BreakingModern — We love our morning cup of Joe. From the Bullet Bourbon Whiskey Latte to the Caramel Frappuccino to the black-as-the-night cup of coffee that’ll slap you hard in the face, coffee appeals to more than half of all Americans. The majority of Americans drinks coffee every day. But is this much coffee any good for you? Is it harmful? Is it turning us all into caffeine-crazed lunatics? I took a closer look.
As it turns out, coffee is at once healthy and unhealthy. That morning brew, a morning ritual most of us associate with waking up and getting alert and productive, has healthful properties. But it also is potentially harmful.
“There is certainly much more good news than bad news, in terms of coffee and health,” says Frank Hu, MD, MPH, PhD, a nutrition and epidemiology professor at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Here’s a rundown of the some of the pros and cons of coffee.
Memory, Alertness and Productivity
Numerous studies published at New Scientist and elsewhere suggest that coffee helps to improve long and short-term memory as well as reaction times. Studies also show that Coffee makes people more mentally alert and productive at work. So that wasn’t your imagination.
Coffee Fights Free Radicals
It turns out coffee has more than 1,000 natural phytochemicals, which potentially help prevent numerous diseases. Many of these powerful chemicals are antioxidants that can slow free radical cell damage. And it’s a great source of antioxidants, too. Because Americans drink so much coffee, the beverage is the average American’s No. 1 source of antioxidants.
And Coffee Could Reduce Your Risk of Diabetes
Studies also suggest that coffee can reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes, and the more coffee you drink, the lower the risk. In Finland, which has the world’s greatest per capita consumption of coffee, one study found that women who drank three to four cups of coffee a day cut their risk of developed diabetes by 29 percent. For men, the study concluded the risk was cut by 27 percent.
Nothing in the study described how or whether drinking that much coffee affected their personal lives.
The Anti-Cancer Properties of Coffee
Can coffee cure cancer? Probably not. But one study in Japan of 90,000 people suggested that those who drank coffee every day for 10 years were half as likely to get liver cancer. In a seperate study, German scientists looking into methylpyridinium, a compound in coffee, found that the chemical is related to a surge in some enzymes that could help to lower risks of colon cancer.
More Coffee, Fewer Gallstones
A study of 46,000 men who drank up to three cups of coffee a day for 10 years suggested that some of the men had a 40 percent lower risk of developing gallstones. Why? The theory is that caffeine stimulates the gall bladder to flush out substances that could turn into gallstones. Basically, coffee makes you pee more and that, said the scientists, is good.
Caffeine, the primary stimulant in coffee, is addictive. Like any addictive substance, it creates a dependency that can be difficult to kick. As anybody with a coffee habit will tell you, attempting to kick coffee can cause headaches, mental fuzziness and fatigue for a few days after the coffee drinking has stopped. Be forewarned.
Coffee Can Stress You Out
And the same mechanism in coffee that stimulates you also stresses you out, studies suggest. When you consume caffeine, you see, the body releases such stress hormones as cortisone, epinephrine and norepinephrine, which increase heart rate, blood pressure and tension levels. (They also are believeed to increase focus, a plus if you happen to have ADHD.)
Plus, coffee boosts adrenaline production and suppresses the release adenosine, an amino acid that acts as a natural relaxant in the brain.
“Eliminating caffeine is more effective than any other stress-reduction strategy I know,” said David B. Posen, M.D., a stress expert. He claims 75 percent of his decaffeinated patients feel more relaxed and even more energetic from better sleep.
More Coffee, Restricted Vitamin Absorption
Caffeine restricts the body’s ability to absorb certain vitamins and minerals including vitamin D, calcium, iron and magnesium.
Though coffee seems to bring clear health benefits, there are risks, too. Enjoy your Java with moderation, would you?
For BMod, I’m Chandler Harris.
Image credits: Coffee beans, WMC; coffee cup on beans, WMC; Coffee beans in cup, WMC