Coffee please, but Safety First!
Coffee, coffee everywhere and we’re not sure if it’s healthy to drink.
Is coffee healthy or harmful? As with many things, there is debate!
Take eggs for example- One minute they’re good for you, and the next minute they cause heart attacks because of the increased cholesterol. Then they are back to being healthy because they are a great source of protein.
There is also the debate on whether a diet high in carbohydrates vs a diet high in fat is healthier. One minute the experts are telling you too much sugar can cause you to gain weight, and the next minute they are saying you need to eat fat. Next they are saying that if you eat too much fat, you’re going to have a lot of health problems...
Coffee is absolutely no different than the rest of these topics. There is a constant debate regarding whether coffee is healthy, harmful, or if it falls somewhere in the middle. Personally, I am leaning towards the “coffee is healthy” clan.
More and more studies are showing the benefits of coffee consumption, not only for increased cognitive awareness , but also in increasing calorie burn during exercise. Studies also show that it has a positive effect on conditions such as diabetes, liver disease, Alzheimer’s, and immune system function.
So, what makes coffee provide these various benefits in your body? Probably the number one reason is that it contains an extremely high level of antioxidants. Our bodies are continuously attacked by free radicals, which damage molecules and cells in our body. Antioxidants are a main defense against them.
What are these antioxidants called and how do they work? The primary group of antioxidants found in coffee are called polyphenols. Polyphenols are naturally occurring organic compounds found in many plants that we consume.
As stated in the journal -Nutrients, dated December 2010, there are several types of polyphenols , somewhere in the neighborhood of 8000 different types of polyphenols have been identified. One of the main antioxidants found in coffee are called Hydroxycinnamic Acids. These phenolic compounds have become of particular interest because of their biological properties and potential applications. Several studies have reported that Hydroxycinnamic Acids and their derivatives act as powerful antioxidants and protect a number of biological molecules from damaging oxidation.
In a recent study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, dated November 2010, researchers were trying to identify the 100 richest sources of dietary antioxidants. Coffee managed to rank 11th on this list, only to have been beaten by several types of berries. But then again, coffee starts as a fruit that resembles a cherry.
Interesting to note, most people consume very few berries -but in fact drink several cups of coffee per day. So the argument could be made that people consume and get more antioxidants through the consumption of coffee, than they do through any other form of food or beverage.
Now we have an understanding of what antioxidants are, which ones are in coffee, and why they are important- How does this free radical protection help our general overall health? As mentioned before, our bodies are continuously bombarded by free radicals which can damage proteins, individual cells, and even our DNA. Since free radicals are an oxygen containing molecule that has an uneven number of electrons, it is easy for them to react with other molecules. When they react with other molecules and cells in the body, this reaction is called oxidation. Therefore, oxidation is the chemical reaction that actually damages the different cells in our body, and is the reason that increasing our consumption of antioxidants is so important.
One might think, just stay away from radicals. But it’s not that easy. As stated in the Journal of Pharmacognosy Review, July-December 2010, there are many sources of free radicals. Some internally generated sources of free radicals might include inflammation, exercise, and injury. Some externally generated sources of free radicals are cigarette smoke, environmental pollutants, radiation, industrial solvents, cleaners, and even certain drugs and pesticides.
As we are continually bombarded and exposed to free radicals and this chemical reaction (called oxidation) occurs in our body- How exactly does this oxidative reaction harm our general health? Free radicals have a cumulative affect on the body, and as we age the radicals tend to produce a progressive and more adverse change to the body tissues. It is safe to say that free radicals are the primary reason for the majority of age related disease.
As also stated in the Journal of Pharmacognosy Review, July-December 2010, oxidative stress is responsible for everything from type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, vasculitis, lupus. Oxidative stress is responsible for ischemic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and intestinal ischemia. Oxidative stress is responsible for neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other muscular dystrophy’s. One other disease process that we haven’t touched on yet is Cancer.
Free radicals and oxidation seem to have a large association to Cancer. Yes, the other C word. Most of us out there have known someone or have personally been affected by Cancer. It is one of the most heavily researched disease processes to date and yet we still have only scratched the surface of how to prevent and or how to treat it. It does however seem to have a very close link to damaged DNA , caused by free radicals in carcinogenesis, which leads to the mutation of an otherwise healthy cell.
So, is the consumption of coffee really going to help decrease our chances of getting diabetes, having heart attack, being diagnosed with a deadly type of cancer? I think that the answer is yes. Research continues to show promising affects with increasing your antioxidant levels. As we said before, consuming coffee is a very easy way to do this.
Probably one of the most important things to think about when considering coffee as your primary source of antioxidants or at the very least one of your sources, is to make sure that your coffee is a organic, pesticide free coffee. It makes no sense to consume something that is high in antioxidants but that is combined with a known cause of free radicals.
Let’s take a look at a few studies that show the benefits of coffee.
- In the Archives of Internal Medicine, dated December 2009 , it was found that coffee consumption of 3 to 4 cups per day decreased your risk of type two diabetes by 24%.
- In the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease dated 2010, people who consumed coffee on a daily basis lower their risk of developing Alzheimer’s by 65%. In the study, the optimum range of coffee consumption was approximately 3 to 5 cups of coffee per day.
- In the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, dated February 2005, researchers found that coffee consumption lowered the risk of cirrhosis of the liver by 80%. What’s even more impressive, is that it also appeared that consuming coffee lower the risk of liver cancer, which happens to be the second largest cause of cancer deaths worldwide.
- Free radicals can have a profound effect on neurological tissue and function. A study out of the Journal of Geriatrics and Gerontology International, dated April 14 2014, showed that people who drank 3 cups of coffee per day had 29% lower risk of developing Parkinson’s Disease. Parkinson’s is currently the second most common neurodegenerative disease worldwide. It is also important to note that there are studies, including this one, where it does appear that perhaps the caffeine itself may also be helpful in decreasing the incidence of Parkinson’s.
- One last study to note came out of the New England Journal of Medicine, dated May 17, 2012 , where researchers looked at the effect of coffee and overall mortality. It was found that people who consumed somewhere between 4 and 5 cups of coffee daily had a decreased risk of early death within the 12 to 13 years they were studies. The researchers concluded that it was the antioxidant properties in coffee that reduced the risk of diseases, such as Type 2 Diabetes and cardiovascular disease, and gave the individual a certain protection against early death.