Some patients asked recently whether coffee was good for one’s health. Part of the recent upsurge in interest in the health benefits of this beverage has been the shift in marketing strategy by coffee-makers locally in promoting it as a rich source of anti-oxidants.
Yes, coffee is a rich source of anti-oxidants, like chlorogenic acid and melanoidins, the latter being the most important component of roasted coffee. Some of the other beneficial effect of drinking coffee include:
- Reducing the incidence of Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s. Read “A Cup of Coffee a Day will Keep Alzheimer’s Away”.
- Protecting against diabetes. Moderate consumption may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes in younger and middle aged women.
- Preventing liver disease and the formation of liver and kidney stones.
- The beneficial effects of caffeine in coffee on alertness, attentiveness, and wakefulness.
And the bad news? Among other things:
- Unfiltered coffee (as in Turkish coffee and kahawa) raises blood cholesterol. Filtered coffee, as in instant coffee, does not do so as diterpenes, responsible for raising cholesterol, are removed by filtration.
- Coffee consumption is also associated with an increase of plasma homocysteine, a risk factor for coronary heart disease.
- Caffeine in coffee can increase the risk of elevated blood pressure and hardening of the arteries, as well as palpitations.
- 4 cups or more will hasten osteoporosis, especially in those with low calcium intake in the diet.
- Coffee increases heartburn, aka gastro-eosophageal reflux disease (GERD).
What about heart disease? The verdict’s not in just yet..on one hand, diterpenes cause a rise in cholesterol and homocysteine but this seems balanced by the beneficial anti-oxidant properties.
I ought to clarify here that we are talking about coffee, just coffee. The pendulum swings the other way when we consume coffee with additives like milk and sugar. The latte at the local Starbucks will add on quite a substantial amount of fats, sugars and calories (260 to be precise, see here). Compare that to the ZERO calories of plain black coffee!
Gotten into a heated discussion recently about coffee preventing a proper sleep? Some people find that the mild stimulation of caffeine consumed even hours before bed time delays sleep, while others can consume a cup which will knock them out in no time! This paradox has never been fully explained even in medical circles..