into consideration, and not the high-calorie beverages that have gaining ground lately, like Frapachino and others (Dam, n.d).
- Beneficial Effects of Coffee
- Coffee and its Correlation with High Cancer Risk
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research (2013), what one gets from drinking coffee depends on many things, including how coffee beans are grown and the preparation process of coffee. Vitamin C and a profound amount of antioxidants are some of the valuable compounds found in coffee (American Institute for Cancer Research, 2013). Among the over 1,000 studies that have been initiated and conducted in order to determine whether coffee is related to cancer, only a few implied that there might be an increase in cancer risk, endometrial cancer to be exact, when drinking coffee; the large majority of studies suggest that coffee can act protectively in regards pancreatic and kidney cancer (American Institute for Cancer Research, 2013).
In laboratory research, coffee beans are found to have compounds, like lignans and phytochemicals that help keep cell growth under control and decrease the development of cancer cells (American Institute for Cancer Research, 2013). Researchers are focusing on the beneficial effects of the caffeine in coffee, which is believed to reduce the development of colorectal cancer and “speed carcinogens’ passage through the digestive tract” (American Institute for Cancer Research, 2013), which in turns reduces the time the human body is exposed to the negative effects of the already mentioned substances. Carcinogens are activated via a specific type of proteins produced in the human body; it is found that kahweol and cafestol, found in coffee, show an ability to stimulate specific enzymes that block those proteins, hence an individual is prevented from developing cancer (American Institute for Cancer Research, 2013).
What is interesting is the fact that the results been presented before, are the same regardless of whether an individual consumes regular or decaf coffee (American Institute for Cancer Research, 2013). Again, the six-cup limit per day is suggested.
- The effects of Coffee in Diabetes
An article posted in USA Today News, by journalist Serena Gordon (2012), mentions that coffee is linked to reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. According to the article, Chinese researchers have reached the conclusion that due to three coffee compounds, namely caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid and caffeine, restrain the detrimental effects of what is called “human islet amyloid polypeptide”, a pancreatic substance, which is believed to be responsible for developing type 2 diabetes (Gordon, 2012). If one takes into consideration that decaf coffee has much higher levels of the three aforementioned compounds found in coffee, it becomes obvious that the beneficial effects of drinking coffee every day may be even greater (Gordon, 2012).
- The effects of Coffee in weight control
James Greenberg, Carol Boozer, and Allan Geliebter (2006), from the Department of Health and Nutrition Sciences, Brooklyn College, City University of New York, the Department of Medicine, Columbia University and New York Obesity Research Center, St Luke's–Roosevelt Hospital Center, New York respectively, mention in an article posted in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that caffeine found in coffee can indeed help reduce weight. Animal studies suggest that long-term coffee consumption can in fact reduce human body weight (Greenberg, Boozer and Geliebter, 2006). However, it is shown that the positive effects of coffee consumption and caffeine do not apply to all humans and further research is needed. It is evidenced that non-obese individuals that consume coffee have greater weight loss, alongside thermogenesis, lypolisis and insulin secretion, when compared to obese ones (Greenberg, Boozer and Geliebter, 2006). The same applies to grounded decaffeinated coffee, whose compounds also have a positive effect in weight loss (Greenberg, Boozer and Geliebter, 2006).
- Coffee and Parkinson’s disease: are they Connected?
Recent studies and research claim that coffee consumption is linked to lowered risk of Parkinson’s disease. Nevertheless, over time, people with Parkinson’s disease that had a high consumption of coffee eventually developed Parkinson’s (Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, 2011). Everybody was wondering why. The answer came from new researches that highlighted the significance of a gene, called GRIN2A (Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, 2011). Coffee’s protective effect is affected by this gene; however, Haydeh Payami, PhD, at the New York State Department of Health Wadsworth Center, has conducted research that results in the following: Heavy coffee drinkers did not only have a 27 percent lower risk to develop Parkinson’s, but also those that carried a variant of GRIN2A were actually dropping their risk to develop the disease by 59 percent (Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, 2011).
- Which coffee is best to drink?
Cafestol is another compound of coffee that is found in the oily fraction of coffee and it considered responsible for increasing the cholesterol levels in a human body (Dam, n.d). So, people that have high blood cholesterol levels are advised to prefer consuming coffee that is brewed with a paper filter, since cafestol is left behind due to that filter (Dam, n.d). For the same reason, boiled coffee has increased cafestoll concentration should be avoided; instant coffee is preferred (Dam, n.d).
Coffee consumption is apart from a favorite habit of many people, a trusted ally in preventing numerous disease. Although many people and past research had connected coffee consumption with increased mortality rates, the latest research has shown that the three most important compounds found in coffee: caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid and caffeine, are closely linked with cancer prevention and type 2 diabetes. Recent research and studies have also shown that people who consume up to six cups of coffee per day have also reduced risk for developing Parkinson’s disease, especially if they also have a particular gene called GRIN2A. Moreover, coffee consumption is believed to have positive effects to weight control, despite the fact that non-obese people have the most obvious effects. However, like anything else in life, the beneficial effects of coffee can turned into a boomerang if people over-consume coffee. For that reason, moderate consumption of six cups of low-fat and low-calorie coffee per day is preferred; and in cases when people have increased blood cholesterol levels, it is best to opt for brewed with a paper filter, rather than boiled. Finally, drinking too much coffee cold result in feeling over stressed, with tremors and sleeping disorders.
American Institute for Cancer Research (2013), ICR's Foods That Fight Cancer: Coffee. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2013 from: http://www.aicr.org/foods-that-fight-cancer/coffee.html#research
Dam, Rob (n.d), Ask the Expert: Coffee and Health. Harvard School of Public Health. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2013 from: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/coffee/
Gordon, Serena (2012), Can coffee really thwart type 2 diabetes? USA Today News. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2013 from: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/healthcare/health/healthcare/studies/story/2012-01-20/Can-coffee-really-thwart-type-2-diabetes/52692814/1
Greenberg, James, Boozer, Carol and Geliebter, Allan (2006), Coffee, diabetes, and weight control. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. vol. 84 no. 4 682-693. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2013 from: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/84/4/682.full .
Harvard University (n.d), The Nurse’s Health Study. Retrieved Nov. 25, 2013 from: http://www.channing.harvard.edu/nhs/
Harvard School of Public Health (2011), Health Professionals Follow-Up Study. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2013 from: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hpfs/
Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (2011), Science News: Protective Effect of Coffee in Parkinson’s has a Genetic Basis. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2013 from: http://www.pdf.org/en/science_news/release/pr_1323353225
Sugiyama K, Kuriyama S, Akhter M, Kakizaki M, Nakaya N, Ohmori-Matsuda K, Shimazu T, Nagai M, Sugawara Y, Hozawa A, Fukao A, Tsuji I (2010), Coffee consumption and mortality due to all causes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer in Japanese women. Journal of Nutrition. 140(5):1007-13. doi: 10.3945/jn.109.109314. Epub 2010 Mar 24.
Yale-New Haven Hospital (n.d), A glass of red wine a day keeps the doctor away. Retrieved Nov. 15, 2013 from: http://www.ynhh.org/about-us/red_wine.aspx.