Telluride, Colo. -
August 13, 2008
You are probably reading this while sipping your hot beverage of choice this morning. Is it green tea, which you’ve heard contains lots of antioxidants that are good for you (but do what
exactly?!) What if you could have a drink in the morning that could lower your risk of diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and colon cancer? One that could lift your mood and treat headaches and even lower your risk of cavities?
If it sounds too good to be true, think again.
Coffee, the much maligned but undoubtedly beloved beverage, has made headlines over the years, most recently for possibly cutting the risk of Type 2 Diabetes. And the real news seems to be that, the more you drink, the better, to a point.
Reducing Disease Risk
After analyzing data on 126,000 people for as many as 18 years, Harvard researchers calculate that compared with not partaking in America’s favorite morning downing one to three cups of caffeinated coffee daily can reduce diabetes risk by single digits. But having six cups or more each day slashed men’s risk by 54 percent and women’s by 30 percent.
Though the scientists give the customary “more research is needed” before they recommend you do overtime at your favorite coffee shop to specifically prevent diabetes, their findings are very similar to those in a less-publicized 2002 Dutch study.
Perhaps more importantly, it’s the latest of hundreds of studies suggesting that coffee may be something of a health food — although I’m not going to go that far.
In recent decades, some 19,000 studies have examined coffee’s impact on health. And for the most part, their results are as pleasing as a gulp of freshly brewed organic Sumatra for the 108 million Americans who routinely enjoy this traditionally morning — and increasingly daylong — ritual. In practical terms, regular coffee drinkers include the majority of U.S. adults.
“Overall, the research shows that coffee is far more healthful than it is harmful,” says Tomas DePaulis, Ph.D, 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.”
Consider this: At least six studies indicate that people who drink coffee on a regular basis are up to 80 percent less likely to develop Parkinson’s. Other research shows that compared to not drinking coffee, at least two cups daily can translate to a 25 percent reduced risk of colon cancer, an 80 percent drop in liver cirrhosis risk, and nearly half the risk of gallstones.
Coffee even offsets some of the damage caused by other vices, some research indicates. “People who smoke and are heavy drinkers have less heart disease and liver damage when they regularly consume large amounts of coffee compared to those who don’t,” says DePaulis.
There’s also some evidence that coffee may help manage asthma and even control attacks when medication is unavailable, stop a headache, boost moods and even prevent cavities.
Probably the most important effects of caffeine, coffee’s main ingredient, are its ability to enhance mood and mental and physical performance. At consumption levels up to 200 milligrams (the amount in about 16 ounces of ordinary brewed coffee), consumers report an improved sense of well-being, happiness, energy, alertness and sociability, Roland Griffiths of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine reported, although higher amounts sometimes cause anxiety and stomach upset.
However, coffee is not completely innocent. Caffeine is a mildly addictive stimulant. And coffee does have modest cardiovascular effects such as increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and occasional irregular heartbeat that should be considered. The negative effects of coffee tend to emerge in excessive drinking so it is best to avoid heavy consumption.
Coffee also doesn’t seem to be the magic elixir for all women.
Coffee contributes to estrogen dominance in women. Estrogen dominance is a condition where the estrogen in a woman’s body is not balanced by progesterone. That doesn’t sound like a big deal on the surface, but, according to Dr. John Lee, it is thought to be a contributing factor in many diseases including allergies, breast and cervical cancer, endometriosis, PMS, breast and uterine cysts, decreased sex drive, infertility, hair loss, osteoporosis and many other conditions.
The way that it contributes may be by making the body more acidic. Once our bodies are too acidic, the production processes of all hormones are altered; and we all know how dependent women are on hormones for their health and happiness.
It seems that when a woman’s body is too acidic, it produces too much estrogen and not enough progesterone. Dr. Michael Lam of the American Academy of Anti-aging Research reports that in a small study of 500 women, those who consumed four or five cups of coffee per day had 70 percent more estrogen that those who drank less than one cup per day.
There is no research that proves that coffee reduces progesterone production but there are anecdotal reports from women that suggest that this is true. Whatever the cause of a progesterone deficiency is, drinking coffee will make estrogen dominance worse by increasing the estrogen levels. It’s tempting to deny the facts in favor of another tasty latte, but there is no doubt that coffee makes the body more acidic than it was designed to be.
Other studies have shown an increase in infertility, miscarriages and low birth weights among babies and recommend that women who are pregnant or attempting to get pregnant should avoid excess caffeine consumption, which may increase the risk for a variety of fertility problems. While research results have been mixed, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women consume no more than one to two cups of coffee per day.
And, here’s a bummer. Although caffeine speeds up metabolism, with 100 milligrams burning an extra 75 to 100 calories a day, no long-term benefit to weight control has been demonstrated. In fact, in a study of more than 58,000 health professionals followed for 12 years, both men and women who increased their caffeine consumption gained more weight than those who didn’t.
To round it all out, there is another negative side to coffee consumption and not just for women.
In numerous studies over the years, researchers find that coffee can cause a number of problems, particularly in large doses. Among them:
• Hypoglycemia — Caffeine causes a release of glycogen by the liver, which can generate wild swings in blood sugar, causing attacks of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Hypoglycemia has a variety of unpleasant symptoms, including weakness, nervousness, sweating and heart palpitations. Some sufferers even have difficulty speaking during an attack.
• Increased cholesterol — In some individuals, coffee can raise cholesterol, which increases the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
• Kidney stones and gout — These conditions can result from the strain that caffeine puts on the kidneys.
• Nervousness, anxiety, rapid heartbeat and trembling — Excess caffeine can overstimulate the central nervous system and can exhaust the adrenal glands over time, decreasing resistance to stress and thus increasing vulnerability to disease pathogens and other health hazards.
• Osteoporosis — Because coffee prevents the full absorption of necessary minerals, it increases the risk of developing osteoporosis. Women who consume 300 mg (2-3 cups) or more of coffee per day suffer accelerated loss of spinal bone mass. However, there are indications that these negative effects can be mitigated by adding milk or cream to each cup.
• Possible addiction — People who quit coffee often experience withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, headache, decreased energy and alertness, difficulty concentrating, and even irritability and depression. These symptoms usually begin within 12-24 hours of quitting caffeine and hit a peak within 20-51 hours. Overall, symptoms tend to last anywhere from 2-9 days.
• Stretch marks — Caffeine consumption increases the risk of developing stretch marks.
• 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. Tea is actually better for helping to maintain a healthy body weight.
Should You Drink Coffee?
Overall, the decision to consume coffee should be based on your personal health profile. If you suffer or are at risk for the conditions that coffee can aggravate, then it is better to avoid it. If you are not at risk for these conditions, then you shouldn’t experience problems from coffee consumption, and may even realize a number of health benefits. It all goes back to the adage: “Everything in moderation.”
Laurel Robinson has a degree in Dietetics and is a Master NLP Practitioner. Currently she teaches weight-loss and seasonal cleanse classes. She also works as a psychologist and life coach from her office on W Colorado. Call 708-0356 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.