When we think about coffee we often think about a slightly bitter, fragrant, warm dark beverage. Most of us enjoy coffee first thing in the morning, as a way to either ease-into or kick-start our day. From there we find coffee at the focal point to meetings, a go-to for mid-day energy slumps and as a common aperitif. There are many controversial opinions about coffee and if it’s health benefits outweigh the risks, so let’s dive into the pros and cons.
There have been many studies focusing on the impact of coffee on our health. Studies have shown that one cup of coffee per day can reduce the risk of diabetes by 13%. The risk of prostate cancer reduces by 18% after six cups of coffee. Four cups a day can reduce the risk for liver cirrhosis by 84%, and one to four cups of coffee per day decreases the risk of Parkinson’s by 47%. The findings also show that adding more cups of coffee increases the success rates further!
The magic behind the benefits of coffee may lie in the fact that they are full of antioxidants. As we dry roast the beans and then heat them to high temperatures, we dilute and denature some of these antioxidants, which may be why more cups tends to lead to higher health benefits. However, there are some negative effects of coffee consumption as well.
Coffee is a potent stimulant that increases the release of stress hormones. While we might think this is due to the caffeine content, the same effect happens with use of decaffeinated coffee. Coffee consumption lessens our production of DHEA, a steroid hormone that impacts our cognitive function, enhances our memory and protects us against stressors. Coffee also causes a release in dopamine, an addictive pleasure hormone. Once our brain connects dopamine to a substance, it causes us to crave that substance more and more. Coffee also impacts our cholesterol, increases inflammation, alters DNA repair, interferes with sleep, lowers bone density and increases the risk of acid reflux.
When it comes to deciding how much is enough, and too much, there are some things to keep in mind. If we drink caffeinated beverages, we need to take into consideration how our bodies metabolize caffeine. Since coffee is a stimulant that can alter our hormones, if we want to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm it’s best to consume caffeine before 11am. If our purpose for drinking coffee is to increase energy, but we drink coffee so often that we no longer feel those stimulating effects, then we begin exposing ourselves to greater health risks. Finally, if we are consuming coffee for its health benefits alone, we may consider a green coffee extract as a more potent source of antioxidants.
Enjoying a warm (or cold) cup of coffee is certainly a part of our culture for a reason. If coffee was inherently bad, America wouldn’t “Run on Dunkin”. If we pay attention to our bodies and use coffee in moderation, we will likely reap more benefits than health risks. Being mindful of the power that addictive substances have, and consciously reducing and removing them if they have begun to take control over our mind will keep us able to make the right decisions in saying yes or no to that next cup of coffee.
- Noonan, S C, and G P Savage. “Oxalate Content of Foods and Its Effect on Humans.” Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Mar. 1999, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24393738.
- Douillard, John. “Coffee: The Good, The Bad, and The Ayurvedic Perspective | LifeSpa.” John Douillard’s LifeSpa, 15 Feb. 2018, lifespa.com/coffee-the-good-the-bad-and-the-ayurvedic-perspective/.