Coffee. The word is enough to invoke memories of sleepless nights and power-packed mornings. For a lot of people, coffee is an indispensable part of their daily routine. From filter coffee that reminds you of your home to a good cappuccino in a fancy cafe, this drink is one among the most consumed beverages and is always under scrutiny for its health impact.
Some say that it’s bad for your heart and your bones, while others say that it is good for asthma and even Alzheimer’s. But who do you believe?
Taking into consideration the available data and research papers, this article analyzes the various sides of coffee, it’s chronic ailment related pros and cons, and actionable advice from industry experts on how best to have your coffee, and enjoy it too.
Maybe It’s Time To Say Hi To Some Tea
While most studies do condone drinking moderate amounts of caffeine, consider the potential diseases as being caused by habitual overconsumption, the topic still deserves further analysis.
The publicly accepted notion is that caffeine is not good for the body, especially increasing the risk for cardiovascular diseases and stroke. An article published in the AHA journals shows how consuming coffee increases both the systolic and diastolic pressure in the body, and the amount of LDL cholesterol, which could lead to complications for those with pre-existing hypertension or even increase the risk for it. But these trials were done on a random sample of people, and not specifically focused on hypertensive patients.
In another research paper, connections were found between drinking coffee and increased risk for acute ischemic stroke. In this paper, it was shown that there were increased chances of experiencing a stroke after drinking. But this is restricted to patients who are not regular consumers of it. There are also findings in a study published in JSTOR that indicate that coffee intake could potentially trigger myocardial infarction, especially in people with a sedentary lifestyle or living with more risk factors for coronary heart disease.
The only recently published study that talks about the harmful effects of coffee were published in the Science Daily. It suggested that moderate coffee drinking is generally safe, but habitual drinking increases the risk for conditions such as osteoarthritis, arthropathy and obesity. This is especially true in cases of patients who have a family history for these conditions.
It should also be taken into consideration that a lot of the time, those who drink higher than recommended amounts of coffee, are also leading an otherwise poor lifestyle. High coffee consumption is often coupled with excessive smoking, eating poorly and very low activity levels. The actual impact of coffee on health can only be properly understood when these factors are also taken into account.
All these findings and the associated discussions have created a narrative of coffee being more harmful than beneficial. But there are emerging studies that question these data points and the prevailing coffee consumption recommendation.
But What If Coffee And Its Impact Is Just Misunderstood?
I’ve been drinking coffee for the last 9 years and with the amount of advice I’ve received on this topic, I expected the research to be much more incriminating. But according to an article published in the ECJN, caffeine has shown to reduce the effects of chronic diseases, especially in cases of diabetes. This paper, however, concludes that the protective effects of coffee are not solely the effects of caffeine, but rather due to the other chemicals present in coffee such as magnesium, lignans, and chlorogenic acids.
But while these positive effects are observed on animals and under lab conditions, there is yet to be completely compelling evidence for its positive impact inside the human body.
There is also data that proves that coffee is often the biggest source of antioxidants in a typical western diet, reiterating its nutritional impact. It is also a known stimulant capable of boosting brain function, improving mood, and general cognitive abilities in the short term.
There are also studies that suggest that coffee could potentially reduce the risk for certain types of cancer, as well as type 2 diabetes. In fact, in 2016, the WHO removed coffee from the list of potential cancer-causing items and instead said that it is potentially protective against liver and uterine cancer. This was also backed up by the World Cancer Research Fund which further claimed that coffee consumption is linked to lower risk of several types of cancer.
As With Most Good Things In Life, Moderation Is Key
With the conflicting information that is available, there is a debate about how coffee could potentially reduce the risk of a condition, and increase the risk of another. A lot of the above research is observational in nature and only connects the statistics, but don’t prove the cause and effect of the benefits or the harm from drinking coffee.
At this juncture, it is important to take your current health and lifestyle into account to understand whether you should drink coffee and just how much. Since a large number of the above-mentioned studies were performed in European and American countries, factors such as ethnicity are not taken into account and could potentially pose problems to those who don’t have characteristics similar to the sample sizes. The unhealthy lifestyle traits of high coffee consumers such as smoking could also be the reason behind the negative impact of coffee.
If you are a coffee lover looking to understand where exactly to draw the line when it comes to the number of cups per day, the answer is to limit it to 2-3 cups per day. Since coffee can negatively impact your sleep patterns, experts recommend restricting it to the daytime. If you’re looking to maximize the health benefits of it, try not to add excess amounts of sugar or other additives like cream or flavouring syrup.
Filtering the coffee through a paper filter can also make it healthier, as this process removes cafestol which can increase cholesterol levels.
Just remember that the benefits amount to drinking good quality, filtered coffee with minimal additives. Relying on coffee drinks with copious amounts of sugar and/or whipped cream from cafes are bound to be harmful in the long run.
If you’re not someone who habitually drinks coffee, the benefits are not substantial enough to start the habit. But if you already enjoy coffee, keeping the above-mentioned points in mind can help maximize its health benefits.
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