Coffee has unjustifiably received a lot of bad publicity over the last few years. It gets more often that you hear these people exclaiming proudly how they abstain from drinking it altogether and have switched it to tea, as it’s a “lot healthier”.
Let’s face it. Coffee is the most favorite and most consumed beverage throughout every culture in the world. Around 85% of North Americans consume caffeine in some form daily. The most typical intake is equal to two big cups of coffee (around 64 oz), which is the same as taking a big gulp of soda.
Two decades ago, the majority of people who were looking for a fat loss diet mistakenly thought that drinking coffee was very much like smoking cigarettes, namely, they were both dangerous to our health and pushing us to an early grave. The consequences they thought could arise to drinking coffee were high blood pressure, heart disease, dehydration, various ulcers and various other issues. These claims have luckily been disproven much to the joy of millions of people who enjoy their daily coffee and consider it an essential part of their daily routine and their overall health.
The coffee buzz
Even though a big number of people like drinking coffee because of its taste, there are also those who drink it to get a buzz. The buzz we experience is actually caffeine hijacking the receptors for a substance in the brain known as adenosine. Adenosine’s role is to accumulate itself during some kind of daily activity, attach itself to the brain cells’ receptors and make us feel drowsy as the day nears its end ensuring we fall asleep quickly and have a quality sleep.
While sleeping, adenosine levels decrease, which allows our body to wake up in an alert state and which makes us feel energized in the morning. That is how we are supposed to feel actually.
When caffeine starts blocking adenosine in the brain and throughout the body, the body starts re-energizing back again quickly. Blood vessels start constricting which raises blood pressure and sugar is released from carb deposits, which causes an increase in blood sugar levels. We start feeling energized and fully alert. That’s why caffeine is considered one of the most powerful stimulants, improving both your mood and mental energy.
Despite all of this, caffeine is considered a drug, and the research that has shown that caffeine improves physical reflexes and mental skills are largely thought to be a reflection of caffeine’s addictive properties instead of its ability to stimulate us. Previous studies into the effects of caffeine involved participants who were already habitual coffee drinkers and they were asked to abstain from drinking it for a couple days to a week, gave them a baseline test free of caffeine, then again were given caffeine and were tested again. It’s not surprising that the baseline measurements from the habitual drinkers who were experiencing withdrawal symptoms were poor. Once they got back to drinking it, they started getting remarkably improved scores.
Recent studies have started showing that if you haven’t already been a regular drinker, the performance during physical activity or during mental tasks might only get a slight improvement or none at all if you start drinking caffeine.
It’s widely known that stress is dangerous for your health. Stress increases hormones related to stress, blood pressure, and sugar levels, causes damage to blood vessels and raises the likelihood of getting a stroke or developing a heart disease. The same applies to an increased intake of caffeine.
So, a question arises: how much caffeine is too much? Numerous studies that were examining the effects on health the drinking caffeine has have concluded that drinking 3 cups of coffee per day is the upper limit above which issues can arise.
Staying below this limit is an entirely different story. Drinking just one cup will provide you with more antioxidants than eating a handful of blueberries. And what’s more interesting, it was concluded that coffee was the main source of antioxidants in the average diet of Americans. Taking that into consideration, nutritionists have started a series of studies trying to discover the health benefits that drinking a couple of cups a day can have.
Coffee and its relation to hydration
For years athletes were advised against drinking caffeine close to exercising since it was believed to dehydrate the body. Nowadays, it is known that dehydration level is influenced by the amount of caffeine ingested. One study has proven that the body’s response is largely dose-dependent and limiting caffeine intake to the upper limit of 3 cups a day, no significant dehydration occurs.
Quite the opposite actually, the liquid found in the caffeinated beverage can be counted inside the total daily consumption of fluids. Another study, however, showed that drinking more than 5 cups a day will most definitely dehydrate you if you do not take measures to replace the lost liquid.
Coffee and its relation to blood pressure
Several studies have proven that coffee consumption in moderation doesn’t have a significant effect on blood pressure. One study that lasted for over a decade, showed that zero intake and very high intake of coffee had a smaller effect on resting blood pressure levels in comparison to those who drank moderately up to 4 cups a day.
An inversely proportional relation was discovered between coffee consumption and the likelihood of developing hypertension in participants. The scientists made a conclusion that those experiencing high blood pressure symptoms should avoid caffeine, whereas those with normal levels can safely drink in moderation.
In another study that was done on adult subjects older than 60, were given 4 or more caffeinated drinks per day. The results showed that they had less than half the chances of dying of some kind of heart disease in comparison to those who drank a smaller amount. Now, that’s strange. What’s actually going on? Scientists believe that older adults usually have low blood pressure, which can drastically increase the chances of getting a heart attack. By rapidly increasing blood pressure, caffeine has a role of protecting against unpredictable heart attacks.
An interesting thing to note is that the oils found in coffee are very powerful regulators of cholesterol levels and blood pressure. When coffee beans are stepped, as it’s done in a French press, the oils are kept in the liquid and can increase cholesterol levels and the risk of developing high blood pressure. Coffee brewed by using filters traps the oils and eliminates them from the liquid.
Coffee and its relation to heart diseases
One study found that women post their menopause that drank one to four cups of coffee per day had 25% less risk of developing a heart disease in comparison to those who didn’t drink coffee. The reasoning behind this is that the antioxidants found in coffee are offering protection against the damage occurring in the cells found in the arteries’ wall, caused by aging and the outside environment.
The same as a diet that is rich in vegetables and fruits, a diet that contains a moderate quantity of coffee has been shown to reduce one of the main factors contributing to developing a heart disease, which is inflammation. This factor appears to be unrelated to the presence of caffeine in coffee, so decaf coffee would basically have the exact same benefits.
Coffee and its relation to diabetes
Several studies have tried to examine caffeine’s relation to diabetes. We already know that caffeine in its pure form can increase the symptoms of diabetes. The studies have proven that those who drink more than 6 cups of coffee per day have a significantly lower risk in the range of 60-80 % in developing diabetes type II, in comparison to non-drinkers.
Another study that was done on around 120,000 healthy participants concluded that those who drank a minimum of 5 cups per day had 30% less risk of developing diabetes in comparison to those who didn’t drink coffee. Again in this instance, caffeine wasn’t the protective factor, those drinking decaf coffee experienced a much more powerful protective effect. The reasoning behind this is that the antioxidants found in coffee have a protective role in regards to the beta-cells in the pancreas in charge of producing insulin.
Coffee’s effects on the liver
If you are an alcohol aficionado and enjoy drinking it, there is a way to improve the chances of the liver staying healthy and maintain that, by drinking coffee. A study was made on adult subjects where the researchers found that those who drank more coffee than usual, like 3 or 4 cups a day, had the least risk of developing cirrhosis.
Drinkers of coffee also showed lower enzyme levels which are indicators of how much the liver was damaged. Tea, on the other hand, had no effect whatsoever.
Coffee’s effects on the brain
Because coffee is rich in antioxidants, it is very helpful when it comes to the protection of brain health. Coffee was shown to inhibit the speed of cognitive decline related to aging and gradual development of degenerative illnesses of the brain like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease. Moderate consumption of coffee of 1-3 cups a day has repeatedly been shown to be the range that provides the most benefits. The most evident effect coffee has on the brain is mood improvement as well as improvement of the overall wellbeing.