The good and bad of drinking coffee

Coffee culture has been growing rapidly for years as the popularity of coffee houses and cafés has risen in the media. The National Coffee Association found that over 54% of Americans over the age of eighteen drinks coffee every day, with a national average of 3.1 cups daily, much of which is consumed in the form of lattes, or espresso. This caffeine rich beverage has been used as a stimulant for centuries, and debates have been raging for years about the benefits with research coming out almost every year. Here we lay bare the good and bad of drinking coffee so you can decide for yourself.

coffee cup

The Good

  • A Reduced risk of Diabetes

In a 2005 review of nine studies it was found that people who consumed between 4-6 cups of coffee daily had a thirty percent reduction in their risk for Type 2 diabetes when compared with those who only drank two cups or less. However, researchers found that the benefits disappeared when their participants drank more than six cups daily.

More recent studies from Japan (2010) and Germany (2012) upheld prior research while emphasizing that drinking coffee does not prevent Type 2 diabetes, but the effect of certain chemicals that positively affect your metabolism.

  • Cognition Improvements

In a longitudinal study published in the Journal for Alzheimer’s disease in 2010, it was found that coffee reduces the chances of dementia and Alzheimer’s by up to 65% when it is consumed regularly between the ages of 25-50. There are theories that this is due to high levels of antioxidants and the ability of coffee to increase insulin sensitivity, but that continues to be under research. In addition, a Swedish study (2014) found that there are protective effects that occur with increased caffeine intake, helping to reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease.

There is also research that shows that participants that drink caffeinated coffee at the start of their day perform better on tests involving new information when compared to non-drinkers.

  • Lower Risk of Certain Cancers

Various studies have shown the benefits of drinking between three to five cups of coffee a day, reducing the risk of:

o Kidney cancer by 16%

o Liver cancers up to 41%

o Prostate cancer by 30%

o Colon Cancer in women by 23%

o Oral Cancer by 39%

o Brain Cancers by 40%

Coffee does this through its wide variety of phytochemicals, many of which provide your body with antioxidants that fight off free radicals that cause cancer.

  • Increased Energy Levels

Coffee has a high level of caffeine, a known stimulant that increases energy and is the most frequently consumed psychoactive substance around the globe. When you drink coffee, caffeine is absorbed into your bloodstream and eventually blocks an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain called Adenosine.

Adenosine facilitates sleep while dilating blood vessels to ensure oxygen levels while you slumber, so when it is blocked neural activity speeds up. This action stimulates other steps that eventually cause a higher release of adrenaline, which gives your entire system a boost of energy.

The Bad

  • Higher Risk of Osteoporosis

The National Osteoporosis Foundation has offered research that shows that consumption of phosphoric acid and caffeine in coffee can harm your bone health.

While phosphorous is an important natural element that is a major part of bone development and strength, it has been found that consuming too much phosphorus can reduce the amount of calcium that is absorbed by your bones.

Caffeine also interferes with calcium absorption and can cause bone loss, leading to easily broken bones. It is suggested that those who drink coffee or caffeinated beverages daily take a calcium supplement to meet your body’s needs.

  • Ulcers and IBS

The caffeine and acids that are found in coffee beans can easily irritate both your stomach and your small intestines. Coffee has been noted as a risk factor for those with IBS, leading to cramps and abdominal issues combined with constipation and diarrhea. Additionally, while coffee itself does not cause ulcers, the acidity in it may contribute to weakened stomach lining which allows the bacteria responsible to take hold.

  • Weight Gain

While coffee alone is low in calories, the resultant caffeine high frequently leads to cravings. Coffee culture has been instrumental in encouraging people to drink our coffee with desserts or breads, all of which have a high level of sugar.

Pair this with the sugar added to regular coffee (Zagat’s annual study shows that 14% of people use Splenda, 7% use white sugar, 4% use Stevia, and 3% use simple syrups) as well as the astronomical amount of sugar in lattes, cappuccinos, and espressos, and the number continues to skyrocket.

While these numbers are not the only thing that contributes to weight gain, if you are purchasing one or two 16 oz. vanilla lattes a day you are consuming between 400-600 calories, with 50-70 grams of sugar. That adds up.

  • Chronic Dehydration

Coffee is a diuretic, meaning it increases the amount of water and salt your body releases through urine. This can lead to issues with dehydration and if used over long periods of time without proper water consumption, it can lead to chronic dehydration symptoms.

These symptoms include headaches, depression, heartburn, weight problems, and accelerated aging. These are side effects that can be easily sidestepped by consuming at least eight glasses of water a day.

  • Addiction

The caffeine in coffee is addictive and creates a physical dependency. It increases the production of dopamine in your brains pleasure center, which increases your need for this stimulant. Withdrawal symptoms from caffeine include headaches, nausea, irritability, and insomnia. While these symptoms will commonly only effect half of those who stop drinking coffee, it is an irritating side effect.

In Conclusion

There is always research that is being conducted about the health benefits and issues associated with coffee consumption. Officials’ stances are prone to changing every year as studies are completed, so staying up to date requires vigilance. If you have any concerns about the issues that coffee could possibly have on your health, consult with your doctor first.

Overall, regular coffee consumption has been touted as having more health benefits than ill effects and is usually only prohibited for certain medical conditions.

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