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Sigfood - The Fine Wining & Dining Network
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WELLBEINGViews: 1289
Apr 23, 2008 1:23 pmWELLBEING#

Aditya Seth
To coffee or not?

DR. JALAJA RAMASWAMY

Coffee, taken in moderation, seems to have a few beneficial effects.

Go ahead and jumpstart your day with coffee, if you enjoy it. But remember, the key word is moderation.


Pure coffee: For that feel-good factor.

Sipping a cup of coffee while reading this? Well, go right ahead because recent research shows that in moderation, coffee can be actually good for you and, the stronger the coffee, the greater are the beneficial effects. For years, the focus on coffee has been on its potential adverse effects. But now there is strong scientific reason for enjoying your cup of filter, instant or espresso coffee.

The worldwide popularity of this beverage cannot be disputed. For thousands of Indians, the daily routine involves a drink of coffee in the morning. While the south Indians prefer filtered coffee, in the north, it’s perhaps the instant varieties that are more popular.

Coffee is a complex mixture of chemicals, including significant amounts of caffeine. Coffee also contains caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid and protocatechnic acid. Others components include cafestol and kahweol. Caffeine is the most well known and researched component of coffee. It is also the major physiologically active substance. The caffeine content of coffee is highly variable and on an average a cup of coffee (225 ml) contains about 100 mg of caffeine. Instant coffee has much less caffeine than percolated or filter coffee. It is important to mention that other beverages such as tea, cocoa and many soft drinks also contain caffeine. Coffee also contains some minerals, notably potassium and the protective antioxidants. The B-complex vitamin, niacin, is formed when the coffee bean is roasted.
Varied effects

How does coffee drinking influence your health?

The antioxidants in coffee protect against viral infections and the effects of free radicals (harmful, cancer causing particles). One serving of coffee contains more antioxidants than one serving of tea, cocoa, grape juice, pineapple juice and even red wine!

Caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid and protocatechnic acid could exert antibacterial effects.

Coffee, because of its caffeine content, is a psychoactive substance and can substantially benefit mood and performance.

Coffee is a stimulant. About three cups of coffee can increase vigilance and reduce fatigue. Drinking coffee half to one hour before sleep will delay sleep, reduce sleep time and cause a disturbed sleep. If you want to use coffee to stay awake, then drink 50 to 75 ml of coffee every hour. Interestingly, coffee is also known to quicken reaction time, enhance cognitive performance and increase alertness. When coffee is drunk through out the day, instead of at one time, then alertness is maintained for a longer period. Coffee intakes benefit athletes and sports persons by increasing their endurance.

However, if you are a habituated coffee drinker, missing your cup of caffeinated coffee or substantially reducing its intake can cause headache, fatigue, irritability and nervousness and sometimes nausea and vomiting.

Coffee drinking is associated with a reduced incidence of both liver cirrhosis and pancreatitis. In fact, it is hypothesised that coffee consumption might inhibit the onset of alcoholic and non-alcoholic liver cirrhosis.

Are you a regular and moderate or heavy coffee drinker? If so, you are at a lower risk for type 2 diabetes as compared to those who do not drink coffee. The coffee that you drink contains substances that could improve insulin sensitivity and reduce the blood sugar levels.

Recent findings also associate coffee consumption with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Coffee may reduce the risk of developing gallstones. This effect, however, is not observed with decaffeinated coffee. “A moderate intake of coffee” is one of the dietary recommendations for the prevention of gallstones.

Coffee can prevent and treat clinical manifestations of asthma. Smokers may benefit from coffee drinking because coffee is known to dilate air passages and improve airflow.

However, coffee is not completely harmless or innocent. It can cause adverse effects on health although for a high proportion of coffee drinkers the health risks are in fact minimal.

Coffee is a stimulant and can be addictive. Coffee can also stain teeth, will stimulate the secretion of stomach acid and initiate bouts of indigestion.

Moderate caffeine intake at 400 mg day is perhaps not associated with adverse effects. But, regular intakes of more than five cups of coffee may be considered as “abuse”. It is a health risk and can cause a wide range of reactions. The person becomes restless, irritable and agitated. Insomnia and headaches, cardiovascular symptoms and gastrointestinal complaints such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea have also been observed.

Coffee is a diuretic. Intakes of more than five cups a day can increase urine output and lead to a negative fluid balance.

How does coffee influence your heart function?? Reports indicate a strong relationship between coffee consumption and elevated cholesterol levels. This effect is visible in both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee. Paper filters appear to strain away Cafestol and kahweol, responsible for the elevation in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels.
The downside

At doses greater than 250 mg, a small elevation in systolic and /or diastolic pressure is seen. Not all studies support this association and this effect may be visible in some subjects prone to hypertension. Heavy consumption of coffee is also reported to cause increased heart rate and irregular heart beats but only occasionally. The effect of unfiltered coffee in elevating the blood pressure, cholesterol and homocysteine levels may contribute to the risk of coronary heart disease. Findings of studies published in 2004 indicate that heavy coffee consumption (more than 10 cups a day) increases the risk of acute myocardial infarction or coronary death. The association between heavy coffee consumption and the risk for coronary heart disease or mortality cannot be overlooked.

Caffeine in coffee could exert a minor depressant effect on calcium absorption, but this could be offset by addition of small amounts of milk in the coffee. Caffeine ingestion may not have a harmful effect on the bone in individuals with adequate intakes of calcium.

Drinking more than three cups of coffee a day may affect a woman’s fertility. If you are pregnant, limit your caffeine intake to less than 300 mg per day. High coffee consumption is associated with increased risk for miscarriage, foetal deaths, possible birth defects, retarded foetal growth and low birth weight and early delivery.

So what is the recommendation on coffee drinking? While four or more cups of coffee may have protective effects on type 2 diabetes, this amount may adversely affect the heart. It is therefore difficult to suggest optimal amounts of coffee intake that would provide good health. However, it is safe to say that you could go ahead and jumpstart your day with coffee, if you enjoy it. But remember, the key word is moderation.

Private Reply to Aditya Seth

May 19, 2008 3:16 pmre: WELLBEING#

Inez.
Thanks for this informative post...At the end of the day, 'Moderation' is the key to good health and well being :)

Private Reply to Inez.

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