bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

The case for coffee

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I recently tweeted a link to an article about the health benefits of drinking coffee. In return, I received a request from a friend to write about the benefits of coffee on my blog. As the aforementioned article didn’t appear to be all that exhaustive, and I’ve been lacking in the inspiration department lately, I decided to honour his request. By the way, if you ever have any suggestions for blog topics please let me know!

After being sidelined by google scholar producing a recipe involving coffee and Capt’n Crunch Cereal as the top hit (what the heck?!) I found a decent review article: Coffee and its Consumption: Benefits and Risks. The authors and journal both appear to be legit. So, what does this article tell us about coffee? For one, there have been quite a few studies examining the relationship between coffee and various types of cancer and most of them found conflicting results. Coffee and bladder cancer? Increased risk? No association? Decreased risk? I don’t know! Studies found all of these results. So far, it seems that coffee consumption results in a reduced risk of liver cancer. However, there was an increased risk of prostate cancer associated with coffee consumption. Those were the only two types of cancer that didn’t have conflicting study results (yet).

Early studies show that coffee consumption may help to prevent or at least slow the progression of type 2 diabetes. I would also like to add the caution that coffee is not going to make-up for a poor diet and lack of physical activity. In fact, consumption of coffee alongside a fast food breakfast may actually increase blood glucose.

Epidemiological studies have shown a decreased risk of Parkinson’s Disease in male coffee drinkers. Sadly, the same benefit has not been found for female coffee drinkers.

The relationship between coffee and headaches is a bit of a double-edged sword. Coffee consumption can ease a headache. However, regular coffee drinkers may experience headaches if they reduce their consumption. Also, it’s the caffeine in the coffee that’s providing the benefit in this case, not anything inherently unique to coffee.

The dark side of coffee? Excessive consumption can make you jittery. It can also negatively affect your sleep. Coffee can irritate the stomach and some people may experience heartburn as a result of coffee consumption. Dark roast coffee and espresso may be more easily tolerated than medium and light roasts (1). Consumption of more than three cups of coffee a day increases the risk of spontaneous abortion in pregnant women during the first-trimester and early in the second-trimester. Also, caffeine consumed by pregnant women is passed on to the fetus in the womb.

Unadulterated coffee is a pretty healthy beverage. It only contains about five calories per cup and it counts towards your daily fluid intake. However, adding things like cream and sugar can quickly turn it into a high-calorie, high-fat drink. How you brew your coffee also makes a difference. If you’re like me (a bit of a coffee snob), and use a french press every day, or only drink espresso-based beverages, you’re getting more LDL-cholesterol (that’s the bad kind) raising chemicals in your cup than coffee drinkers who use a paper filter. Try to keep your coffee simple and add as little as possible to it. Enjoy it guilt-free, odds are the benefits of coffee outweigh the risks.

Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian living in Nova Scotia, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

2 thoughts on “The case for coffee

  1. I have also seen that coffee consumption can be linked to lower risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s. A 2009 study from Finland and Sweden showed that, out of 1,400 people followed for about 20 years, those who reported drinking 3-5 cups of coffee daily were 65% less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, compared with nondrinkers or occasional coffee drinkers. I can’t say I have done more than casual research into this, but I thought it would be a nice to add to the discussion.

  2. Pingback: Dr. Oz, the fantasy continues | bite my words

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