|photo by CoffeeGeek|
I enjoy drinking several cups of coffee a day, but I never really knew whether I should or should not drink this stuff. Is it bad for me, or is it good for me? Does it really have an effect, or do I think it has an effect? I know the latter can be true, as one of my former colleagues once said to feel much more awake after drinking a decaf (without knowing).
So to put an end to ignorance, I did some research. And it contradicts a little. So for your enjoyment, 5 reasons to drink coffee, and 5 to don’t drink it.
5 reasons to drink coffee
- It heightens your senses
Coffee has several effects on your awareness, your senses and your mental capabilities. Albeit on a short term only, there are no lasting effects. Coffee contains caffeine, but is also known to stimulate the production of cortisone and adrenaline. These are hormones that prepare your body for a fight or flight response.
They make you very aware! But you can feel a little stressed out as well…
- It protects against diabetes
Drinking coffee reduces the risk of getting diabetes mellitus type 2. This is the type where body tissues become resistant to insulin. Obesity, among a lot of other factors, is currently a major cause for diabetes type 2.
Drinking coffee reduces the risk up to 50% (when ingested at 7 cups a day), but it has a linear effect. So even a single cup of coffee a day, effectively reduces this risk a little.
- It protects the brain
It won’t make you smarter, but studies have shown that caffeine has a positive impact on protecting from brain diseases. In this study published by the Harvard School of Public Health a beneficial effect of caffeine was found for preventing Parkinson’s disease when consumed in moderate quantities, both for men and women. For women though, the effects needed more research (sorry…).
But it doesn’t stop at Parkinson’s, there are also benefits for preventing Alzheimer and mild memory and thinking problems for older men (no women in the tests…sorry) in general. So for men: this might help!
- It contains antioxidants
Antioxidants are your friends! In short, they prevent free radicals from causing cell damage. This cell damage is related to aging processes, but also to many forms of cancer. There also seem to be relations to Parkinson’s, Alzheimer, schizophrenia and other diseases of the brain.
And antioxidants prevent those free radicals from doing their destructive work. A certain antioxidant, methylpyridinium, has been found to specifically prevent colon cancer. Ain’t that great?
- It makes and keeps you awake
Coffee, or better caffeine, doesn’t take away the need for sleep. It just postpones it a little, by making sure you don’t feel you need to sleep. That’s tricky, because your body is still in need of sleep, but you’re fooling your mind into not feeling that sensation.
But as long as you’re aware of this phenomenon, it can be very helpful at times. When you have to meet that deadline, or you have to drive that last half an hour to get home.
5 reasons not to drink coffee
- It is addictive
Caffeine is a drug the body gets used to very quickly, this process is called tolerance adaptation. If taken in large enough quantities (900 – 1200mg a day) this can lead to a partial or full tolerance in as quick as one to three weeks. An average cup of coffee contains 135mg of caffeine, so that’s 7 to 9 cups a day for an extended period of time.
When you stop ingesting caffeine, you get withdrawal symptoms. Among those symptoms are headaches, irritability and generally being unable to concentrate. These symptoms fade away fairly quickly too though. Usually within a couple of days. But most likely, you’ll have a new fix with a cup of coffee before that happens
- It disrupts sleeping patterns
While this can be a benefit (see the section above), when taken to extremes coffee (or caffeine actually) can result in serious sleeping disorders. Two of them are linked directly to the caffeine, but there are more that have a correlation. They are classified as psychiatric disorders.
- It increases cholesterol
OK, usually it doesn’t. But when the coffee is made using the French Press method, the coffee contains oils that increase LDL cholesterol levels (that’s the bad one). This method of coffee making is popular among coffee lovers, as it has an authentic feel about it. But it is also commonly used among people that don’t drink coffee, as it’s a cheap way of being able to make coffee for guests.
- It can cause headaches
Caffeine can both treat headaches or cause them. If you consume caffeine in certain levels (around 500mg a day), you are prone to withdrawal effects when reducing the amount. One of those effects is a headache. Coffee usually is the main source for caffeine ingestion, but there are many other sources, like tea, chocolate, soft drinks and a lot of pain relieving medicine!
The caffeine in those medicines, when used incorrectly or with too many other sources of caffeine, can lead to a phenomenon called rebound headaches. So if you suffer from headaches a lot, check your daily caffeine ingestion, you might take a tad too much.
- It maintains unfair trade agreements with farmers
This may not be a health related issue, but an issue nevertheless. The raw material for coffee, the coffee beans, are mainly purchased from farmers in developing countries. Unfortunately there are a lot of small coffee farmers, selling to a limited group of companies buying coffee. And the prices and conditions they get are not very fair.
Thankfully there is an alternative with products that have been licensed by a Fair Trade organization. Fair Trade (or Max Havelaar) is a certificate that ensures that the coffee farmers have been paid a fair price for their product. This has many benefits for society in the developing countries, and it will only cost you a couple of cents extra.
I’ll be drinking my cups of coffee, but I’ll limit them to 3 or 4 a day. That gives me most of the benefits and keeps me clear of the potential downsides. Oh, and I’m drinking Fair Trade coffee whenever possible.
For those of you thinking that Decaf is the answer to most of the downsides, well it might be. But the decaffeinating process has several variants, most of which use rather nasty chemicals. So you might want to know what process is used…