Coffee lovers everywhere are rejoicing in new research which suggests the health benefits of our morning brew are more significant than previously thought - let's face it these days we are more used to being told the things we love are bad for us – however that does not mean we can drown ourselves in the stuff, over-indulgence is still a no-no.
For years we've been told that coffee will raise blood pressure, could lead to heart disease, ulcers and diabetes and some of this may be true. It will certainly raise your blood pressure so if yours is high coffee may be best avoided, however, when it comes to heart disease and diabetes the risk factors may not involve coffee after all. See this quote in a recent article published on Dr Mercola's website.
One of the latest studies, published in April 2012 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, confirms earlier studies that coffee may actually reduce your risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
It seems “earlier studies didn't always take into account that known high-risk behaviours, such as smoking and physical inactivity, tended to be more common among heavy coffee drinkers at that time.” Livescience.com
This seems to be good news given that coffee is consumed in massive quantities worldwide although the therapeutic benefits appear to be outweighed and interfered with if you take your coffee with milk or sugar. So, what does coffee have in it that one should be aware of?
Caffeine is the most widely known and used drug in the world. It gives you a feeling of increased energy but can interfere with sleep patterns even many hours after consumption. It works by “blocking the normal action of Adenosine. Adenosine slows down your brain's activity and induces sleepiness.” Dr Mercola. Coffee contains more than just caffeine however and the presence of natural compounds in the whole coffee bean work together to mitigate the negative effects of caffeine.
Not all coffee is the same and different beans have different qualities. Methods of preparation also make a difference. If you have high cholesterol it seems filtered coffee is the best as the paper filter removes substances that raise cholesterol levels. If you have a cholesterol problem you should probably also avoid Decaffeinated coffee. Decaf coffee is made from a different bean that has higher levels of fats and has been linked with increased blood cholesterol, according to an article on livescience.com
Decaffeinated coffee does appear to increase the levels of fatty acid compounds in the blood giving you instant energy ready to burn. Yet it is not as simple as that. According to one article on harvard.health.com, overweight people with a BMI of over 25% saw a 50% increase of good cholesterol after consuming decaf coffee whereas those with a BMI less than 25% saw a 30% reduction of the same type of cholesterol. If you were overweight then, they suggested you might be better off drinking decaf coffee.
According to Ori Hofmekler coffee increases your metabolism by up to 20% making it an ideal pre-workout drink when taken black and without sugar. "Coffee before training allows you fast energy to initiate your workout. For people who train in the morning, having coffee before training is a great advantage." Yet coffee after the workout “interferes with your body's muscle-building mechanism.” Mercola.
Recent research has shown numerous beneficial health results from the consumption of coffee. These include protecting you from type 2 diabetes and Parkinson's. “In fact, coffee is so preventative against Parkinson's that drug companies are designing experimental drugs that mimic coffee's benefits to your brain” (Dr Mercola). Dr Mercola's article also listed Alzheimer's Prostate Cancer, Liver and Kidney Cancer Colorectal Cancer, Heart disease, Lung function, and Stroke as having shown to be positively affected by or at a reduced level of incidence (you're less likely to develop it) by coffee.
“There is strong evidence coffee can help stabilize your blood glucose level and may even help curb sugar cravings. Caffeine binds to your opioid receptors, which essentially prohibits you from craving something else, such as sugar.”
Huh. Who knew?!
There are these important things to remember, however:
Drink it black. Sugar and Milk or cream alter the chemical composition of the coffee affecting and most of all inhibiting its health actions.
Drink it fresh. When we are talking about coffee we are not talking about the powdered variety. Buy good quality beans and by preference grind them yourself. Coffee can go off, like any food can. If it does not smell good it is likely rancid. You should never eat rancid food.
Use it in moderation. Like all foods, too much is bad for you. One cup a day is considered moderate in the articles viewed in researching this piece.
Get it organic. Apparently, coffee is heavily sprayed with pesticides. The Mercola article also said “Whenever possible, purchase sustainable "shade-grown" coffee to help prevent the continued destruction of our tropical rain forests and the birds that inhabit them.” I've honestly never seen any coffee labelled 'shade grown'. I buy fair trade whenever possible as the coffee comes from small local producers. I've no idea if this helps the rainforest.
© Jenny Hobbs