As I sit here sipping my cup of Java, as I do just about daily since picking up the habit in college, I decided to look up some new information regarding the effects of coffee on our bodies. We hear conflicted advice about its consumption, so I took the time to read about the most recent facts on this subject. If you are a part of the majority of fellow coffee drinkers who look forward to the morning (afternoon and evening) pick-me-up coffee provides, then you will appreciate some good news that I have for you. Unfortunately, though, the verdict is not clear-cut. Those of you who prefer not to indulge can still say, “I told you so.” Read on.
Coffee has been shown to provide many different important health benefits in the most recent scientific studies. Coffee contains antioxidants that fight the chemicals in the body responsible for a number of illnesses, including cancer and heart disease. More specifically, coffee consumption may help reduce the risk of liver cancer, adult-onset diabetes, Parkinson's, colon cancer, cirrhosis, and gallstones. Coffee also contains hundreds of pain-relieving compounds as well as antibacterial properties that prevent bacteria from sticking to tooth enamel and that reduce the growth of certain tooth decaying bacteria in the mouth. Studies are under way to see if all this equates to fewer cavities.
Another new study shows caffeine in coffee can help reduce exercise-induced muscle pain and improve stamina, allowing you to push yourself harder and longer. You’ll need to down a 16-ouncer before exercising; smaller amounts may work, but to a lesser degree. I noticed this when, on a few occasions, I had my cup before heading to the gym. I was amazed at my energy level on the treadmill!
In addition to the physical benefits, a number of studies have shown that coffee may enhance mental functions by making you more alert and even boosting your learning abilities and powers of reasoning. Further, it can elevate your mood and possibly lower symptoms of depression.
For those of you who prefer decaf, you may be wondering if all of these benefits apply to you as well. More good news…drinking decaffeinated coffee seems to provide many of the benefits mentioned above.
Of course there are also several studies that show some negatives to my warm, creamy beverage of choice. Some of the less favorable findings points out that coffee consumption is also associated with an unhealthy lifestyle, including consumption of sugars (pastries) and smoking. Another study showed that coffee could cause distorted results in scanning devices. Researchers at St. Louis University School of Medicine found that caffeine just before a CT scan or positron emission tomography (PET) imaging can obscure scan results. So, wait till after the scan to have your cup!
As far back as 1958, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration rated caffeine as GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) and reaffirmed in 1987 that caffeine poses no significant health risks. Even though it leads to mild increases in blood pressure, it is not a known cause of heart disease or high blood pressure. However, persons prone to arrythmias (irregular beating patterns of the heart) may notice that these occur with caffeine consumption. Symptoms of panic and anxiety disorders and PMS may worsen. Both the American Medical Association and the American Cancer Society have issued statements stressing the safety of caffeine consumption in moderate amounts. Nothing specifies what “moderate” amounts are, so that is left up to us joe-junkies to figure out for ourselves.