Health Tips Express

Coffee: Health Benefits and Risks

By: Health Tips | Views: 5441 | Date: 11-Jan-2013

Coffee: Health Benefits and Risks,Studies now show coffee is not a factor in heart disease and cancer; it may actually lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, gallstones, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Why the change regarding the benefits of coffee? Most early studies focused on caffeine, and some – such as the one that seemed to show female coffee-drinkers had a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) than non-drinkers – failed to account for other risk factors, such as smoking, diet

Health Benefits of Coffee:

By Shannon Wilder

What was bad news is now good news for coffee drinkers – at least in most cases. Earlier findings seemed to indicate coffee might raise the risk of major diseases, but new studies point to the benefits of coffee. According to recent research, a little java not only doesn’t hurt, it can help prevent some diseases.

Studies now show coffee is not a factor in heart disease and cancer; it may actually lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, gallstones, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Why the change regarding the benefits of coffee? Most early studies focused on caffeine, and some – such as the one that seemed to show female coffee-drinkers had a higher risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) than non-drinkers – failed to account for other risk factors, such as smoking, diet or alcohol consumption. Today’s research does, and it is looking beyond caffeine to evaluate other substances in coffee, including antioxidants that help protect cells in the body against damage.

Health Benefits & Risk of Coffee

When it comes to RA, though, there is a bit of lingering uncertainty about coffee health benefits. A 2002 study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) showed no connection between regular coffee and the onset of RA, but did find that four or more cups of decaf per day increased the risk for older women. But Ted Mikuls, MD, a rheumatologist who conducted the study, notes that in 2004, researchers from Harvard Medical School in Boston found no connection between RA and either variety of coffee.

The jury’s still out on coffee benefits and osteoporosis, too. Caffeine can cause your body to absorb less calcium, but so far studies haven’t established whether drinking coffee contributes to bone loss. These studies suggest that you’d have to drink four or more cups a day (without milk) to risk harm.

Before you dust off your French press, there’s one more thing to consider: These studies all focus on factors affecting onset, not post-diagnosis issues. There may, for example, be interaction between caffeine and methotrexate, says Dr. Mikuls; research shows conflicting results.

Sarah Morgan, MD, and a registered dietitian at UAB, gives this advice: “My only guideline is moderation in caffeine intake,” she says. For most people, drinking one to two cups of coffee – decaf or regular – per day seems safe.

Coffee Effects on Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease

A Finnish study found that those who drank coffee at midlife had a lower risk of developingdementia or Alzheimer’s disease in late-life than those who drank no coffee at all. Those who drank three to five cups of coffee a day lowered their risk by 65 percent.

Details about this research: Lead Researcher, associate professor Miia Kivipelto from the University of Kuopio, Finland and Karloinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. stated: “We aimed to study the association between coffee and tea consumption at midlife and dementia/AD risk in late-life, because the long-term impact of caffeine on the central nervous system was still unknown, and as the pathologic processes leading to Alzheimer’s disease may start decades before the clinical manifestation of the disease.”

Coffee-drinking was categorized into three groups: low (0 to 2 cups daily), moderate (3 to 5 cups) and high (more than 5 cups).

Tea-drinking was categorized into two groups: those not drinking tea and those who drank at least one cup daily.

While all coffee drinkers had a lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than non-drinkers, those who drank moderate amounts of coffee lowered their risk by a surprising 65 percent.

Drinking tea had no impact on the risk of developing dementia.

Dr. Kivipelto wrote: “Given the large amount of coffee consumption globally, the results might have important implications for the prevention of or delaying the onset of dementia/AD. The finding needs to be confirmed by other studies, but it opens the possibility that dietary interventions could modify the risk ofdementia/AD.”

Coffee Effects on Diabetes

Scientists found that as coffee consumption went up, people's risk for diabetes went down. In fact, the risk of diabetes dropped about 7 percent with each daily cup. 3 or 4 cups of tea a day had similar diabetes-thwarting benefits. Decaf coffee also appeared to have diabetes-thwarting benefits. Certain chemical compounds in coffee and tea, such as lignans, chlorogenic acids, and magnesium may be helping to improve the body's regulation of blood sugar and its release of insulin.

Coffee Effects on Parkinson's Disease

An estimated 1.5 million Americans have Parkinson's disease. Parkinson's is caused by the loss of brain cells that produce a chemical messenger called dopamine. They experience trembling n the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face. Their limbs and trunk become stiff. They move slowly and lose balance and coordination. As the disease progresses, they have difficulty walking, talking or performing simple tasks.

Caffeine: Researcher Alberto Ascherio of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston states as follows: "There is fairly convincing evidence that people who drink coffee or consume caffeine regularly have a lower risk of developing Parkinson's disease. "When researchers exposed mice to a chemical that causes a loss of dopaminergic neurons in a pattern similar to that observed in Parkinson's disease, those that had first been given caffeine equivalent to moderate amounts of coffee in humans lost fewer neurons than those not given caffeine," explains Ascherio.

Caffeine also seems to protect human brain cells. In a meta-analysis that pooled 13 studies, drinkers of regular coffee - but not decaf - had a 30 percent lower risk of Parkinson's disease than non-drinkers. (Ref. Ann. Neurol. 52: 276, 2002). "Even a modest amount - the equivalent of between one and two cups of coffee per day - is associated with a lower risk," notes Ascherio.

Coffee doesn't protect everybody though. "In our study, women who took post-menopausal hormones didn't benefit," says Ascherio. 

Coffee Effects on Gallstones

In the Nurses' Health Study, which tracked nearly 81,000 women for 20 years, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which tracked 46,000 men for 10 years, those who drank two to three cups of regular coffee a day had about a 20 percent lower risk of gallstones than non-drinkers. (Refs: Gastroeneterology 123: 123, 2002; JAVA 281: 2106, 1999).

Michael Leitzmann of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, states as follows: "Tea, decaf coffee, and caffeinated soft drinks weren't protective. Probably because they don't contain enough of what's making the difference - caffeine." One theory: caffeine may stimulate the gallbladder to contract, which helps empty it of stone-forming cholesterol and bile pigments.

Coffee Effects on Mental Performance

Harris Lieberman, a psychologist and caffeine investigator of the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, Massachusetts, states as follows: "Caffeine improves alertness and reaction time in people, whether they are habitual consumers of caffeine or not. But 'the effect is clearly limited to the ability to maintain attention. Things like memory or complex reasoning won't improve.

In sleep-deprived individuals, the impact appears to be greater. French researchers accompanied young males as they drove 125 miles on a highway between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. When the young men were given coffee with 200 mg of caffeine before getting behind the heel, they inadvertently crossed into another lane an average of two times during their drive. When they were given decaf, they crossed an average of six times. (Ann. Intern. Med. 144: 785, 2006).

Coffee Effects on Mood

After consuming anywhere from 20 mg to 200 mg of caffeine, "people report increased well-being, happiness, energy, alertness and sociability," says caffeine expert Roland Griffiths at the John Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.

That may be why a study that tracked more than 86,000 women for 10 years found that those who drank at least two cups of regular coffee a day were about 60 percent less likely to commit suicide than those who drank none. (Ref.: Arch. Intern. Med. 156: 521, 1996)

However, more than 200 mg of caffeine produces "increased anxiety, nervousness, jitteriness, and upset stomach" in some people, says Griffiths.

Coffee Effects on Physical Performance

Caffeine helps the body burn fat instead of carbohydrate, and it blunts the perception of pain. Both can boost endurance.

For example, endurance runners who ran to exhaustion on a treadmill lasted an average of 32 minutes without caffeine, but made it to 42 minutes after drinking coffee with around 250 mg of caffeine. (J. Appl. Physiol. 85, 83, 1998).

"There is no question that caffeine will improve aerobic physical endurance in non-athletes as well," says Lieberman, adding that people who run, job, swim or cycle can last longer if they had 200 mg to 600 mg of caffeine beforehand. "And new research suggests that caffeine can also improve anaerobic performances," he adds, which include lifting heavy objects and sprinting short distances.

Coffee Effects on Headaches

When you get a headache, the blood vessels in your brain dilate, or become wider. Caffeine causes blood vessels to constrict, which may explain why it can help relieve headache pain.

"It's also a mild analgesic, or painkiller, and it has the ability to increase the availability of other analgesics that it's combined with," says Robert Shapiro, a headache expert at the University of Vermont College of Medicine in Burlington. That's why caffeine is included in prescription headache medications, such as Florinal, and over-the-counter ones like Anacin and Excedrin.

Coffee Effects on Heart Health

A Nurses Health Study, published in the Annals of International Medicine, found women who drink two to three cups of coffee a day have a 25% lower risk of heart disease and an 18% lower risk of developing diseases other than cancer than non-coffee drinkers. These health benefits may be linked to the anti-inflammatory properties in coffee as well as its rich supply of antioxidants.

In a meta-analysis that pooled 10 studies that tracked more than 400,000 men and women for three years to 44 years, those who drank coffee every day - whether regular or decaf -- were no more likely to suffer from heart disease than non-coffee drinkers.(Nutr. Metab. Cardiovasc. Disc. 17: 209, 2007).

If caffeine were a threat to the heart, coffee drinkers would have had a higher risk.

Coffee Effects on Pregnancy

Danish researchers found that women who drank up to three 6 oz cups of coffee daily during the second half of their pregnancy were no more likely to experience pregnancy complications than women who avoided coffee. Though much higher levels of caffeine have been associated with premature births and low-birth weight babes, moderate coffee intake was not found to increase risk.

Coffee as Odor Eliminator / Room Deodorizer:

  • Charcoal and / or coffee grounds placed in a bowl or vinegar in a cup or bowl

Coffee Grounds for your Garden:

Ground coffee deters, but only kills young snails and slugs, and you need ground up coffee beans for it to really work, not used coffee grounds. Used coffee grounds makes a pretty good mulch for your garden and if it deters a few slugs and snails.

The "Downside" of Coffee:

  • Osteoporosis: According to osteoporosis expert Robert Heaney of Creighton University in Omaha, you lose up to 5 milligrams of calcium for every six ounces of regular coffee (or two cans of cola) you drink. As little as 300 to 400 mg of caffeine a day doubles the risk of hip fracture. He suggests offsetting the loss by adding one or two tablespoons of milk to your coffee. Note: caffeine is also in black or green tea, as well as chocolate.

  • Heart Disease: Caffeine is also linked to coronary vasospasms - the cause for 20% of all fatal heart attacks. Both decaf and regular coffee increase your cholesterol and homocysteine, the biochemical thatscience has linked to increased risk for heart attack.

  • Diabetes: A study conducted by researchers from Duke University Medical School and published in the journal Diabetes Care indicated that diabetics who consume caffeine may experience a significant increase in blood sugar. Scientists placed tiny blood sugar monitors under the skin of 10 people with Type 2 diabetes, which allowed the participants' glucose levels to be tracked over the course of a normal 72-hour period. Participants were given a caffeine pill one day, and a placebo pill the next. When given the caffeine pill, the participants experienced an 8 percent rise in blood sugar levels. The increase was even stronger after meals, with blood sugar increasing 9 percent after breakfast, 15 percent after lunch and 26 percent after dinner. The increase in blood sugar was not observed in those taking a placebo pill. The amount of caffeine contained in the pill was roughly equivalent to the caffeine contained in four cups of coffee. Previous studies have shown that caffeine could increase the body's insulin resistance, leading to an increase in blood sugar levels.

  • Emotional & Overall Health: Caffeine stimulates the excretion of stress hormones which can produce increased levels of anxiety, irritability, muscular tension and pain, indigestion, insomnia, and decreased immunity.

  • Loss of Sleep: "Consuming caffeine within three to four hours of bedtime will disturb the sleep of most people, says Tim Roehrs, director of research at the Sleep Disorder Center of the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

  • Fertility: A 1988 National Institutes of Health study reported that as little as one cup of coffee a day could slash in half the odds of becoming pregnant. But subsequent studies have found that if caffeine affects fertility, it takes at least 300 milligrams a day. "Low to moderate caffeine consumption doesn't seem to reduce a woman's chance of becoming pregnant," says the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists.

  • Miscarriage: A new study suggests that too much caffeine may increase the risk of miscarriage. Among 1,063 pregnant women interviewed by researchers, 24 percent of those who consumed at least 200 mg of caffeine a day suffered miscarriages, compared to 10 percent of those who consumed less than 200 mg. (Am. J. Obstet. Gynec, doi: 1016/j.ajog.2007.10.803).


  • The recommendation for most people would be to enjoy one or two cups of coffee a day, which will allow you to capitalize on its health benefits without incurring health drawbacks. Note: each person is different - so keep this in mind when deciding how much coffee is right for you.

  • Avoid coffee after 3 pm to prevent insomnia. This is especially important if you have problems falling asleep.

  • If you need to avoid caffeine for health reasons, stay away from coffee and other caffeinated beverages altogether. If you can't live without your coffee, you can purchase decaffeinated coffee that has had the methylene chloride removed during a steam process. Such coffee is available at better health food stores.

  • If coffee doesn't agree with you, try alternative beverages, such as Inka Naturalis, dandelion blends, and Teeccino that have the flavor you want, without the negative effects.
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