Coffee: The ultimate health question

It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity. ~ David Barry

It is a known fact that coffee is a drug. A dark aromatic beverage seducing most of its consumers in the morning as they drink it to start their day with a jolt.

With every new study that comes to surface about coffee we keep on reading research that keeps on contradicting itself. Is coffee good or bad for you?



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Until recently, drinking coffee was viewed as another bad habit, leading to high blood pressure, insomnia, and other health problems. And while it’s true that high amounts of coffee can temporarily elevate blood pressure or cause insomnia for certain individuals, here’s a summary of some of the pros and cons of drinking coffee.

The Pro’s

  1. Coffee contains a large amount of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and flavonoids which is not surprising considering coffee comes from a plant.
  2. Coffee decreases the risk of some common illnesses.
  3. Drinking a moderate amount of coffee between one to three cups a day, has been associated with a lower risk for heart attacks, especially in women. Some studies have shown a lower risk for cancers like endometrial, prostate and some breast cancers. And coffee has also been linked to a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease.
  4. Lowers risk of diabetes. There are 35 studies which have now been carried out on coffee and diabetes. These have been quite consistent. People drinking more coffee have a lower risk of diabetes.
  5. Boosts memory. The best-known component of coffee is caffeine.  Caffeine imparts a sense of energy, alertness, and well-being. While it was once believed that caffeine didn’t help memory, recent evidence suggests otherwise. In a study, researchers found caffeine boosted memory 24 hours after ingestion, leading them to conclude that caffeine enhances the consolidation of long-term memories. And in a study of people with mild cognitive impairment, higher blood levels of caffeine were associated with a reduced risk or delayed onset of dementia.
  6. Coffee offers longevity benefits. In 2008, a study showed a decreased risk of dying over a 14-year period for coffee drinkers.Another more recent study of centenarians living on the Greek island of Ikaria linked coffee drinking to improved vascular function.
  7. Reduces the risk of developing depression.  Women who drank two or three cups of coffee a day were 15 percent less likely to develop depression when compared to women who drank just one cup a day, one study found.
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The Cons

  1. Some Coffees Raise Your LDL Cholesterol levels.  Boiled coffee common in Scandinavian countries, the French press and the Turkish coffee most commonly drunk in the Middle Eastern regions, Greece and Cyprus are much higher in cafestol.
    Cafestol is a substance found in coffee which increases your LDL cholesterol levels. It is found in the oily fraction of coffee. When you brew coffee with a paper filter, the cafestol gets left behind in the filter. People who have high cholesterol levels or who want to prevent having high cholesterol levels, it is better to choose paper filtered coffee or instant coffee as they have much lower levels of cafestol than boiled or French press coffee.Espresso is somewhere in the middle; it has less cafestol than boiled or French press coffee, but more than paper filtered coffee.  If you have a small cup of French press or Turkish coffee a day you should be fine. It is if you drink it every day in huge amounts that it may have an effect on your cholesterol levels.
  2. Avoid Caffeine During Pregnancy. The caffeine in coffee may be harmful during pregnancy. There are concerns that high caffeine consumption may be detrimental to the foetus as it is not able to detoxify this drug. Although the evidence is not conclusive, if you’re pregnant or planning to be, you should avoid coffee altogether. Over 300 mg of caffeine a day, which is the equivalent of two to three eight ounce cups of coffee, can increase your risk of: miscarriage, delivering a low birth weight baby, having a child with certain birth defects like cleft palate, four or more cups of coffee a day may increase your baby’s risk of SIDS.
  3. Anxiety. People who suffer from an anxiety disorder, caffeine can have an anxiety-inducing effect.
  4. Osteoporosis. For people with a low calcium intake, caffeine may be harmful, as it increases the calcium excretion in the urine and may therefore increase the risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
  5. High Calories. Large amounts of cream and sugar most commonly found in coffee is not doing your health any favours ! These are the coffee-shop commercial type coffees which are high calories, fat and  sugar. It may seem obvious but it’s something to consider the next time you are standing in line at a coffee shop, choose an herbal tea over a sugary, creamy coffee.
  6. Most coffee is heavily sprayed with pesticides. Coffee consumption can be a considerable source of pesticide ingestion. According to the CS Monitor, conventional farmers apply up to 250 pounds of chemical fertilisers per acre! Pesticides contribute to a wide range of health problems, including prostate and other types of cancers, Parkinson’s disease, and miscarriages in pregnant women.
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Drink Coffee Responsibly

Here are a few tips to help reduce the harmful effects of drinking coffee.

  1. Use organic coffee – Again, coffee is a heavily sprayed crop, so drinking organic coffee might reduce or eliminate the exposure to toxic herbicides, pesticides, and fertilisers. If you want to go a step further, look for fair-trade certified coffee, which means the coffee farmers have been paid fairly and treated well.
  2. Swiss Water Process” decaf — If you are going to drink decaffeinated coffee, be sure that it is one that uses a non-chemical based method of decaffeination. The “Swiss Water Process” is a patented method and is the best choice. Most of the major brands are chemically decaffeinated, even if it says “Naturally Decaffeinated” right on the container. If you are unsure of the methods, contact the manufacturer.
  3. Avoid sugar and/or milk — These are actually much worse for you than the coffee itself. Don’t compound the detrimental health effects by adding milk or sugar to your coffee.
  4. Unbleached filters — If you use a “drip” coffee maker, be sure to use non-bleached filters. The bright white ones, which most people use, are chlorine bleached and some of this chlorine will be extracted from the filter during the brewing process.


How often do you drink coffee? Tell us in the comments below…