Despite being so ubiquitous, coffee is one largely misunderstood beverage. One moment, it is blamed for causing heart attacks and gout, and the next; it is hailed as a health food to improve, well, gout and heart health.
Fret not. The latest research has given us a clearer picture of the pros and cons of drinking coffee, and the data is highly encouraging. Today, we know that coffee not only tastes good, but comes with many health benefits as well!
Before we go on, here are some standard measures in the world of coffee to avoid confusion:
1 cup of coffee: 150ml (5 oz). Caffeine content: 100mg
1 shot of espresso: 30ml (1oz) Caffeine content: 120mg – 170mg
Health Benefits of Coffee
1. Coffee Reduces Coronary Heart Disease
Coffee has actually shown to be good for your heart, not bad as popularly believed. Its bad reputation comes from the temporary blood pressure and heart rate increasing effects of caffeine. However, several studies have shown that coffee intake actually decreases the risk of coronary heart disease, heart attacks and heart failure. Its cardio-protective effects are seen in people consuming 2-6 cup of coffee a day.
2. Coffee Lowers The Risk Of Cancer
Coffee beans contain antioxidant properties. Drinking coffee has been shown to lower the risk of several cancers, including cancers of the breast, endometrium (womb), melanoma/ basal cell carcinoma (skin), prostate, and head & neck cancers. This health benefit is only seen with heavy coffee drinking (4 cups and above)
3. Coffee Prevents Stroke
Several studies have shown that people who drink coffee have a reduced risk of stroke of up to 20%! The recommended “dosage” is one to three cups of coffee a day.
4. Coffee Protects Your Brain From Degeneration
Coffee may be good for your brain’s health, and your memory. Caffeine is the beneficial agent here: it is thought to slow the progression of Alzhiemer’s Disease, aid the memory in people with mild dementia, and even alter disease progression in Parkinson’s Disease. The caffeine equivalent of three to five cups of coffee per day is found to confer these neuro-protective effects.
5. Coffee Makes You Happy
You thought it was only the instant gratification from the aroma, but coffee does much more: Studies find that coffee drinking decreases the risk of depression, and protects people against this mental illness.
6. Coffee Keeps Diabetes Away
Coffee’s anti-inflammatory effects improve our body’s glucose metabolism, thus significantly reducing the risk of Diabetes. A study which followed 1300 men and women over 10 years even showed that coffee drinkers (2 cups or more) had a 50% lower risk of developing Diabetes!
7. Coffee Protects You From Gout
Gout is a painful inflammation of the joints. Genetics play a role in the disease – it can be passed down to our children. Coffee was shown to reduce the risk of gout in men in a study. The most significant effects were seen in people who drank 4 cups of coffee or more (40% lower risk), and even more in coffee addicts (60% lower risk if more than 6 cups consumed a day). The protection from gout is seen even with decaffeinated coffee, and unfortunately not seen with tea.
Unfortunately, other studies have linked excessive coffee drinking (more than 4 cups a day) with gout attacks in people with existing gout.
8. Coffee Has Anti-Bacterial Properties
Coffee has been shown to protect against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA). Coffee and tea drinkers to found to be half as likely to have the powerful bug in their nasal passages. Coffee has also been shown to be protective against other bacteria found in the gut, but it is not known if this is significant medically.
9. Coffee May Protect Your Teeth From Decay
While coffee is detrimental to your teeth’s aesthetics (it is notorious for staining teeth), it has been shown to be protective against dental caries. This is due to a combination of its anti-bacterial activity against Streptococcus Mutans, a common cause of dental caries, and its anti-adhesive properties which prevent the bacteria from sticking to the teeth, and multiplying to cause damage.
10. Coffee Protects your Liver
Coffee has been shown to be beneficial to the liver – it slows down liver cirrhosis (hardening) in alcoholics and Hepatitis C sufferers, and also reduces the risk of developing liver cancer.
11. Coffee Makes Your Poop Better
Good news for people with constipation: Coffee helps us move our bowels better! Many of us have experienced this: We need to head to the toilet after our morning coffee. The caffeine and other substances in the coffee beans promotes muscle contraction of the colon (known as peristalsis), thus promoting better bowel movements. Some may also experience looser stools as faster bowel movements mean that less water is absorbed from the stools as they transit through our colon.
12. Coffee Reduces Death From All Causes
If all the above reasons do not convince you to order a cuppa coffee right now, this one will: Coffee consumption has been shown to reduce death from all causes by 10% compared to non-drinkers, in a study which followed 400,000 participants over 13 years, even after adjustment for confounders (Coffee drinkers were also found to be more likely to smoke in the study). This amazing health effect was found in people who drank 2 or more cups of coffee a day.
The side effects of too much coffee and mostly due to the effects of caffeine and are well-recognized – increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia, etc. These are temporary, and vary from person to person, but in general, the more you drink, the more severe the effects. As with everything in life, moderation is the key. Most of coffee’s health effects became significant at 2 cups, peaking at 4-5 cups, so we can aim to stick to that amount of coffee daily.
If you suffer from insomnia, be sure to avoid coffee after noon, as caffeine can stay in our bodies for up to 12 hours. For the rest of us, time to head to the nearest kopitiam and order a cup of kopi xi siu dai (coffee with evaporated milk and less sugar).