Coffee and Health
Coffee is one of the worlds most widely researched ingredients and when drunk in moderation (up to 3-5 regular sized cups a day) has many benefits for healthy adults to drink as part of a well-balanced diet and active lifestyle.... Still it seems to be constantly under scrutiny; in this article we review some of the pros and cons of our favourite drink.
The Instant Pick-Me-Up
The instant pick-me-up for when youre feeling tired coffee is often a regular staple in peoples daily routine. You will be familiar with the usage of coffee as a morning kick-start to the day or as an aid in the mid-afternoon battle against tiredness in the workplace. Socially and with the growth of cafe culture the local coffee house also acts as a meeting point for people to come together over a warm cup of their favourite drink.
Coffee contains caffeine which acts as a stimulant. This is naturally produced in the leaves and seeds of many plants, most famously the coffee bean. It can also be produced artificially and added to certain foods. Caffeine improves short-term memory and speeds up reaction times by acting on the brain's prefrontal cortex.
Caffeine also increases the effectiveness of pain killers, especially migraine and headache medications, which is why many of the counter drugs have caffeine contained in them. Caffeine is not stored in the body but you can feel its effects for up to 6 hours. Unlike other beverages that contain caffeine, coffee also contains another agent that stimulates the production of cortisone and adrenaline which are two stimulating hormones in the body which gives coffee an extra kick.
Oh yes, I remember
As well as a stimulant many people also drink coffee to increase their short-term recall. Tests have shown that activities measuring simple reaction times, choice-reaction times, verbal memory and visual-spatial reasoning all had higher results by coffee drinkers with a positive relationship between the amount of coffee drunk and the test score result.
The worries of addiction
Caffeine-dependency is caused by an increase of the adenosine receptors in the central nervous system through regular consumption of coffee. Consuming as little of 100mg of caffeine daily could lead to a person becoming dependent. Dependent drinkers may also experience withdrawal symptoms such as tiredness, irritability and headaches when they havent had their regular cup.
The amount of caffeine that will produce an effect in someone varies from person to person. For example the smaller the person the less caffeine will be needed to produce side effects. Teenagers should try to limit caffeine consumption to no more than 100 mg of caffeine daily, and children should have even less. Caffeine sensitivity is also affected by the intake level a person has per day. People who drink a lot of coffee will have a lower sensitivity level and will need more caffeine to produce the same results. If you're taking in too much caffeine, you may want to cut back slowly switching one or more of your regular cups with water or herbal tea instead. If you feel tired you should have a rest, your energy levels should return to normal after a few days.
Research has shown that coffee drinkers have a reduced risk of Alzheimers Disease and Dementia by disrupting the effects of high cholesterol that scientists have linked to both illnesses. Other studies have also shown that coffee drinkers may have a lower risk of developing Parkinsons Disease and Gallstone disease compared to non-coffee drinkers. New studies have shown mounting evidence that coffee can help prevent cancer protecting against tumours of the head and neck and one study showed that men who regularly drink coffee have a 60% lower risk of developing prostate cancer than those who didnt drink coffee at all.
Are you stressed and anxious? Then stay away from coffee. Panic, anxiety and sleep disorders can often be solved by cutting caffeine intake rather than being prescribed other prescription drugs. Caffeine works by blocking the depressant function of a chemical called adenosine. For most of us, the result is a pleasurable sense of energy and focus. Drink more coffee than you're used to, however, and that same stimulant can cause the jitters. In people predisposed to anxiety disorders, caffeine can trigger several sensations such as sweaty palms, a pounding heart and ringing in the ears. These symptoms can often lead to a full-blown panic attack. While many realise that coffee has aggravated their condition, others give up whatever they were doing when struck by caffeine's disturbing side effects. Someone who has coffee at breakfast and then negotiates the M25 on the way to work may attribute feelings of panic to rush-hour traffic rather than to caffeine.
Give us a smile
While coffee is similar to tea in that regular consumption will stain the teeth it has also been shown that the tannins contained within the drink may reduce the cariogenic potential of foods which may reduce plague formation.
Coffee leaves you dehydrated....or does it?
Contrary to popular belief caffeine will not act as a diuretic when consumed in moderation (up to 300mg of caffeine a day or 3-4 cups of coffee) and lead to dehydration. When counting your total intake of caffeine in a day you should also include caffeine from other sources such as tea, cola drinks, energy drinks and chocolate. Current evidence suggests that caffeinated beverages actually contribute to the bodys daily fluid requirements no differently from pure water.
Coffee is fine to consume as part of a well-balanced and healthy diet but people who are ill or have certain conditions should stay clear. Pregnant women, heart patients, and anyone with a stomach ulcer are usually advised to avoid coffee. People with the following list of ailments should also avoid coffee: bladder or kidney problems, bowel problems such as colitis and diverticulitis, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, fibrocystic breast disease, generalised anxiety or panic attacks, heart problems, hiatal hernia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, hypoglycemia, indigestion, insomnia, irritability, liver disease, menopause, osteoporosis or family history of osteoporosis, PMS, prostate problems, skin irritations, ulcers and urinary tract irritation.
The answer is that as with all things you can have too much of a good thing and coffee should always be consumed in moderation and for those who cant be without their favourite taste decaf is always an option!
This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you have any concerns regarding your health or whether coffee could aggravate any pre-existing medical condition, you should consult your doctor.