Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Coffee - is it good for you?

There's nothing like a fresh brewed pot of coffee in the morning. And by 8am if I haven't had a cup, caffeine withdraw headaches set in...this worries me. Is this pick-me-up bad for me?

"Overall, the research shows that coffee is far more healthful than it is harmful," says Tomas DePaulis, PhD, research scientist at Vanderbilt University's Institute for Coffee Studies, which conducts its own medical research and tracks coffee studies from around the world. "For most people, very little bad comes from drinking it, but a lot of good."

Reduce your risk of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's
  • At least six studies indicate that people who drink coffee on a regular basis are up to 80% less likely to develop Parkinson's, with three showing the more they drink, the lower the risk. Several studies comparing moderate coffee drinkers (defined as 3-5 cups per day) with light coffee drinkers (defined as 0-2 cups per day) found that those who drank more coffee were significantly less likely to develop Alzheimer's disease later in life. A longitudinal study in 2009 found that moderate coffee drinkers had reduced risk of developing dementia in addition to Alzheimer's disease.
Reduce your risk of Diabetes
  • After analyzing data on 126,000 people for as long as 18 years, Harvard researchers calculate that compared with not partaking in America's favorite morning drink, downing one to three cups of caffeinated coffee daily can reduce diabetes risk by single digits.
Improves Cognitive Performance
  • In tests of simple reaction time, verbal memory and reasoning, participants who regularly drank coffee were found to perform better on all tests, with a positive relationship between test scores and the amount of coffee regularly drunk. Elderly participants were found to have the largest effect associated with regular coffee drinking.
  • Recent research has uncovered additional stimulating effects of coffee which are not related to its caffeine content. Coffee contains an as yet unknown chemical agent which stimulates the production of cortisone and adrenaline, two stimulating hormones.

Other research shows that compared to not drinking coffee, at least two cups daily can translate to a 25% reduced risk of colon cancer, an 80% drop in liver cirrhosis risk, and nearly half the risk of gallstones.

What's the down side?

Increased Risk of Osteoporosis

  • Because excess coffee consumption may prevent the full absorption of necessary minerals, it increases the risk of developing osteoporosis. A study of nearly 1000 postmenopausal women found that long-term consumption of 2 or more cups of caffeinated coffee per day was associated with decreased bone density, regardless of age, alcohol and tobacco consumption, hormone use, and other factors. However, there are indications that these negative effects can be mitigated by adding milk.

Weight Gain

  • Caffeine increases the risk of long-term weight gain by increasing stress hormones and creating a greater risk for hypoglycemia, which stimulates appetite. Although caffeine can assist with short-term weight loss, in the longer term, heavy consumption is more likely to lead to weight gain. I've definitely experienced stronger appetite after drinking lots of coffee. Also, studies have indicated that green tea may be better for maintaining healthy weight.
All in all, I'd say that my one cup a day isn't a big enough health risk, but I'll probably stick with just one cup...