The Many Health Benefits of Coffee

Roasted coffee beans, the world's primary sour...
   Nowadays with the Starbucks revolution and the amount of coffee that is consumed around the world... there seems to be this common notion that coffee drinking is a vice... something to be shunned and avoided because of it's acidic nature and high caffeine content. It seems to be something that most people are trying to 'cut down' on because they are feeling like they are drinking way too much of the stuff or they just can't seem to function as well without it. Well what if I tell you that maybe the reason most people seem to crave coffee so much is because it is actually good for you? Would you believe me? Or would you need some substantial evidence to support this seemingly unfounded notion?  I have done some research lately and even I was surprised at what I found. It is finally time for the coffee drinkers of the world to have some justification and to be proud of their love of the almighty drink. It is actually one of the better things one can do for their health in the long term. According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, 'Coffee may protect against disease'.  The list of diseases that it goes on to mention are Cancer, Diabetes, and Parkinson's Disease. It says...

   " Coffee might have anti-cancer properties. Last year, researchers found that coffee drinkers were 50% less likely to get liver cancer than nondrinkers. A few studies have found ties to lower rates of colon, breast, and rectal cancers...Heavy coffee drinkers may be half as likely to get diabetes as light drinkers or nondrinkers. Coffee may contain chemicals that lower blood sugar. A coffee habit may also increase your resting metabolism rate, which could help keep diabetes at bay...Coffee seems to protect men, but not women, against Parkinson’s disease. One possible explanation for the sex difference may be that estrogen and caffeine need the same enzymes to be metabolized, and estrogen captures those enzymes."

    The study does also mention that coffee may increase the risk for high blood pressure over a long period of time... and that "Two substances in coffee — kahweol and cafestol — raise cholesterol levels. Paper filters capture these substances, but that doesn’t help the many people who now drink non-filtered coffee drinks, such as lattes. Researchers have also found a link between cholesterol increases and decaffeinated coffee, possibly because of the type of bean used to make certain decaffeinated coffees." So there are a few possible negative effects but it seems that compared to the pharmaceutical and therapy treatments of today... especially those of Cancer... the side effects are extremely minimal and far from being as life-threatening as the diseases which the drinking of coffee seems to prevent.

  An article published by The Mayo Clinic seems to validate the Harvard findings but does discuss the importance of exercising moderation and the use of additives in one's coffee drinks...

   "Newer studies have also shown that coffee may have benefits, such as protecting against Parkinson's disease, type 2 diabetes and liver cancer. And it has a high content of antioxidants. But this doesn't mean you should disregard the old maxim "Everything in moderation." Although coffee may not be very harmful, other beverages such as milk and juice contain nutrients that coffee does not. Also, keep in mind that coffee accompaniments such as cream and sugar add fat and calories to your diet. Finally, heavy caffeine use — on the order of four to seven cups of coffee a day — can cause problems such as restlessness, anxiety, irritability and sleeplessness, particularly in susceptible individuals."

  Even reputable websites such as WebMD and news sources such as CNN, The New York Times, ABC News and Yahoo have been reporting these findings.In a recent article by CNN, "Coffee: Is It Healthier Than You Think?", the author discusses it's antioxidant properties as well as it's ability to decrease the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's later in life.

   "And in 2009, two coffee studies suggested additional benefits: Coffee-drinking men seemed to have a lower risk of advanced or lethal prostate cancer than other men, and middle-aged people who drank moderate amounts of coffee -- three to five cups a day -- had the lowest risk for dementia and Alzheimer's disease later in life compared to less (or more) frequent drinkers. Can drinking coffee even help you live longer? Maybe. A 2008 study found that women who drank coffee regularly -- up to six cups a day -- were less likely to die of various causes during the study than their non-coffee-drinking counterparts. Because consumption of decaf coffee showed similar results, researchers don't think caffeine is at work.

Coffee contains antioxidants

   While coffee drinkers may have other lifestyle habits that could explain the potential health benefits, researchers are also looking for compounds in coffee that explain the results. One possibility? Antioxidants, those healthy compounds most often associated with fruits and vegetables. While the amount of antioxidants per serving is indeed much higher in things like berries, beans, and pecans, these foods are consumed less frequently than coffee. In fact, a 2005 study found that Americans get more antioxidants from coffee than anywhere else. More than half of adults drink coffee daily, and the average coffee drinker downs about three cups each day. "Most people drink it for the caffeine," says Joe A. Vinson, Ph.D., a professor of chemistry at the University of Scranton who led the 2005 study and has studied coffee extensively. "[But] it's the Number 1 source of antioxidants in the U.S. diet." Polyphenols or flavonoids, the type of antioxidants found in coffee, are also found in other foods and drinks, like tea, red wine, and chocolate. All three have been proven to moderately help brain function, a benefit that can't be chalked up to caffeine, says Vinson, who has received speaking fees from the National Coffee Association. Caffeine, the most commonly used drug in the U.S., says Vinson, does affect alertness, but hasn't been found to offer much in the way of health benefits."

   The New York Times article titled "Coffee as a Health Drink..." draws it's conclusions from studies published in the journal of the American Medical Association and discusses it's benefits in relation to Cardiovascular disease as well as Diabetes and Cirrhosis of the Liver. In relation to Diabetes it says...

   "Coffee contains antioxidants that help control the cell damage that can contribute to the development of the disease. It is also a source of chlorogenic acid, which has been shown in animal experiments to reduce glucose concentrations." and that "Larger quantities of coffee seem to be especially helpful in diabetes prevention. In a report that combined statistical data from many studies, researchers found that people who drank four to six cups of coffee a day had a 28 percent reduced risk compared with people who drank two or fewer. Those who drank more than six had a 35 percent risk reduction."

   When discussing Cardiovascular disease it mentions that "Some studies show that cardiovascular risk also decreases with coffee consumption. Using data on more than 27,000 women ages 55 to 69 in the Iowa Women’s Health Study who were followed for 15 years, Norwegian researchers found that women who drank one to three cups a day reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by 24 percent compared with those drinking no coffee at all. But as the quantity increased, the benefit decreased. At more than six cups a day, the risk was not significantly reduced. Still, after controlling for age, smoking and alcohol consumption, women who drank one to five cups a day — caffeinated or decaffeinated — reduced their risk of death from all causes during the study by 15 to 19 percent compared with those who drank none. The findings, which appeared in May in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggest that antioxidants in coffee may dampen inflammation, reducing the risk of disorders related to it, like cardiovascular disease. Several compounds in coffee may contribute to its antioxidant capacity, including phenols, volatile aroma compounds and oxazoles that are efficiently absorbed. In another analysis, published in July in the same journal, researchers found that a typical serving of coffee contains more antioxidants than typical servings of grape juice, blueberries, raspberries and oranges."

   So is it okay to continue in our passion and love for this drink that has been a substantial foundation for the energy used to build nations and the lifeblood of the business world around the globe? Is it actually time we give some credit to the ever-abused beverage that just doesn't seem like it will ever get a break?  I think that the evidence is quite clear: the reason that so many people love coffee is not only the taste or pleasant aroma... or the fact that it gets them going in the morning or afternoon, or that it is the perfect beverage to stimulate their brain into creativity or thought or conversation... but that it is actually good for their health!

   So here's to you my friends who are coffee drinkers and have felt guilty about it for so many years.  Bottom's up! Savor your next cup with reckless abandon and live life with the energy that you can feel from the benefits of Coffee... the best drink in the world!



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