What health benefits can I get from drinking a moderate dose of coffee a day? What are the downsides? Let's take a look.
Before June 2016, the WHO put coffee on its list for possible carcinogenic foods, but after June, the WHO removed coffee from that list and is now placed in the list for foods which are potentially anti-carcinogenic to uterine cancer and liver. YAY! Not only this, but in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee(commissioned by the secretaries of the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture) conducted a series of thorough studies and concluded that moderate consumption of coffee, which is 3 to 5 cups a day have been linked to numerous health benefits including reduction in risk of certain types of cancer in the human body! This was also confirmed by the World Cancer Research Fund International.
Coffee contains the psychoactive compound caffeine which is the most popular and widely consumed psychoactive compound. Caffeine is what makes you feel less tired and helps you finish that late night project or rush to work on Mondays.
Caffeine is absorbed from coffee, goes into the bloodstream and reaches the brain.
Science bit – Here, it blocks the inhibitory neurotransmitter known as adenosine.
This leads to the familiar effect of coffee as a stimulant while also improving mood, memory, general reaction times and mental functions.
Remember your fitness coach’s advice on drinking a strong cup of coffee 30-45 minutes before exercising? The reason is that coffee is one of the few natural substances which are proven to help speed up the process of burning away the fat.
Science bit – This is primarily due to caffeine in the coffee, which breaks down body fat into free fatty acids which are easier to burn.
Coffee increases the metabolic rate, which is the rate by which an animal burns energy, by 3-11%. For obese individuals, the levels are as much as 10% and for lean people, it is around 29%.
Caffeine in coffee, not only burns body fat into free fatty acids which are easier to convert into energy, it also enhances the levels of adrenaline which triggers the body’s natural ‘flight or fight‘ response.
Science bit – Caffeine increases the level of epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, in our blood. This prepares your body for greater levels of physical exertion, as adrenaline is the hormone which increases heart rate, increases blood pressure, expands the air passage in the lungs, channels more oxygen rich blood to the muscles and increases glucose levels in the brain. This effect makes you a bit more like a superhuman.
Therefore, you are able to exert a significant increase in output at the gym or a sport after you’ve had a strong cup of coffee. Mind you, your body needs 30-45 minutes before the caffeine can trigger these effects.
In some studies, it has been shown that caffeine can boost physical performance levels by up to 11-12%.
Out of the 800 different compounds which make the coffee delicious, there are a number of essential nutrients which make their way into your brewed coffee. Some of these are –
There were numerous studies done on people who were regular coffee drinkers and the results shows us that there is a significant reduction in the risk of Type 2 Diabetes which is a serious ailment affecting the people all over the world.
Cirrhosis, which is a big problem affecting millions of people worldwide, is shown to occur a lot less amongst people who consume around 4 cups of coffee daily. In some cases there has been a risk reduction of 80%. So drink that cup of coffee, and protect your liver!
The most common neurodegenerative disease and the leading cause of dementia worldwide is Alzheimer’s Disease. There is no cure, and usually affects senior citizens (above 65 years of age). Several studies have shown that coffee consumption has been linked to reduce the risk of the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease by up to 60-65% and prevent the build up of brain plaque which is believed to be a cause of the disease.
According to the W.H.O., over 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Depression, at its worst leads to suicide, and more women are suffering from depression than men.
However, there are some good news – Women who drink 4 or more cups of coffee a day have a 20% less chance of suffering from depression. There are even studies that shows us that Alzheimer’s Disease risk can be lowered by 65%.
Parkinson’s Disease is the next neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s Disease of which people are suffering worldwide. Like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease has no cure. This disease causes the death of the dopamine- generating neurons in the human brain, which is the centre which releases the neurotransmitter called dopamine which is responsible for the sensation of happiness.
People suffering from Parkinson’s are physically unable to feel happy.
Caffeine has been shown in numerous studies to reduce the onset of Parkinson’s Disease by around 32-60%. Decaf coffee does not seem to have the same effect as regular coffee, so regular coffee is a safe bet to reduce the risk of a lot degenerative brain diseases.
Studies on coffee has shown that it helps reduce the risk of liver and colorectal cancer. Liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer in the world followed by colorectal cancer, at fourth.
Research on coffee shows up to 40% lower risk of liver cancer and 15% reduction in the risk of colorectal cancer on people who drank 4-5 cups of coffee daily.
Coffee got itself a bad reputation when it was presumed that coffee increased the risk of heart disease. This was proved to be insubstantial as the people who had such ailments had existing problems related to blood pressure.
Further studies show that coffee does increase blood pressure but not to a level which might lead to a heart disease, however people suffering from caffeine sensitivity and blood pressure related issues aren’t advised to daily have that morning espresso.
Coffee has also shown the reduction of the risk of suffering strokes by up to 20%.
There are studies which shows that coffee drinkers live longer and are less likely to die prematurely. Males in the age group of 18-24 years have up to 20% less chances of dying prematurely whereas females in the same age group are 26% less likely to have premature deaths.
Coffee and decaf coffee has a lot of antioxidants. For majority of the Western World, coffee is the main source of antioxidants for the population.
Science bit – Free radicals (which are highly reactive charged molecules) are particularly notorious for their ill effects on the human body. Some of them include DNA damage, which might lead to cancer and aging. Anti-oxidants help in balancing the amount of free radicals which in turn help reduce cancer risk and aging.
Common antioxidants include: vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, selenium and caffeine
Coffee has been shown to reduce the risk of other diseases such as –
Apart from the above benefits, coffee is a one of the best social drinks out there, cafes being a major socialising hub in most cities.
Based on the sources and research about the effects coffee has on the human body, we can safely make the following conclusions –
The recommended maximum number of cups of coffee a healthy adult human being can have is 5 – 6 cups daily. Anymore, and the body starts to experience the ill effects of too much caffeine. There are also specific illnesses that are made worse by coffee intake, and some people cannot have a cup of coffee without experiencing side effects. Basically if you’re amongst these groups of people, it’s better to stay away from coffee and opt for a healthier alternative –
So, what are the main health risks associated with coffee?
There are reports that people who consume higher doses of coffee daily which exceeds the 300mg daily safe dose of caffeine, are up to 21% more likely to die younger than those who do not drink over the safe limit. However, a lot of these results are from people who smoked frequently, had low fitness and drank a lot of coffee.
Young adults diagnosed with hypertension are 4 times more likely to have a heart attack if they drink coffee.
Women are at a risk when drinking coffee as this study has shown that normal consumption of coffee increases the risk of developing fibrocystic breast disease and for those drink way above the regular recommended dose, the risk increases.
High levels of caffeine can lead to –
While there is a need for more research as to the link between high levels of caffeine due to coffee intake and miscarriage, studies have shown that caffeine does affect fertility. In some cases leading to delayed fertilisation. (https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/couples-pre-pregnancy-caffeine-consumption-linked-miscarriage-risk)
A lot of the benefits and most of the side effects of coffee is due to the caffeine which is the primary stimulant of the coffee. It gives us that alert, focused mental state but also makes us jittery and more anxious. If you are a person who’s in the danger groups, short answer – stay away from coffee, it’s not worth it. However, if you have no health issues to prevent you from having coffee, by all means do and enjoy the experience. Just make sure you don’t go over the recommended daily maximum!
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