Coffee – how bad is it really?

As I was having a full-caf coffee this morning I was wondering what the truth about coffee being bad for you really is. During my nutrition and supplement training I learned that caffeine boosts your metabolism and a supplement that does just that is included in our C9 and FIT15 programmes. So I thought, time to dig a little deeper!

Each day, billions of people rely on caffeine for a wake-up boost. Caffeine is a natural stimulant consumed worldwide. Most people get it from coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks or chocolate. In fact, this natural stimulant is one of the most commonly used ingredients in the world. But it is also addictive.

And as with most things there is a host of information on the internet. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such conflicting research. One study suggests 3 to 5 cups of coffee increase your life expectancy, while the next one I found says that men who had 4 cups of coffee or more a day were 21% more likely to die! One study says that it can increase the risk of gout flare ups, and another says it can prevent gout! One says it improves gut health while another one says it irritates your stomach and the lining of your small intestine. It’s known to be a problem for those suffering from ulcers, gastritis, IBS and Crohn’s disease and doctors generally advise patients with these conditions to avoid coffee completely.

So I tried to stick with the less sensational headlines and look at what the NHS says and people like the British Heart Foundation. But I also found a couple of very interesting blogs on Enzine about it.

Back in 2015 several papers reported that drinking coffee will make you live longer. So I found an article on the NHS website that actually looked at this research in more detail. And guess what they found – it was all a little hyped. Surprise! 🙂 It is important to note that the reduction in risk of death from drinking coffee, at less than 10% relative risk, is fairly small. People who drank 3 cups of coffee were 7% less likely to die at the end of the study (sounds pretty macabre to me!). It didn’t matter if it was full caff or decaf though, which I found interesting. There are other reasons why some people might want to avoid caffeine. It’s a stimulant, and can interfere with sleep, especially if you drink it in the evening. It can raise blood pressure for a short time, which might be a problem for people with heart disease. It has also been linked to miscarriage, so pregnant women might want to avoid it.

It is known though that coffee affects iron absorption in your stomach and particularly your kidneys ability to retain calcium, zinc, magnesium and other important minerals. So if you are taking iron supplements, or any supplements really, don’t take them with a caffeinated drink!

The British Heart Foundation suggests that moderate amounts of caffeine, equivalent to drinking four to five cups of coffee per day, has no effect on your risk of developing coronary heart disease. Research has also shown that consuming this amount of caffeine doesn’t lead to abnormal heart rhythms or cardiac arrhythmias.

However, some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others, and, for some, caffeine can trigger heart palpitations (the sensation of feeling your heart beating, whether that is normally, quickly, slowly or irregularly; some people describe feeling their heart pounding or fluttering).

There are some health benefits that are worth mentioning. Caffeine may improve mood, decrease the likelihood of depression, stimulate brain function and protect against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Consuming small amounts of caffeine about an hour before exercise are likely to improve exercise performance.

Apart from caffeine, coffee contains a natural blend of polyphenol antioxidants, bioflavonoids, B vitamins, and minerals such as magnesium, potassium, and chromium. Good-quality ground coffee is a source of antioxidants like chlorogenic acid that may help with weight loss and Green Coffee Bean Extract, particularly high in this antioxidant, are the latest popular supplement for body fat reduction. (It’s green coffee bean extract that we’ve got in our supplements)

Even though coffee may have all the amazing health benefits, not all coffee is the same. Besides, how and when you drink it makes a difference too. Choose organic, buy whole bean. Darker roast is superior to light roast.

If you drink coffee and have problems falling asleep or tend to wake up in the night, you may be caffeine sensitive. Caffeine levels vary depending on the type of roast, grind, and brewing method. Darker roasts contain less caffeine than lighter roasts. The finer the grind, the higher the caffeine in the coffee. Drip coffee has more caffeine than espresso because the brew time is much longer. If you experience sleep issues from the caffeine, you may want to vary your type of roast, grind, or brewing method or cut down on the amount you drink every day and make sure you only have coffee early in the morning.

What About Decaffeinated Coffee? Firstly be aware that decaf coffee often still has a small percentage of caffeine in it. To date, there is yet conclusive evidence showing whether decaf coffee holds up to the benefits of caffeinated coffee. Limited studies were conducted using decaf coffee but the ones that do seem to be promising. However, since caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant and can result in dependence and withdrawal symptoms, decaf coffee is probably the way to go if you like the taste of coffee.

So where does that leave us? To coffee or not to coffee? Well coffee is loaded with antioxidants and beneficial nutrients that benefit your health. However, be cautious with the stimulant effect of caffeine as it can become extremely addictive. Caffeine is also a source of stress for your adrenal glands. Therefore, drinker be aware! If you like the taste of coffee, mixing regular with decaf may be a good way to gradually cut down on your dependence of caffeine.

A caffeine intake of 200 mg per dose, and up to 400 mg per day, is generally considered safe. However, pregnant women should limit their daily intake to 200 mg or less. So I thought this list might be helpful.

Here are the amounts of caffeine expected per 8 oz (240 ml) of some popular beverages:

  • Espresso: 240–720 mg.
  • Coffee: 102–200 mg.
  • Energy drinks: 50–160 mg.
  • Brewed tea: 40–120 mg.
  • Soft drinks: 20–40 mg.
  • Decaffeinated coffee: 3–12 mg.
  • Cocoa beverage: 2–7 mg.
  • Chocolate milk: 2–7 mg.

Some foods also contain caffeine. For instance, 1 oz (28 grams) of milk chocolate contains 1–15 mg, whereas 1 oz of dark chocolate has 5–35 mg.

The NHS says that it is fine to drink tea and coffee as part of a balanced diet. Stay away from flavoured syrups (sigh – I like those!) and sugar.

So as usual – the advice is be sensible! Enjoy your cup of coffee in the morning, drink plenty of water and eat well. If you want to increase your chances of living longer, coffee is unlikely to make a big difference. You’d be better off quitting smoking (if you smoke), eating a healthy diet, taking plenty of exercise and achieving or maintaining a healthy weight.



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