The Coffee Phenomenon
It all started with my mother. She drank at least 8 cups of coffee a day. I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t laughing, cooking, or kibitzing with her friends without a cute little coffee cup in her hand. Although, I must admit, the first time I tasted the black brew I spit it out. Yuk, what was the attraction? Then college came along with all its minutiae of survival techniques; one of the them being coffee, which helped me through all those long nights of study.
From college on, coffee became my life therapist; a calming force when nervous, a warmth when cold, a little sip of ok when sad or a High 5 when happy, a clarity in crisis, a light on a long night, a friend in failure. I never once thought of coffee as an addiction or harmful to me. In fact I’m sure it was the very reason I never gave up without a fight. Nothing seemed insurmountable as long as I could have my coffee while planning a course of action.
Due to old wife’s tales on the dangers of coffee, and the prodigious introduction of Starbucks, intensifying my obsession (I’ve owned a gold card for years), family and friends started badgering me to stop with the coffee or it would surely kill or at the very least bankrupt me. I decided then and there to vindicate myself and my therapist by researching the pros and cons of coffee consumption.
It Loves Me
According to the following excerpts from an article in the Rooster News on the 10 Benefits of (Haitian) Coffee; this tenacious brew is likened to a superfood, a godsend:
1. Coffee is the King of Antioxidants: The customary foods thought to be antioxidant rich are mostly fruits and vegetables, but coffee provides as many antioxidants and the body seems to absorb them better.
2. Coffee makes you happier: A study done by the National Institute of Health found that those who drank four or more cups of coffee a day were 10% less likely to become depressed. (Although coke contains caffeine, it is more likely to cause depression which could be linked to the heavy amount of sugar it contains.)
3. Coffee’s consumption lowers suicide rates: Harvard’s School of Public Health did a study in which it found that consuming two to four cups of coffee a day can reduce the risk of suicide by a whopping 50%. Coffee acts like a mild antidepressant by aiding in the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline.
4. Coffee is beneficial to you liver. A study in 2006 showed that those who drink at least one cup of coffee a day were 20% less likely to develop cirrhosis of the liver.
5. Coffee makes you a better athlete: A cup of coffee before a workout gives an athlete that needed burst of energy especially with endurance sports such as distance running and cycling. Coffee increases the number of fatty acids in the bloodstream thus allowing muscles to absorb and burn fats for fuel, saving a small amount for use later on.
6. Coffee is good for your skin. You can find ingenious ways to include it in your face cream or directly to your skin and scalp. In a Cancer Research study analyzing the workings of caffeine in coffee, found that coffee users had a substantially lower risk of developing basal cell carcinoma. They also found that the caffeine in coffee improves facial wrinkles and can be added to shampoo for hair follicle stimulation.
7. Coffee reduces the chances of contracting Parkinson’s disease and other cancers. Science Daily reported that daily coffee consumption can help reduce the probability of developing Parkinson’s disease as well as those who already have it. The American Cancer Society’s studies show that coffee helps defend against mouth and throat cancer, and lower the risk of prostate, endometrial and colon cancer as well.
8. Coffee can help your brain stay healthy. Dr Chuanhai Cao, a neurosurgeon at the University of Southern Florida, states that “moderate use of coffee consumption can greatly reduce your risks of Alzheimer’s or delay its onset.” A study which he co-authored, found that people older that 65 who had higher blood levels of caffeine develop Alzheimer’s 2- 4 years later than non-coffee drinkers.
9. Coffee aroma can help you sleep. Just smell it. Some coffee oil behind the ears, perhaps?
10. Coffee helps keep your weight down. It speeds metabolism and fat burning factors, and only 7 calories a cup. People who consume four or more cups daily can greatly reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 50% and a whopping 99% by drinking 7 cups daily. Warning: Black coffee only!
It Loves Me Not
Since I wanted to be “fair and balanced” in this post, the down side to coffee consumption should be addressed.
The #1 concern with drinking coffee was its adverse effects on the heart. Caffeine was the culprit blamed by most Cardiologists. They feared it would embolden cardiovascular disease as well as heart attacks, strokes and other cardiac maladies. Recent studies, however, have put these notions to rest and conclude that there is no significant correlation between coffee and the long-term risk of heart disease.
According Dr. Stephan Sinatra of the Heart MD Institute, recent studies have shown that coffee may actually be good for the heart taken in moderation. He points to the high concentration of polyphenols– antioxidant nutrients that help offset inflammatory mediators in the blood, may protect against all diseases not just with the heart. Coffee may even help you live longer. However, Dr Sinatra does give warnings on its use with certain conditions:
- Coffee is a diuretic. With each trip to the bathroom comes a loss of water containing soluble nutrients such as magnesium, potassium and B vitamins. Although not a significant problem with healthy hearts, magnesium deficiency becomes a problem for those with heart disease. Make sure you drink adequate amounts of water to compensate this.
- Coffee is a stimulant. Consumption of more than 2-3 cups a day can lead to sleepless nights. Dr Sinatra suggests cutting off after noon since coffee lingers in the body and can cause insomnia. He reinforces our need for sleep to keep us healthy. Sleep deprivation causes the body to secrete stress hormones such as cortisol which stimulates inflammation in the body. 7 hours sleep a night can lower your risk for heart disease. Bottom line, if coffee is interfering with your sleep, don’t drink it.
- Coffee may increase cholesterol. Studies have found that the LDL levels of cholesterol were higher when drinking unfiltered coffee. If you have a problem with high levels of LDL make sure your coffee is filtered.
- Coffee warning advisory. Dr. Sinatra advises caution to those with poor heart variability (arrhythmia, irregular heart-beat) or prior heart attack in drinking coffee. It may be better to just abstain from its use.
According to the Warrior Coffee article entitled 12 Health Benefits and 6 Disadvantages of Coffee (Smashing it), the following red flags should be considered when drinking coffee:
- Coffee while pregnant not advised. While pregnant it is suggested that you limit the intake of coffee to one cup a day although abstaining from coffee would be best. Studies have found that caffeine will reach the fetus and your baby will become highly sensitive to caffeine.
- Coffee prepared with bad beans can be toxic. It is preferred that you purchase high quality coffee. Coffee laced with bad beans can cause sickness and headaches. The culprits are beans that are ruined. Just one bad bean can make your coffee toxic. Choose wisely.
- Coffee should be avoided in children. Because coffee is a form of diuretic, given to a child may increase his or her chances of bed wetting. When I was young I remember being told that if I drank coffee it would stunt my growth. Good thing I never took it up until college because I’m only 5″3.
- Coffee can elevate the LDL levels of cholesterol. Coffee beans contain cafestol and kahweol , fat soluble compounds known as diterpenes, and are in unfiltered espresso, turkish coffee, french press and cooked coffee and can increase the levels of LDL cholesterol. It is suggested that those who cannot control their LDL levels should drink filtered coffee or no coffee at all. However studies have also found that these same two ingredients may be beneficial in fighting cancer and promoting a healthy liver.
If you look into the benefits and disadvantages of coffee, you’ll find hundreds of studies and articles that conclude or disapprove one another. I chose the above articles because they’re informative and come with a different slant on similar conclusions. Recently more studies are acknowledging that coffee appears to be the superfood of today but with the caveat of moderation for a good night’s sleep; caution with use in certain heart conditions and abstinence during pregnancy. Summarily, if you are confused or uncertain as to which miraculous foods are actually what they claim; take the time to investigate both sides of the story. Your health may depend on it.
It was actually good for you.
The answer to happines
as blissful as a kiss.
The bain of my existence;
its comfort to me,
my pal coffee.
5. google images: two coffee cups: happy/sad
6. YouTube Video: TheHealthNurds.com: Black Coffe Benefits: 9 Proven Health Benefits of Drinking Coffee