In the UK we drink around 100 million cups of coffee a day. We have been drinking coffee for over 600 years and its caffeine content helps us to wake up and stay alert. Modern research has found that drinking coffee can be good for you and can help protect against multiple health conditions. Coffee contains polyphenols, antioxidants and fibre, which can help to prevent tissue damage and feed our gut microbes. Studies have found that coffee drinkers have a lowered risk of dying from a digestive related disease. Coffee also contains Vitamins B2 and B3 and minerals magnesium and potassium and these nutrients can benefit the human body in a variety of ways. Research shows coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, liver cancer and liver disease.
Older studies suggested that coffee, mainly because of its high caffeine content, was negatively linked to heart disease and even to cancer. However, studies undertaken after 2000 have found that coffee drinkers were less likely to suffer heart disease and that coffee may offer protection against certain cancers. In one such study light coffee drinkers (1-2 cups a day) had a 21% reduced risk of dying due to a heart attack and that those who drank 2 or more cups a day had a 31% reduced risk of death. This demonstrates the importance of looking at all the ingredients and bioactive compounds found in whole foods and not concentrate solely on one component, such as caffeine
Some people are sensitive to caffeine e.g. drinking coffee can trigger cramps and diarrhoea in irritable bowel syndrome sufferers, it can also affect sleeping patterns and stimulate the bladder and can also increase the risk of anxiety and panic attacks. Decaffeinated coffee still has a high polyphenol content, but please research the decaffeination process, as some production methods strip away the health benefits of the coffee. Decaffeinated coffee still contains around 3 mg of caffeine per cup which can affect some people, instant coffee contains around 80-100mg, filter coffee around 140mg per cup, whilst espresso varies anywhere between 40-200 mg per shot. The advice for a safe amount of caffeine in the UK is around 400mg/day, which amounts to around 4-5 cups of coffee.
Consuming caffeine from coffee has also been linked to delaying the onset of both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, because caffeine blocks the normal actions of a brain relaxing chemical called adenosine, which in turn increases concentration and alertness. Researchers in one such study found components in coffee (particularly caffeine) may play a role in protecting against the changes that occur in Parkinson’s disease and discovered that the amounts of specific substances in coffee may vary according to the conditions of growth, harvesting and methods of roasting the coffee beans. They concluded that in the future it may be possible to optimise the composition of coffee to further enhance its effects. So, enjoy drinking your coffee in the knowledge that it can provide you with a variety of health benefits!
Nicola Rose DipCH BSc (Hons) RNutr is a fully Registered Nutritionist and Clinical Hypnotherapist. She worked for a specialist NHS weight management service for many years. If you have any questions on this article, or require a personal trainer, please email Nicola at firstname.lastname@example.org