Coffee is a very popular drink. According to recent statistics, people throughout the world consume over 400 million cups of coffee a day. The study of the health effects of drinking coffee has always been around, but it has experienced major growth during the last 25 years or so. Not so long ago it was very common to think that the coffee drinking habit might be unsafe. Modern scientific studies of the health benefits of coffee consumption show that more often than not the opposite is the case. The emerging research data are numerous and diverse.
One of the main ingredients in coffee – caffeine – has long been known to be a mild stimulant. The most noticeable effects of caffeine consumption are increased heart rate, raised blood pressure, and occasional irregular heartbeat. While these may seem as negative, most researchers nowadays believe that the effect is mild and short-lived. They believe that drinking coffee in reasonable amounts has many benefits. Let’s take a look at some of the best researched of them.
Everyone knows that coffee contributes to mental alertness. Studies performed by Chinese scientists take this concept even further and strongly suggest that coffee helps to reduce the effects of Parkinson’s disease.
Coffee is similar to wine in its antioxidants contents. Antioxidants remove cell-destroying oxygen radicals from the blood. They are well known to help in prevention of heart disease and certain types of cancer. According to some studies, the concentration of antioxidants in coffee is even greater than that found in apples, tomatoes, and cranberries. Keep in mind that, unlike coffee, fruits and vegetables contain many other valuable minerals, vitamins, and fibers.
Moderate consumption of caffeine reduces constriction of airways in asthma sufferers. Besides caffeine coffee also contains theophylline, a bronchodilator which helps the effect. Caffeine also aids digestion by increasing the secretion of stomach acid.
Independent Scandinavian and American studies confirm that regular coffee and decaf help in reducing the risk of type-2 diabetes.
It’s important to mention that excessive coffee consumption is not beneficial at all. For example, there’s enough evidence to support the idea that coffee reduces the odds of developing colon cancer. This, however, only occurs at higher levels of consumption – you need to drink four or more cups a day. It may not be very obvious, but that much intake well outweighs the benefits.
Depending on the preparation method, coffee can also contain cafestol which is known to raise cholesterol levels. Cafestol normally can be found in coffee made by the European method of boiling ground beans in water. In filtered coffee drinks, such as drip brewed coffee, it is present in only negligible amounts. Decaf coffee may be an exception.
Increased coffee consumption leads to higher blood levels of LDL-cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and homocysteine. Homocysteine is an amino acid produced from the metabolization of other amino acids. It’s been known that high levels of homocysteine and LDL-cholesterol can be a risk factor for coronary heart disease.
Mammalian sperm in fluids laced with coffee generally swim faster, longer and farther. There are some studies, however, that link heavy coffee drinking with reduced fertility. Those who drink four or more cups per day also have twice the risk of urinary incontinence.
There are also some gender-specific risks associated with coffee drinking. For example, women lose more calcium and tend to have less dense bones when compared to those who don’t drink coffee.
Despite of some negative effects, most researches agree that the benefits of drinking coffee outweigh the risks. It’s important to remember that you can only benefit from it at moderate consumption levels.
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