(Updated on 12/30/2019)
Around 64% of U.S adults report drinking at least one cup of coffee every day. This fact motivated me to look into the risks and health benefits of coffee.
Coffee is the major source of caffeine in our diets.
Coffee and caffeine
Caffeine is a psychoactive substance and it affects our body and mind similar to the effects of other stimulants, such as amphetamine and cocaine.
Effects of coffee on the brain
Coffee consumption might reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease and brain degeneration. Furthermore, the caffeine in the coffee shown to stimulate the cognitive skills and boost the memory as well.
Caffeine is absorbed in the stomach and small intestine.
Its level peaks around 45 minutes after consumption, and it slowly declines over the next 10 hours.
Smoking cigarettes or marijuana can shorten the time that caffeine circulates in the body, while birth control pills (estrogen) could prolong this time.
How much caffeine is in a cup of coffee?
Different methods of coffee preparations around the world exist. The amount of caffeine and other chemicals can vary depending on the preparation and type of coffee.
For instance, 1 cup (237 ml) of coffee might contain 95 mg and 1 fluid ounce (30 ml) of espresso 64 mg of caffeine.
Caffeine consumption has increased with the introduction of energy drinks. Some of the energy drinks widely available in the United States contain up to 160 mg of caffeine in one 8 oz. (237 ml) can.
Did you know that decaffeinated coffee contains some caffeine?
How much caffeine is in a decaf coffee?
Virtually, all the decaffeinated beverages contain varying amounts of caffeine. For instance, the caffeine content for a Starbucks espresso and Starbucks brewed samples collected from the same store were 12.0-13.4 mg/16-oz serving, respectively.
Side effects of coffee
Unfiltered coffee contains kahweol, diterpenes, and cafestol that could raise the amount of total and bad (LDL) cholesterol. Elevated blood cholesterol level had shown to increase heart disease and death. Commonly known forms of unfiltered coffees are Turkish coffee and coffee brewed in a French press. The paper filter in the filtered coffee can remove the kahweol, diterpenes, and cafestol from the coffee. Therefore, drinking filtered coffee appears to be less harmful.
Caffeinated coffee consumption may increase blood pressure, especially in patients who have borderline and unstable blood pressure levels.
Caffeine can increase heart rate and worsen heart palpitations.
One study suggested that excessive unfiltered consumption of coffee could increase the chance of having coronary heart disease. However, this conclusion could not be verified in other studies.
Coffee can also increase the blood homocysteine level. And an elevated homocysteine level might increase the risk of coronary heart disease. This is especially true in individuals who consume more than 4 cups of coffee a day.
We have conflicting data about the association between coffee and miscarriage. Several studies have suggested that consumption of more than 300 mg of caffeine per day could increase the chance of having miscarriage.
Insomnia: Caffeinated coffee consumption could lead to poor sleep quality.
Urinary frequency: Coffee could irritate the urinary tract, causing burning with urination and increased urinary frequency.
Withdrawal symptoms: sudden discontinuation of drinking coffee could result in withdrawal symptoms such as headache, fatigue, depressed mood, irritability, insomnia, and poor concentration.
Low potassium level: Drinking an excessive amount of coffee has shown to lower blood potassium levels and other symptoms including, fatigue, constipation, muscle pain, low heart rate, and numbness.
6 health benefits of coffee
Alzheimer’s disease: Studies have shown a small benefit of drinking caffeinated coffee in protecting against Alzheimer’s disease by reducing the activity of beta-amyloid plaques. These plaques may have a causative role in this condition.
Diabetes Mellitus: Several studies reported that individuals drinking a higher amount of coffee (between 4-6 cups) daily had a lower rate of type 2 diabetes mellitus. The mechanism of this process is unclear, but some experts suggest that it could be related to the increased production of adiponectin—a hormone that affects insulin and blood sugar levels.
Parkinson’s disease: Drinking coffee has been associated with a decreased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. A Finnish study suggested that drinking 1-2 cups of coffee daily could reduce the chance of developing Parkinson’s disease by 60%.
Colon cancer: Drinking coffee could reduce the chance of developing colon cancer. In one analysis, individuals drinking between 4-6 cups of coffee had an approximately 24% lower chance of developing colorectal cancer.
Liver cirrhosis: Several large studies reported that individuals diagnosed with liver cirrhosis had a better chance of survival if they were avid coffee drinkers. A Norwegian study looking at patients diagnosed with liver cirrhosis over 17 years, found that individuals drinking at least two cups of coffee had a 40% lower chance of death compared to other individuals who didn’t drink coffee.
Stroke: Coffee consumption might reduce the chance of having a stroke, but drinking coffee increases the chance of having a stroke immediately after intake.
Health benefits of coffee: My opinion
I like drinking coffee as do millions of people around the world. But how much coffee is too much?
Like many other things, coffee may have some positive and negative effects on our bodies and minds. Therefore, it’s difficult to say how much coffee each person should drink.
Two major questions that I always ask my patients is “what do you add to your coffee? And how do you feel when drinking coffee?”
You must know the benefits and harm of what you add to your daily coffee. If you add sugar and milk to your coffee and drink around 6 cups a day then you should be concerned. All the sugar and fat will harm your body.
I usually prefer not to add anything to the coffee, except for a little low-fat milk. This is because, sugar regardless of being “natural” or “artificial”, will change the taste of the coffee.
The other question is whether you get symptoms such as trembling, irritation, lack of sleep and agitation after drinking coffee. If the answer is yes, then the amount is too high and you should cut it back.
I’ve nothing against drinking coffee as long as it doesn’t cause any physical and mental burdens on the body and isn’t accompanied by other harmful habits like smoking.
It’s now your turn
Which other health benefits of coffee do you know of? Go to the comments and tell me more about your coffee drinking habits.
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