Ahhhh, there’s nothing like a fresh cup of coffee to wake up with or to provide that extra boost of energy during the day.  But do you ever wonder about coffee’s impact on your health?  Coffee has been consumed for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years.  The use of coffee increased with the spread of Islam in the 7th and 8th centuries.  In Europe, Coffee was first considered a man’s drink, while coffee drinking by women was considered taboo.  Perhaps these early Europeans knew about the negative effects of coffee on women’s fertility?  The health effects of coffee have been debated for centuries, but today we have more information about coffee than ever.

With that, I’ll save the good news for last and start with a few of coffee’s negative health effects:

  • There is some evidence that regular consumption of coffee may cause miscarriages or inhibit a baby’s development in the womb.
  • Moderate to high consumption of coffee (more than 2-3 cups per day) inhibits calcium and iron absorption.  Both nutrients are especially important for women’s health; however, men need to be aware of calcium deficiencies as well.
  • If consumed while stressed, the caffeine in coffee increases the body’s production of adrenaline, and therefore further increases stress levels.
  • Generally, coffee consumption does not increase blood pressure; however, it can increase blood pressure levels in those who already have high blood pressure.
  • If you are trying to gain weight, coffee consumption will make it more difficult .  Coffee speeds up metabolism and can interfere with muscle recuperation.  Efficient muscle recuperation and function depend on proper calcium absorption.
  • Caffeine dependency occurs after only a few days of regular consumption.
  • Finally, unfiltered coffee can raise LDL (usually considered bad) and overall cholesterol levels. Filtered coffee, however, has minimal effects on cholesterol levels.

Despite all the potential negatives, take heart coffee lovers; low or moderate consumption of coffee has several positive health effects.

  • For one, coffee consumption holds promise for preventing type 2 diabetes in men and women.
  • Regular coffee consumption might also aid in the prevention of Parkinson’s disease.
  • Coffee, like most plant-based foods and beverages, contains anti-oxidants that may help prevent some forms of cancer, such as colorectal cancer.
  • The caffeine in coffee speeds up the body’s metabolism, which can help with weight loss when coupled with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
  • Lastly, I won’t fail to mention coffee’s most beloved and well-known benefits: the caffeine in coffee speeds up mental and physical reaction times and temporarily reduces feelings of sleepiness. How would many of us start the day, finish that term paper, or get through that Monday shift at work without a cup (or two) of coffee?!

Like all drugs, the caffeine in coffee has positive and negative side-effects.  You have to decide if the good effects outweigh the bad.  And of course, taste and enjoyment are important considerations as well!  Overall, the key, as with so many other things in life, is moderation.  If you drink coffee, it seems wise not to drink more than 1-3 cups (6 oz) per day.  Also, try to stick to organic and fair trade certified beans.  Non-organic coffee is one of the most pesticide ridden crops in the world.  The good news, however, is that the percentage of organic crops is growing.  Coffee production can also benefit local economies when growers and workers are guaranteed a fair wage.  So, if you love coffee, keep enjoying it, but sip it slowly.  Go for a short, rather than a venti cup of coffee next time you’re at Starbucks (even better, go for a small rather than a large cup at your local coffee shop), and savor the flavor!

Originally posted 2011-06-21 18:34:00.


4 Responses

  1. @ Andy – I thought I might get a response from you on this one 😉 Red wine and tea both offer some great health benefits, but again, moderation is usually the rule. However, green tea has less caffeine and more antioxidants than coffee, so its possible to drink quite a bit of it and still obtain health benefits. Moderate wine consumption (2 drinks or less per day) provides antioxidants and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, but excessive consumption increases risk for disease. Hope that helps for now – stay tuned for more info on food and beverages in the future.

Leave a Reply