Thursday, May 15, 2008

Can Coffee Be Good For You?

I dropped by my local coffee shop last week to get a fresh cup of joe. The sign above the counter said, "Any unaccompanied children will be given a large cup of expresso and a free puppy!" I'm sure that has struck fear in many a parents heart. The effects of caffeine can last up to ten hours. Yikes!

I've always been told that coffee and caffeine were bad for me. Now there is news that, taken in moderation, it could have a lot of health benefits.
At least six research reports show that people who drink coffee are up to 80 percent less likely (men not women) to develop Parkinson's, have a 25 percent drop in their risk for colon cancer, an 80 percent drop in their risk for liver cirrhosis, and an almost 50 percent lower risk for gallstones.

Other studies find that coffee could help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's, gout and heart disease.

Click on the following link to watch a news clip from CBS about the health benefits of coffee.

CBS NEWS - Study: Coffee May Help One Live Longer

When taken in moderation, the caffeine in coffee has shown the ability to increase athletic performance. A study conducted in 1979 showed a 7% increase in distance cycled over a period of two hours in subjects who consumed caffeine compared to control tests.
Other studies attained much more dramatic results; one particular study of trained runners showed a 44% increase in "race-pace" endurance, as well as a 51% increase in cycling endurance, after a dosage of 9 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight. The extensive boost shown in the runners is not an isolated case; additional studies have reported similar effects. Another study found 5.5 milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body mass resulted in subjects cycling 29% longer during high intensity circuits.

And the controversial information on coffee and diabetes is still in great debate. Some research indicates that coffee consumers actually have decreased risk for Type II diabetes (54 percent for men and 30 percent for women)as it may help regulate glucose levels, but because of the increased risks of increased homocyteine and other factors related to heart disease with coffee, many authorities strongly advise diabetics against it.

On the one hand, preliminary findings from a small study suggest that drinking moderate amounts of coffee may put healthy individuals at risk for decreased insulin sensitivity, or an inability to process blood sugar efficiently. Decreased insulin sensitivity is a precursor to diabetes.

Caffeine reduced insulin sensitivity by 15%. The decrease in insulin sensitivity was comparable to the increase in sensitivity produced by taking diabetes drugs.

The caffeine group also had higher blood levels of free fatty acids than their peers in the comparison group, the report indicates.

Caffeine's ability to decrease insulin sensitivity could occur because the drug boosts levels of free fatty acids, as well as the hormone epinephrine. The caffeine group exhibited a five-fold increase in blood levels of the hormone.

On the other hand, a systematic review that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association seems to indicate that coffee consumption by 193,473 participants from several studies actually lowered the chances of getting type 2 diabetes.

One of the huge benefits of coffee is that it contains a great deal of antioxidants that help control the cell damage that can contribute to the development of the disease and inflammation. A typical serving of coffee contains more antioxidants than typical servings of grape juice, blueberries, raspberries and oranges.

Consumption of coffee is associated with reduced risk of death attributed to inflammatory and cardiovascular diseases in the Iowa Women's Health Study

A 2002 study at Duke University
found that even if people don't consume caffeine after 1pm, the effects remain until they go to sleep. That's because caffeine takes a long time to deteriorate in the body - twelve hours after consumption, the body still contains one-eighth of the original amount of caffeine. With regular consumption, these long-lasting effects could increase the risk of heart disease.

In the study, 47 regular coffee drinkers consumed 500 milligrams of caffeine - about the same as four 8 ounce cups of coffee -- in the form of two pills, and no later than 1pm. They took these active pills one workday, and inactive pills the next day, never knowing which type of pill they were consuming. The researchers monitored their blood pressure, heart rate, and quality of specific substances in their urine.

The subjects showed higher stress levels on days they consumed the caffeine pills, and produced 32% more epinephrine, a stress hormone. They also had slightly higher blood pressure with the caffeine pills.

Is Coffee Good For You?

Before you stock up on coffee, keep in mind that unless you drink it black, you could be drinking a lot of extra sugar with your cup of joe. And watch out for "mega-coffees" that pack in extra caffeine. Starbucks coffees always seem to have a lot more flavor as well as more caffeine.

One more word of advice: Don't drink coffee after about 4:00 in the afternoon. The caffeine stays in your system for a long time and can interfere with the length and quality of your sleep.

Do you ever wake up in the morning and you cannot start your day without a cup of coffee? Do you get headaches if you don't get some? Are you dependent on caffeine to function throughout your day? Are you addicted? There is nothing wrong with a little caffeine now and then but it can become addictive and destructive. Some of the signs of caffeine abuse are
nervousness, irritability, anxiety, tremulousness, muscle twitching (hyperreflexia), insomnia, headaches, respiratory alkalosis and heart palpitations.

Do you have a rough time getting to sleep at night? Do you have a rough time getting up in the morning? Your body may not be producing enough cortisol due to caffeine drug abuse. Your adrenal glands are exhausted from being over stimulated. Watch this short clip about how caffeine can destroy your health.

If you try to stop drinking coffee "cold turkey" you will likely experience symptoms of withdrawal that can include severe headache, fatigue and depression. This can be avoided by cutting down the amount you drink gradually over a period of days or even weeks. It's also important to drink plenty of water during the process in order to keep your body well hydrated.

If you find that you miss your morning coffee-drinking ritual, replace it with a new tradition that will also boost your health and energy. Vegetable juice makes a great coffee replacement.
Furthermore, because caffeine increases the production of stomach acid, high usage over time can lead to peptic ulcers, erosive esophagitis, and gastroesophageal reflux disease.

A study done on coffee drinkers in Finland
showed that people who drink many cups of coffee every day appear to be at a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. Those who drank four or more cups of coffee a day had twice the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, compared with people who drank less coffee. Most of them drank boiled coffee that was not filtered. That may have made the difference. I don't know. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 2000;59;631-635. The Iowa Womens Health study came to the same conclusion using decaf coffee.

Unless your coffee is organic, you might be drinking some things that you might not like. Since most coffees are not grown in the United States, they contain a great deal of toxic pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers.

I drink about five or six cups per week as well as drinking juices and green teas. I am highly aware of the addictive qualities of coffee and caffeine. That is why I limit my intake to small amounts. Caffeine is one of the most abused drugs on the planet. I was addicted once and it took me a while to get free. I just don't want to go there again. I like coffee now and then and I like the health benefits it gives me but, like most things, it needs to be taken in moderation and with care.

I have found a way to brew a healthier cup of coffee. It is called the Toddy Cold Brew Systemand it uses cold water to make 48 oz. of concentrated coffee.
You simply take a pound of coffee and put it in the brewing container. It has a filter and a cork in the bottom. Then you put 9 cups of cold water in and wait 12-18 hours. It's kind of like sun tea in that it contains 67% less acid and slightly less caffeine than regular coffee. Since there is no heat involved, there is less oils released from the beans too. It keeps for a week in your fridge or for longer if you freeze it in your ice cube tray or several small containers. When you want a cup of smooth coffee, you simply put in one part concentrate to three parts water. If you like stronger tasting coffee, add less water. Heat it on the stove or microwave.
You can pick one up at Gloria Jeans Coffee Beans or Seattle' Best Coffee in Borders Bookstore.


Linda said...

great, great article on coffee. I just drink it whenever I can and love

Lisa said...

Interesting article.. Thanks for letting me know. I try to drink just one cup a day b/c I love coffee and I need to wake up. I drink it with one small teaspoon of sugar and non-fat half/half. If I want coffee after 4pm, I drink decaf and I sleep just fine.
Thanks for visiting! Have a good one!