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Drinking Coffee: More Good Than Harm than Good?

There was a time when the only news about coffee and health was how it was bad for the heart, but now it seems this popular beverage is receiving a more favorable kind of press. 

However, the researchers uncovering the good news are all saying the same thing: while there appear to be some health perks from drinking coffee, there are also a few cautions, and the evidence is not solid enough to actively encourage people to go out and drink coffee.

Another reason to reserve some caution, is that although the evidence is shifting toward a more favorable view of coffee’s effect on health, it is not based on cause and effect but on links for which there could be other explanations: it could be that regular coffee drinkers have something else in common, that studies have yet to discover, to account for the effect on health.

How Much Caffeine in a Cup of Coffee?

Coffee is one of the most widely consumed beverages in the world, and the most commonly consumed psychoactive drug. Some its behavioral effects, such as arousal, are not dissimilar to those of other stimulants like cocaine and amphetamines.

It can be confusing when you read about coffee consumption in cups because of the difference in cup sizes from country to country. For instance, in the US, coffee is typically served in an 240 ml cup, which is twice the amount in a typical European serving.

It can be even more confusing if you want to know how much caffeine is in a cup, because that varies depending on the beans, how they are roasted, and how the coffee is prepared.

For example, a restaurant-style serving of Espresso in a 30ml cup can contain from 40 to 75 mg of caffeine. Even a decaffeinated Espresso can contain up to 15 mg of caffeine.

On the other hand, an 240 ml cup of generic instant coffee can contain any amount from 27 to 173 mg of caffeine, while a Starbucks Pike Place 480 ml cup of brewed coffee contains 330 mg of caffeine.

Tea has about half as much caffeine as coffee.

How Much Is a Moderate Intake of Caffeine?

  • A moderate intake of caffeine is probably around 300 mg per day. This is roughly 3 to 4 cups of ground roasted coffee or 5 cups of instant.
  • For pregnant women, this level would be considered excessive, and they are advised to keep their consumption below 200 mg a day.
  • Coffee is not the only source of caffeine in the diet. 300 mg is also the amount of caffeine in 5 or 6 servings of tea and some colas, and the average chocolate candy bar has about 35 mg.

Knowing this;  the Turning Point:

  • Study results showed regularly consuming up to 6 cups of coffee per day (containing around 100 mg caffeine per 240ml cup) was not linked with increased deaths in either men or women, from any cause, or death from cancer or from cardiovascular disease.
  • Mayo Clinic preventive medicine specialist Donald Hensrud suggests one explanation for the apparent reversal in thinking about coffee, is that:
  • Earlier studies didn’t always take into account that known high-risk behaviors, such as smoking and physical inactivity, tended to be more common among heavy coffee drinkers at that time.
  • But perhaps what these more recent findings suggest, says van Dam, is that outside of certain groups, like pregnant women and those who have trouble controlling blood pressure, people should continue to enjoy their coffee in moderation and focus instead on other lifestyle factors, such as stopping smoking, getting more exercise, and eating more whole grains, as ways to reduce risk of poor health.

Heart Disease and Stroke

  • Studies reported more recently, in 2012, a study found that drinking coffee in moderation, may also protect slightly against heart failure.
  • For women, coffee drinking may mean a lower risk of stroke.
  • The researchers also found that “low or no coffee consumption was associated with an increased risk of stroke in women”.
  • The findings were the same, regardless of other factors such as smoking, alcohol, body mass index, history of diabetes and high blood pressure.
  • However, a recent Harvard Health newsletter warns that while moderate coffee consumption (3 – 4 cups a day) may be linked to a lower risk for stroke, among infrequent coffee consumers the risk of a stroke just after drinking coffee could be higher.
  • One reason coffee consumption may lower longer term risk for heart disease and stroke, is because it appears to reduce the chance of developing type 2 diabetes, which is itself a risk factor for these diseases.

Type 2 Diabetes

  • Analysis found participants who reported drinking more than 6 or 7 cups of coffee a day were 35% less likely to have type 2 diabetes, compared with those who reported drinking under 2 cups a day. For those drinking 4 to 6 cups a day, the risk was reduced by 28%.
  • More recently, in 2009, an international study led by researchers in Australia, reviewed 18 studies covering nearly 458,000 people and found that for every extra daily cup of coffee consumed, there was a 7% reduction in risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Speculations are that caffeine is unlikely to be the reason for the link between coffee consumption and reduced type 2 diabetes risk, and the more likely explanation is “the whole package” of nutrients. For instance coffee is rich in antioxidants, which are known to prevent tissue damage caused by oxygen-free radicals.
  • Coffee also contains minerals such as magnesium and chromium, both used by the body to regulate insulin which in turns controls blood sugar. People with type 2 diabetes have lost the ability to use insulin to regulate blood sugar properly.

Dementia & Alzheimers

  • They monitored the memory and thinking processes of 124 people, aged 65 to 88, and found all those with higher blood levels of caffeine (mostly from drinking coffee) avoided the onset of Alzheimer’s disease in the 2-4 year follow up. This was even true of those who had mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a precursor of Alzheimer’s.
  • Found that 3-5 cups of coffee a day in midlife years had a 65% lower chance of developing dementia and Alzheimer ‘s disease compared with those who reported drinking no coffee at all or occasionally.

Parkinson’s Disease

  • For Parkinson’s Disease, another neurodegenerative disorder, it appears there is also a link between higher coffee consumption and decreased risk. And like Alzheimer’s, this also seems to be due to caffeine, but it is less clear how it works.
  • For every increase of 300 mg per day in caffeine intake, they found a drop of 24% in the relative risk of developing Parkinson’s. Among those who regularly drank two to three cups of coffee a day, there was a 25% lower chance of developing the disease compared to non-coffee drinkers. However, among women coffee drinkers only, this fell to 14%. The researchers said their findings could “hardly by explained by bias or uncontrolled confounding”.

Cancer(studies are hi-lighted for you to follow through on these)

  • Studies have also suggested coffee consumption is linked to a lower risk for some cancers, including endometrial, aggressive prostate, estrogen-negative breast cancer, liver cancer, and a common form of skin cancer, but not others (eg esophageal).
  • In 2011, researchers working with data from the Nurses’ Health Study published findings that showed coffee drinkers who consumed more than four cups a day had a 25% lower risk of developing endometrial cancer.
  • Senior researcher Edward Giovannucci, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health, said coffee is starting to emerge as a protective agent in cancers that are linked to obesity, estrogen and insulin.
  • He and his colleagues suggest antioxidant and anti-inflammatory substances in coffee may be responsible for anti-cancer activity. Giovannucci said lab tests show coffee has more antioxidants than most fruits and vegetables.
  • Giovannucci was also co-author of another 2011 study that found men who regularly drink coffee appear to have a lower risk of developing an aggressive, lethal form of prostate cancer. They also found the lower risk was the same for caffeinated as for decaffeinated coffee.
  • A link with coffee consumption and lower risk of estrogen-negative breast cancer was made in a Swedish study that also appeared in 2011.
  • When they first looked at their data, the researchers from Karolinska Institute found women who drank coffee had a lower incidence of breast cancer than women who rarely drank coffee, but when they took into account other risk factors, including lifestyle and age, they found the lower risk was only measurable for estrogen-negative breast cancer.
  • The case for linking reduced risk of liver cancer to coffee drinking has been building steadily for a while.
  • In 2007, a study led by the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research in Milan, Italy, that did a pooled analysis of ten studies that included over 2,200 people with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), reported that among coffee drinkers overall, there was a 41 per cent reduction in risk of HCC compared to those who never drank coffee. HCC is the most common liver cancer and accounts for about 90% of them.
  • But the researchers concluded that while they found this link, they could not say if it was coffee that was reducing the risk of liver cancer, or if it was that people with liver cancer tended to drink less coffee for other reasons.
  • Then in 2008, there followed the publication of a new large, prospective population-based study involving over 60,000 Finns followed for a median of 19 years, that confirmed higher coffee consumption was linked to lower risk of developing liver cancer.
  • Researchers led by Gang Hu at the University of Helsinki noted a significant inverse relationship between coffee drinking and the risk of primary liver cancer. The more coffee people drank, the lower their risk. But the authors said the biological mechanism behind this link was not known, and in an accompanying editorial, Carlo La Vecchia of Milan said that while the study solidly confirmed the link between coffee drinking and lower risk of liver cancer, it “remains difficult” to translate it into potential ways to prevent of liver cancer by increasing coffee consumption.
  • More recently, a large US study of over 110,000 people found that the more caffeine there was in their diets, the lower their risk of developing basal cell carcinoma, the most common type of skin cancer.

Pregnancy

  • Pregnant women are advised not to drink too much coffee. In 2010, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) put out a statement that said drinking less than 200 mg of coffee a day (which they equate to 12 oz of coffee), doesn’t seem to increase risk of miscarriage, or premature delivery, but above this level it is not clear what the risks might be.

 

  • remember that caffeinated tea and soft drinks also contain caffeine, although less than coffee, and so do chocolate candy bars.

So it seems coffee is ok for the most of us!!!! But as always good quality coffee. good quality water.

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