Is Coffee Good For You?

DISCLAIMER: This blog is a discussion and opinion piece on coffee, and should not be taken as health advice or verified scientific truth on the matter. Please consult a doctor for medical advice regarding coffee.


Ever wondered if coffee is good or bad for you? For a drink so engrained into our daily lives whether its for productivity, leisure, and kickstart the day, it's worth taking a step back to see what the mental and physical effects of coffee are. Are we better off with or without coffee? Let's unpack this question and get down to the nitty gritty of coffee and health.

 

Caffeine


The primary ingredient in coffee known for its effects on health is caffeine. Caffeine is a chemical compound, which in chemistry terms is 1,3,7 trimethylxanthine. In its isolated form, caffeine is a bitter white powder, and absorbed into the bloodstream with peak levels around 30 minutes to 2 hours after consumption. Plants produce caffeine primarily as a pesticide against herbivorous insects, this may explain caffeine as a evolutionary survival mechanism.

Regarding how caffeine affects the body, caffeine combats fatigue and tiredness by blocking a chemical called adenosine from reaching adenosine receptors. In addition, caffeine causes the body to increase dopamine production. A hell of a combo! Unfortunately caffeine is renowned for coming with a crash in energy, and a wave of fatigue, and the adenosine mechanism of adenosine coming back in full force to those receptors may explain the fatigue.


 

Additional Benefits


Coffee is known to contain over 1000 chemical compounds. Caffeine being the main one for its effects on health. Unravelling all of them would make for a lengthy encyclopedia, so for simplicity's sake, we'll explore the potential health benefits as whole. Harvard Health quote Frank Hu chair of department of the department of nutrition at Harvard who draws conclusions from coffee studies saying 'moderate coffee intake—about 2–5 cups a day—is linked to a lower likelihood of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, liver and endometrial cancers, Parkinson’s disease, and depression. It’s even possible that people who drink coffee can reduce their risk of early death.'

These findings are further found from Imperial College London who reference the large scale EPIC study (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition), found a reduced risk of death from all cause mortality - 'These findings add to a growing body of evidence which indicates that drinking coffee not only is safe, but it may actually have a protective health effect for people' – Professor Elio Riboli Director, School of Public Health, Imperial College London.

 

Risks


The primary compound in coffee, caffeine, has been known to have some negative affects. Primarily in the area of fatigue and sleep. Neuroscience professor Matthew Walker speaks in his masterclass 'Caffeine has a half-life of about five to six hours for the average adult. What that means is that about 50% of that caffeine is still circulating in your system five to six hours after you had that cup of coffee... if you have a cup of coffee at let's say 2:00 PM in the afternoon, a quarter of that caffeine can still be circulating in your brain at midnight. So having a cup of coffee in the afternoon may be the equivalent of tucking yourself into bed at midnight, and just before you do, you swig a quarter of a cup of coffee and you hope for a good night of sleep.'

Additionally 'it turns out that caffeine can decrease the amount of deep sleep that you have, stages three and four of non-REM sleep. And so as a consequence, you wake up the next morning and you don't feel as restored by your sleep. You don't feel refreshed.'

This is worth bearing in mind for coffee, and any food/drink containing caffeine. Whilst feeling of alertness, and high energy may come from drinking caffeine, the opposite may be true. Caffeine withdrawal is known to have symptoms like low energy, poor memory and headaches, so a daily dose of caffeine may be withdrawal relief.

After all is said and done on positive and negative effects of coffee and caffeine, its a highly subjective area depending on the individual, with some far more sensitive to caffeine than others. For clarity on the matter, it's always worth consulting a doctor who can give tailored advice to you, and your coffee and caffeine intake.

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