Coffee: The New Health Food

 

1Most people are unaware of the many health benefits of coffee.  Coffee has had a bad reputation among health professionals because of the caffeine it contains. But more studies are proving that moderate coffee drinking provides many health benefits.

Enjoying a cup of coffee while reading this article? Well, keep on sipping because a new study shows that coffee has health benefits.

In the past, coffee was blamed for causing or exacerbating a variety of ills including high blood pressure and cancer. As it turns out, coffee was unfairly maligned. That’s because individuals who are coffee lovers are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes in excess and it is these habits which contribute to increased health risk.

One of the reasons for coffee’s health benefits may lie in its high caffeine content. An 8-fl oz cup of drip-brewed coffee contains about 135 mg of caffeine. This compares with just 35 mg for the same serving of green tea or a 12-fl oz serving of Coke.

The evidence is strong that regular coffee consumption reduces the risk of Parkinson’s disease and that benefit is directly related to the caffeine. A number of studies have indicated that people who drink coffee on a regular basis are up to 80% less likely to develop Parkinson’s. Researchers have been trying to determine how caffeine reduces the odds of developing this debilitating ailment of the brain and nervous system. The disease results when levels of the brain chemical dopamine fall, interrupting nerve signals from the brain to muscles. Caffeine increases the expression of dopamine receptors in the brain.

Caffeine may also be responsible for another potential benefit for coffee drinkers – protection against gallstones. After analyzing data from more than 125,000 people for almost 20 years, researchers at Harvard School of Public Health, concluded that both men and women coffee drinkers tended to have less risk of developing gallstones. The evidence was especially notable because the effect was dose dependent. According to nutrition researcher Michael Leitzmann, the risk fell by 13% among those who consumed one cup a day; 21% for people who drank two to three cups; and by 33% for those who drank four or more cups a day.

Using the same data from the Health Professionals Follow-up Study and the Women’s Health Study, researchers at Harvard also calculated that by consuming one to three cups of caffeinated coffee daily, diabetes risk can be reduced by single digits. Even more compelling was that if coffee consumption increased to six or more cups a day, then the risk was reduced by 54% for men and by 30% for women, when compared to non-coffee drinkers.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University ‘s Institute for Coffee Studies believe that it is not the caffeine in coffee which reduces the risk of diabetes. Instead, they believe a group of compounds called quinines increase the capacity of the liver to use glucose and this would account for improved blood sugar control in diabetics. Unlike caffeine, quinines, which are created during the roasting process, may be unique to coffee. Coffee also contains a large amount of chlorogenic acid, tocopherols and magnesium. Each of these components has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism.

Some of the health benefits of coffee have been linked to its high antioxidant content..Chocolate, dried fruits, and dried beans are higher in antioxidants. For this reason, it’s not surprising that Hershey’s recently introduced a line of dark chocolate bars that are positioned as “good for you” because they contain a concentrated form of antioxidant flavanols found in cocoa beans.

Another compound in coffee called trigonelline gives coffee its aroma and bitter taste. But that’s not all. This compound has also shown to have antibacterial and anti-adhesive properties, which help to prevent dental cavities from forming.

While coffee is increasingly being noted for its health benefits, certain individuals should be cautious about their consumption. Pregnant women should carefully monitor caffeine intake, since more than 300 mg a day raises the risk for miscarriage. Women who are nursing should avoid drinking coffee as the caffeine can pass into the mother’s milk. Individuals who have a hard time sleeping are advised not to drink coffee. And, those with irregular heartbeats are warned against drinking caffeinated beverages.

Vita Medica

The Science of Natural Health

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