You Are What You Eat: The Buzz on Coffee
This is the first in a series on the topic: “YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT” by Dr. Suzanne Berlin and Jennifer Turcotte, RN
Americans consume 400 million cups of coffee per day, equivalent to 146 billion cups of coffee per year, making the United States the leading consumer of coffee in the world. We are in love with coffee. For most people coffee is more than a beverage; drinking coffee is an experience. It is not only a pleasure to the palate, but it is a pleasure to our other senses as well. It is the enjoyment of the smell of it while it is brewing in the early mornings. It is the sound of music as the coffee percolates. The heat of the mug warms our hands. As the pleasant aroma rises from the cup we sip and are satisfied by the taste. It is a peaceful few moments shared with the cup of coffee at the beginning of the day. It refreshes and rejuvenates throughout our waking hours.
There have been several press releases regarding coffee in the past couple of years, so what’s the buzz? Three to five cups of coffee a day can be part of a healthy diet, the studies suggest. Recent research published by New England Journal of Medicine (May 17, 2012), Science News (October3, 2015) and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers and colleagues (November 16, 2015) suggests drinking coffee may have numerous health benefits. It is believed that people who drink three to five cups of black coffee (decaffeinated or caffeinated) are less likely to die prematurely from certain diseases then those who do not drink coffee or drink less coffee.
For the first time, the report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, (DGAC), stated that drinking coffee could be part of a healthy diet. According to the guidelines the following statements have been made (see guideline for complete list of statements):
- Consumption of coffee within the moderate range (3 to 5 cups/d or up to 400 mg/d caffeine) is not associated with an increased risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer such as primary liver cancer, cancer of the endometrium or premature death in adults considered to be healthy.
- There is no effect from coffee on long-term blood pressure or risk of hypertension
- No association between caffeine, coffee, or decaffeinated coffee and breast cancer risk
- Regular coffee consumption is associated with modestly lower risk of prostate cancer
- Studies analyzing risk of prostate cancer and caffeine use had showed a positive association but did not adjust for life style such as smoking.
- Limited evidence indicates that caffeine consumption is associated with a modestly lower risk of cognitive decline and lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Recommendation to examine the effects of coffee on sleep patterns, quality of life, as well as dependency and addiction
- Strong evidence supports a protective effect of moderate coffee consumption on chronic disease risk in healthy adults, but its association (among those) with existing diseases has been less studied.
Potential Benefits from Coffee Bean Compounds
- Reduce liver fibrosis
- Slows heart and liver damage
- May counteract symptoms of depression and dementia
- May elevate dopamine levels and be protective against Parkinson’s Disease
- Reduce liver fibrosis
- Boost DNA repair and metabolic efficiency
- Counteract caffeine effect by lowering BP
- Lessen tissue injury from free radicals
- Provide protection from blood clots
- Act against certain carcinogens
- Boost an antioxidant which helps prevent liver damage
- Have an anti-inflammatory effect
- Elevate total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol
- Act as an antioxidant
- Lower blood sugar
- May benefit the brain
What does this all mean? If you are not a coffee drinker, should you start drinking coffee? No. More research needs to be done. These current studies do not give one license to drink coffee loaded with heavy creams and sweeteners. Black coffee is best. Added sugar, artificial sweeteners and cream may have negative effects on your health. It takes approximately two weeks for you to adjust to drinking black coffee. There are some steps you can take to aid you in switching to black coffee. If you add sugar and cream to your coffee, try weaning off the sugar and cream by gradually decreasing the amount of each in your coffee. You might also consider switching from cream to low fat milk and then to skim milk. Small changes over time can help you be successful switching to straight up black coffee.
Moderation in coffee drinking can be part of a healthy diet. Health is not about individual foods but about the whole picture. The “healthy dietary patterns” of limiting saturated fat, sugar and sodium are key factors to good health as recommended by the DGAC but how do we balance those foods in our diets?
Stay tuned for the next segment in our series of You Are What You Eat!
References and further reading:
- Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality Neal D. Freedman, Ph.D., Yikyung Park, Sc.D., Christian C. Abnet, Ph.D., Albert R. Hollenbeck, Ph.D., and Rashmi Sinha, Ph.D. Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, May 17, 2012
- Coffee reveals itself as an unlikely health elixir By Nathan Seppa, published in SCIENCE NEWS, October 3, 2015
- Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: Association of Coffee Consumption with Total and Cause-specific Mortality in Three Large Prospective Cohorts Ming Ding, Ambika Satija, Shilpa N. Bhupathiraju, Yang Hu, Qi Sun, Walter Willett, Rob M. van Dam, Frank B. Hu, Published by American Heart Association online, November 16, 2015
- America’s Coffee Obsession: Fun Facts that Prove We’re Hooked Published on Huff Post Daily February 27, 2015
(Photo of coffee cup & beans by Johanna Goodyear)