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Are you a zombie until that early morning hit of caffeine? If you are you’re in pretty good company. It’s estimated that 500 billion cups of coffee are consumed globally every year.
In years gone by coffee developed a bad reputation. It was thought to disrupt sleep, cause cancer and be a factor in heart disease. It was even thought to cause kids to get lower grades. So bad was its reputation that the World Health Organisation included it on a list of possible carcinogens.
However as it was studied more, its pharmacology was uncovered with modern scientific tools and protocols and the view shifted in favor of coffee. The World Health Organization has even scratched coffee off their naughty list.
Coffee is now known to comprise of hundreds of compounds of which the most common are the chlorogenic acids and caffeine. Coffee’s high antioxidant concentration has actually been attributed to chlorogenic acids. These acids have proven themselves as an effective powerhouse of health goodies. As for caffeine, it is also an ingredient many of common things we ingest daily like chocolates, beverages (carbonated sugary drinks, teas) and even certain medications. Probably the single most important reason for coffee’s popularity is that fact caffeine is a known central nervous system stimulant which means it relieves fatigue or drowsiness and induces alertness. But can a cup a day really keep the doctor away?
Tn 2016 the WHO’s International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) tasked a group of twenty three scientists to reevaluate coffee’s carcinogenic status. After the IARC’S assessment of more than a thousand epidemiological studies they removed coffee from their carcinogen list.
Evidence supported that coffee did not induce a carcinogenic effect on breast, endometrial, prostate, liver or pancreatic tissue. Additionally an inverse association or protective effect on liver and endometrial cancers was uncovered, an obvious win for us coffee lovers.
Worldwide public health concerns are increasing as the aging population grows and the rates of those afflicted with neurodegenerative diseases i.e. dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease increases.
The Journal of Alzheimer’s disease published an article that analyzed data from eight prior studies on the relationship between coffee/caffeine intake and its effect on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
They concluded that a moderate coffee intake may reduce dementia/Alzheimer’s development and recommended that light be shed on the mechanism of action for the development of new therapies.
A study done in 2000 by the researchers in Honolulu analysed data on male subjects for the previous thirty years. They found that those with increased coffee and or caffeine consumption displayed an association with lower rates of Parkinson’s disease.
Harvard’s School of Public health conducted a study that enlisted 47,351 males for a decade and 88,565 females for sixteen years who were neither diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, cerebrovascular accident or cancer at their baseline. This study also reported a protective effect towards Parkinson’s with coffee intake. There is even evidence that coffee may aid patients with Multiple sclerosis, another neurodegenerative disease.
Coffee consumption is also beneficial to the liver’s health. Numerous studies have supported its protective ability to a host of liver pathologies whether it was non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, hepatocellular carcinoma, viral hepatitis (B and C) or liver cirrhosis. Some researchers have even published that it can be used for prevention and mitigation of chronic liver disease.
Coffee consumption of greater than two cups daily has also been found to lower mortality and hepatocellular carcinoma incidence. A 2009 a study on coffee intake and progression of Hepatitis C was published in the journal, Hepatology. It included 766 subjects all of whom were being treated for Hepatitis C but had failed to adequately respond to their antiviral regime and had signs of fibrosis and cirrhosis on their liver biopsies. These subjects were followed for almost four years and the results concluded that coffee intake reduced the Hepatitis C progression.
Another study in 2012 done by researchers from Wilford Hall Medical Centre, studied the relationship between coffee consumption and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. They too uncovered a protective relationship.
Type 2 Diabetes
Regular coffee intake is linked to a decreased risk of developing type 2 Diabetes Melitus. The exact mechanism of why this works are uncertain, but researchers have found that decaffeinated coffee is also effective. This makes it more likely to be the chlorogenic acid or maybe even another compound which has the beneficial effect, and not caffeine.
Studies have identified Cafestol as one such probable compound called This compound has demonstrated an ability to increase insulin secretion in response to glucose elevation as well as inducing glucose uptake in human skeletal muscle tissue. The antidiabetic activity suggests it potential as a marketable drug option.
Researchers published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition a 2013 paper that followed 74,749 females and 39059 males, over a 24 year period. The subjects were neither afflicted with diabetes, heart disease nor cancer at their baseline and the end of this study coffee drinkers were found to be less frequently diagnosed with type 2 Diabetes.
In another study that spanned a twenty eight year period and included more than a million participants , the relationship found was that coffee whether caffeinated or decaffeinated was association with risk reduction for developing type 2 Diabetes. A
A study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular disease found a 67% incidence reduction with coffee consumption amongst its coffee drinking subjects.
Yet another major subset of diseases that coffee has asserted its protective influence over is heart disease. Numerous studies to analyse the relationship between coffee and heart disease have proved favorable for coffee.
A review by Spanish researchers published in the Journal of Agriculture and food Chemistry deduced from their analysis that 3-5 cups per days afforded a 15% risk reduction for cardiovascular disease.
Notably, consumption of more than that will not increase the incidence, nor will it increase the likelihood, of another cardiovascular event in people who previously suffered one.
Another review looked at the relationship of long-term coffee drinking and the associated cardiovascular risk. Their analysis, like many others, concluded that drinking a moderate amount of coffee, i.e. 3-5 cups daily contributed to a reduction in heart disease.
Those who should avoid caffee consumption
Even though the list of benefits is long there are still a few certain people who should avoid consumption. These people will include, those with anxiety disorders, those with seizure disorders and women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should limit their intake to less than 200mg of caffeine a day to be safe.
This globally popular beverage is not just a guilty pleasure; its list of health benefits is impressive and constantly expanding.
The American Dietary Guideline 2015-2020 update has now recommended coffee drinking as part of a healthy diet. So coffee won’t just make your feel great and energized, it makes you live better and longer.
Just remember that a moderate 2-3 cups daily is the key to reaping coffee’s long-term health benefits.