The Highs and Lows of Coffee Consumption

LOTS of Americans enjoy waking up with a morning cup of Joe (I may or may not be one of them, ehem)……to the tune of about 90 percent of us. Unfortunately we only get small snippets of information at a time from the media about whether drinking coffee is good or bad for our health. With all this conflicting information it can be hard to decide what is best. So I’ve compiled a list of the pro’s and con’s of coffee consumption to lay it all out for you so you can make an informed decision about what’s best for you.

1. Disease Prevention
By far, the biggest benefit to drinking coffee is it’s potential to prevent a multitude of diseases.

  • Caffeine keeps dopamine molecules active, preventing diseases, like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. Harvard researchers have found that men who drink four cups of caffeinated coffee a day are half as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease as those who refrain from consuming caffeinated beverages.
  • Coffee contains minerals and antioxidants, which help prevent type II diabetes. This may be because caffeine stimulates muscles to burn fat and sugar more efficiently.
  • Coffee drinkers have less risk of heart disease. Korean researchers found that study participants who consumed 3 to 5 cups of coffee a day were less likely to show the beginning signs of heart disease.
  • Recent research showed that coffee may help protect against the development and reoccurrence of Multiple Sclerosis. It is believed that the coffee prevents the neural inflammation that possibly leads to the disease developing.
  • Coffee reduces colorectal cancer risk. Even moderate consumption of coffee can reduce the odds of developing colorectal cancer by 26%. This protective benefit increases with more consumption.
  • Researchers at USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center found that those that consume 1-3 cups of coffee a day have a 29% reduced risk of developing liver cancer.

2. Antioxidants
A typical serving of coffee contains more antioxidants than typical servings of grape juice, blueberries, raspberries, and oranges. Antioxidants help to stabilize free radicals and stop them from doing damage to the DNA of cells.
3. Alertness, Concentration & Mood
Even in relatively low doses, caffeine has been shown to stimulate alertness and improve mental performance. Studies suggest that caffeine can help you perform a variety of cognitive tasks, such as recognizing visual patterns, more quickly.
Some coffee drinkers report an improved sense of well being, happiness, energy, alertness, and sociability. Another study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health found that women who drink 4 or more cups of coffee were 20% less likely to suffer from depression.
1. Raises Blood Pressure
Approximately four cups of coffee or a beverage with equivalent amounts of caffeine can raise blood pressure for many hours.
2. Taxes Adrenal Glands, Kidney & Liver
Coffee stimulates the adrenal glands, activating the body’s fight-or-flight response. But, instead of releasing adrenaline so the body can react to a true stressor, the adrenals are releasing this hormone in response to your coffee consumption. Over time your adrenal glands start to burn out from overuse, which can lead to adrenal fatigue. At the same time, the adrenal glands release cortisol, another stress hormone. Higher cortisol levels cause difficulty sleeping, increase body fat, lower muscle mass, and reduce metabolism so you burn fewer calories. Additionally, too much caffeine ages the kidneys and slows the ability of the liver to detoxify foreign toxins.

3. Nutritional Deficiencies
Coffee’s high caffeine content inhibits the absorption of some nutrients and causes the urinary excretion of calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and trace minerals. Limited calcium absorption and accelerated excretion can potentially lead to bone loss and osteoporosis.

4. Stress & Emotional Disturbances
Caffeine consumption in the early morning affects the body until bedtime, amplifying stress levels throughout the day. Caffeine increases stress hormones and elevates one’s perception of stress. Decreasing coffee and caffeinated beverages will help to lower often exaggerated stress-reactions.
When caffeine enters the body, the heart becomes stimulated and blood vessels dilate. Shortly after, blood pressure increases, causing bronchial relaxation in the lungs and increased breathing. These physiological reactions tend to cause irritability, restlessness, insomnia, and agitation.
5. Male Health Problems
Research shows that men can significantly reduce their risk for urinary and prostate problems by making dietary changes, which include eliminating coffee and caffeine.
6. Female Health Problems
Fibrocystic breast disease, PMS, osteoporosis, infertility problems, miscarriage, low birth weight, and menopausal problems such as hot flashes are all exacerbated by caffeine consumption. Women on birth control pills are particularly at risk since they tend to have a decreased ability to detoxify caffeine.
7. Aging
Caffeine tolerance may decrease with age. Production of DHEA, melatonin, and other vital hormones decline with age and caffeine helps to speed up this process. Caffeine also dehydrates the body, contributes to aging of the skin, and inhibits DNA repair.
8. Unhealthy Additives
Many of us load our cups with sugar and artificial, chemical-laden creamers. If you are in this camp, you are probably negating any positive health benefits.
As you can see, drinking coffee has health benefits as well as drawbacks. The key is moderation, which is typically 1-3 cups a day, to get the benefits but avoid the negative issues associated with too much caffeine. Ultimately, you are the best person to decide how much coffee is optimal for your body and your health. Every person is different, with individual health concerns and sensitivities.
As usual, my best advice is, listen to your body. Your body’s natural state is health. If something is out of balance, your body sends very clear messages. But you must be willing to slow down and take the time to listen.

Wishing you vibrant health!