The jury seems out on whether coffee is healthy or harmful.
We’ve seen conflicting information over the years about whether that morning latte is worth it. One minute coffee is able to help prevent some diseases, and the next it’s receiving a roasting (pun intended).
With all this in mind, is there a “right” amount of coffee we should be drinking, or should we be avoiding it altogether? We have the answer, but first let’s look at some of the pros and cons of Australia’s favourite bean.
– Cardiovascular system – despite potentially increasing blood pressure, coffee may lower the risk for coronary disease and protect against heart failure. In cited studies, moderate coffee intake was associated with a lower risk for coronary heart disease as far out as 10 years, and new data suggests that an average of 2 cups a day protects against heart failure.
– Coffee consumption may cut stroke risk by as much as 25%. While coffee’s impact on stroke risk in those with cardiovascular disease is still in question, data presented at the European Meeting on Hypertension 2012 found that 1 to 3 cups a day may protect against ischemic stroke in the general population.
– Weight loss and diabetes – studies have linked coffee consumption with improved glucose metabolism, reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and promotion of weight loss in overweight people.
– Cancer – according to recent data moderate to heavy coffee consumption (4-6 cups per day) can reduce the risk for numerous cancers. The benefits are thought to be at least partially due to coffee’s antioxidant and anti-mutagenic properties.
– Dementia and Parkinson’s disease – New research links coffee with long-term effects on cognitive wellbeing including slowing the progression of dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
– Depression – coffee drinkers reportedly have significantly decreased risk of developing depression. A 2011 study suggests that a boost in coffee consumption might also benefit our mental health: women who drank 2 to 3 cups of coffee per day had a 15% decreased risk for depression compared with those who drank less than 1 cup per week. A 20% decreased risk was seen in those who drank 4 cups or more per day.
– Liver disease – coffee has been reported to slow disease progression in alcoholic cirrhosis, hepatitis C and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The liver helps to break down coffee, but coffee might also protect the liver (in some cases).
– Coffee can also be beneficial for dry-eye syndrome, gout and in preventing MRSA infection. Coffee and hot tea consumption were found to be protective against one of the most concerning bugs, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).
Dr. Mark Hyman also adds to the list of benefits that coffee can help reduce gut permeability or leaky gut, decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes, improve mood and memory, and boost metabolism and sports performance.
Drawbacks and Risks:
– Addictive – Coffee can become highly addictive, altering stress hormones while making you feel simultaneously wired and tired. Withdrawal from coffee can have debilitating side effects.
– Acidic – The acidity of coffee is associated with digestive discomfort, indigestion, heartburn, GERD and dysbiosis (imbalances in gut flora).
– Imbalanced Electrolytes – Elevated urinary excretion minerals such as calcium, magnesium and potassium have been noted in coffee drinkers. An imbalance in the electrolyte status can lead to serious systemic complications.
– Compromised Liver Function – Constituents in coffee can interfere with normal drug metabolism and detoxification in the liver making it difficult to regulate the normal detoxification process in the liver.
– Lower Absorption of Medication – Another issue to be aware of is that for certain medications that are poorly absorbed to start with, their absorption decreases even further, with coffee making any symptoms worse.
The effects of coffee are largely determined by the person drinking the coffee.
“The way you respond to coffee is often determined by genetics that affect caffeine metabolism,” says Dr Mark Hyman. “For one person, a cup could have them bouncing off the walls, while another person can have a triple espresso at dinner and fall fast asleep easily.”
The bottom line is that coffee is neither good nor bad, as it’s processed differently by everyone.
If you tolerate coffee well, then it seems there’s no reason for you to give it up. There’s plenty of compelling evidence that says that you’re actually doing your body good!
If you experience concerning side effects or suffer from caffeine withdrawal however, coffee probably isn’t for you. Dr Hyman recommends eliminating coffee for a few weeks, especially if you’re addicted and can’t seem to function without coffee, or if you drink multiple cups a day.
“If you need coffee every day to feel motivated or even function, you have a coffee addiction. If you have withdrawal symptoms and headaches from stopping coffee or feel like you can’t live without it, you are biologically addicted to it. There’s also a big chance your stress hormones are out of whack and need resetting.”
How to Quit Coffee
Going cold turkey isn’t necessarily the best approach when quitting coffee. The best way is to cut back slowly, weaning yourself off a cup at a time. Switch from drinking multiple cups a day to just one cup, and eventually to half a cup. You could also try switching to a herbal or green tea.
Drink adequate amounts of water and get plenty of rest during this time. Regular exercise is also good for stabilising energy levels.
Once you’ve gone three weeks without coffee, you can try to add it back into your diet slowly. Pay attention to your energy levels, symptoms such as anxiety or jittery feelings, or changes in digestion.
“If you find you can occasionally tolerate coffee, avoid adding milk and sugar. These two culprits do more damage than the actual coffee,” says Dr Hyman. “Alternately, add fat to your coffee. Once people taste the creamy, frothy goodness of fat blended with coffee, they don’t miss milk at all. You’ve probably heard of Bulletproof® Coffee, which blends MCT oil and a bit of grass-fed butter or ghee with high-quality, organic coffee. This delicious beverage keeps me satiated for hours, cuts cravings and keeps my brain extremely sharp. You can also drink this before exercise for steady energy levels without coffee’s crash.”