Done with chocolate, let us get to the most widespread drug of the XXI century, coffee that is drunk by 54% Americans every day. Coffee, thanks to many studies, likely sponsored by coffee producers, has been gaining popularity among people struggling to be healthy. And deservedly so.
Good news for coffee lovers
Researches are showing that coffee, if consumed without sugar, reduces the risk of developing diabetes and helps loss weight. Keeping in mind that obesity is one of the most important risk factor for diabetes, we can see how these two factors perfectly work together in a cup of coffee.
Despite a cup of coffee can immediately raise your blood pressure that lasts up to three hours, the research failed to find any association between longer-term coffee consumption and increased blood pressure. Neither did it find a link or between habitual coffee consumption and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The similar conclusion was made about the stroke. Investigators from Harvard Medical School found a twofold increased stroke risk in the hour after drinking a cup of coffee. The increased risk returned to baseline within a two-hour window. Another study found very beneficial long-term effect on decreasing the risk of stroke, at least among female non-smoker. To explore possible links between coffee drinking and stroke risk among women, the Harvard researches analyzed data on more than 83,000 women, who averaged about 55 years old and had participated in the Nurses’ Health Study (one of the largest and longest running investigations of women’s health in the history) between 1980 and 2004. At the start of the study, none of the women had a history of stroke, heart disease, diabetes or cancer. After considering factors such as cigarette and alcohol consumption, it was found that healthy women who consumed 2 – 3 cups of caffeinated coffee a day had 19% lower risk for stroke than did women who drank less than one cup a month. Drinking more coffee cut chances of stroke even more. But coffee somehow picks non-smokers to making them less prone to stroke: women who never smoked and drank four or more cups a day were conferred a whopping 43% reduced risk of stroke. However, among women with similar coffee habits who also smoked, stroke risk fell by just 3%.
Unlike tea, coffee decreases chances of the colorectal cancer. Interestingly, decaffeinated coffee works as effective as the usual coffee did. Since tea, that contains caffeine, does not help preventing cancer, we can speculate that some other elements of coffee rather than caffeine work against colorectal cancer. A good reminder to those abusing energy drinks.Coffee is very useful to heart.it’s called Coffee heart.
Another Harvard study of 67,470 women concluded that four or more cups of coffee, caffeinated or not, per day are associated with a lower risk of endometrial cancer (the most frequent cancer occurring in the female genital tract in the US and Western Europe with a survival rate similar to that of the colorectal cancer). As you can probably tell, tea did not work for this cancer either.
Coffee drinkers had less chances to get liver cancer. However, as scientists honestly put it, “because of the small number of studies, further prospective studies are needed.”
High daily intake of coffee by postmenopausal women significantly decreased chances of ER-negative breast cancer. Despite ER-negative cancers constitute only about 25% of all breast cancers, they are more dangerous: breast cancer tumors that are ER-positive are 5 to 10 times more likely respond to endocrine therapy than tumors that are ER-negative.
Except for above-mentioned cancers, researchers have not found that coffee anyhow affect risks of other types of cancer.
The American College of Cardiology cites other health effects of coffee, including:
– reducing the risk of depression (a known risk factor for heart disease) associated with the caffeine content only (in a longitudinal study of 50,739 women ingesting 4 or more cups of coffee daily significantly decreased the chances of depression, but women drinking decaffeinated coffee did not show a reduced risk);
– reduced risks of Alzheimer’s dementia and other diseases of the central nervous system including Parkinson’s disease;
– improving asthma symptoms, probably through caffeine;
– preventing symptomatic gallstones;
– protection against some infectious and malignant diseases, particularly of the liver.
Sure, the coffee has its own issues. Palpitations, anxiety, tremulousness, and trouble sleeping are well-known symptoms of coffee overdose. Less known is that high levels of caffeine (more than 750 mg/day which is equivalent to five Starbucks Grande Lattes) may increase urine output and urinary calcium and magnesium excretion, which has implications for bone health resulting in the risk of bone loss and fractures. That is why it is a good idea to add some milk, since the amount of calcium lost from consuming one cup of coffee can be offset by mixing in just 2 tablespoons of milk.
Another bad news for coffee lovers is raise in cholesterol. Cafestol and kahweol found in coffee raise the levels of both total and LDL (also know as bad) cholesterol. However, these components only pass into the brew in unfiltered coffee, but are retained in the filter paper in filtered coffee. Scandinavian boiled coffee, Greek and Turkish coffee are all associated with the cholesterol-raising effect of coffee. Instant coffee contains hardly any of these compounds and has virtually no effect on serum cholesterol. Espresso contains approximately half the amount of unfiltered coffee. The good thing is that coffee’s effects on cholesterol levels are transient and are reduced after the cessation of consumption.
Somewhat cautionary look results of research related to homocysteine, another hormone elevated level of which is a strong predictor of cardiovascular problems. One one hand, coffee, even filtered and even decaffeinated, increase the level of this hormone. On the other hand, the homocysteine increase, that may be considered problematic, results from significant daily consumption, equivalent to five cups of Grande Latte or two cups of Bold Pick of the Day from Starbucks. Moreover, the scientists have yet to find if there is any causal connection between homocysteine and cardiovascular disease. There is a good chance that homocysteine is just another symptom of the problems having unrelated causes, but in case your blood work shows excessive level of this hormone, you may want to limit your daily coffee intake by 1 – 2 cups.
There may be a reason why studies showed coffee consumption decreases the risk of the heart disease while it theoretically raises the cholesterol level: those studies may have primarily captured consumers of filtered and instant coffee that has no effect on cholesterol.
It appears safe and beneficial, let alone enjoyable, to drink some 2 to 4 cups of regular coffee a day. Drinking more may take a toll, and not only on bones, but on your blood vessels, exactly because of its short-term blood pressure impact: too many short-term spikes at some point may mean that your blood pressure is too often too high .
And good coffee is one with a little bit of milk (Mini Moo’s single-serving units would work too) with no sugar and either filtered or instant. When you use filters, please make sure you buy unbleached ones like Melitta’s. Bleached filters may contain dioxin accused by some to have carcinogenic properties.
Say good bye to daily Lattes and Cappuccinos! Do not systematically drink Scandinavian boiled, Turkish and Greek coffee either. Unless you can enjoy instant coffee without sugar (and sweeteners have their own issues as well), the best options seem Americano or brewed coffee (no sugar and a little bit of milk, please). The latter is sold at the very same coffee shops usually tow – four times cheaper than sweet espresso-based products, but please check their caffeine content: for instance, American Starbucks’ Grande cup (16 oz, or about half-liter) of brewed coffee has 330 mg of caffeine in it.
At home and in the office, I personally prefer Keurig K-Cup system which is convenient and healthy (it makes filtered coffee). A word of caution for Keurig fans: if you use their reusable filter rather their pre-filled K-Cups, you are paying less for a cup, but are facing cholesterol-related drawbacks of unfiltered coffee. Unfortunately, I have failed to find unbleached disposable paper filters for Keurig machines, and prefer not to try the impact of dioxin on my family, I stick to a mix of K-Cups and reusable mesh filter.
Enjoy you coffee to your heart!