From Bottom Line Secrets)
THE AMAZING HEALING POWER OF COFFEE
Joe Vinson, PhD
University of Scranton
hen most people think of a healthful diet, fresh fruits and
vegetables typically top the list.
Surprising: An eight-ounce cup of
caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee contains more
disease-fighting antioxidants than a typical serving of fresh
blueberries or oranges.
Although coffee does not contain some of the other nutrients
found in healthful foods, it is the main source of antioxidants
in the American diet (followed by tea and chocolate,
respectively). Of course, the stimulating effects of
coffee's caffeine are not always desirable -- some people
experience nervousness, insomnia or even spikes in blood
But most people who drink moderate amounts of coffee (typically
defined as one to three cups daily) seem to have a lower risk
for a number of chronic conditions, including heart disease,
diabetes and age-related cognitive declines.
WHAT'S IN A CUP?
The amount of caffeine that is found in coffee varies, depending
on how the coffee is prepared.
Examples: One ounce of espresso
contains about 50 mg... an eight-ounce cup of instant coffee has
95 mg... and eight ounces of plain, brewed coffee has 150 mg. A
serving of espresso, instant or brewed coffee each contains
roughly the same amount of antioxidants. In fact, coffee
contains hundreds of antioxidants, particularly polyphenols
-- plant compounds that can inhibit cell damage or inflammation,
two of the main causes of many chronic diseases. The addition of
milk and/or sugar does not appear to affect the antioxidant
Important: Most of the research
linking coffee to reduced disease rates is based on
epidemiologic studies, in which scientists have analyzed the
past dietary habits of large groups of people.
This type of research helps to develop hypotheses that deserve
further study, but definitive answers won't be possible until
scientists conduct more large-scale clinical studies, in which
factors such as coffee consumption are tightly controlled
(rather than merely self-reported by test subjects).
What the newest research on coffee consumption tells us...
GOOD FOR THE ARTERIES
New finding: In a study published in
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in May 2006,
Norwegian researchers found that postmenopausal women who drink
one to three cups of coffee daily are 24% less likely to develop
cardiovascular disease than non-coffee drinkers.
Theory: The antioxidants in coffee --
like those in fruits and vegetables -- are thought to inhibit
the damaging effects of free radicals on cells lining the
Result: A decrease in inflammation,
now thought to be the underlying cause of heart disease.
Caution: Because of the stimulating
effects of caffeine, blood pressure rises temporarily (for about
one hour) when regular coffee is consumed. People who drink
several cups in a row may keep their blood pressure elevated,
thus increasing the risk for heart disease or a heart attack.
Helpful: Space out coffee consumption.
For example, have one cup in the morning and another at lunch or
in the afternoon. Or switch to decaf, which doesn't cause the
blood pressure spikes of regular coffee -- but offers the same
health benefits, except for those that improve cognitive
BLOOD PRESSURE STABILIZER
New finding: An analysis published in
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in February
2007 found that older adults (age 65 and over) who have four or
more daily servings of caffeine -- in the form of coffee, soft
drinks, etc. -- have less than half the risk of dying of heart
disease than those who consume smaller amounts.
Theory: Older adults are prone to
occasional hypotension (low blood pressure). They are
especially vulnerable to drops in blood pressure after meals,
which can increase the risk for heart attack. Caffeine, by
quickly raising blood pressure, appears to reduce the risk for
such coronary events.
Caution: The oils found in steeped
coffee, such as that made in a French press (a glass beaker
to which hot water and ground coffee are added... then a plunger
is depressed, filtering out all the grounds and sediment), can
significantly raise cholesterol and increase the risk for
elevated blood pressure.
Better for health: Coffee that is drip
brewed (water is poured over ground coffee and seeps through a
filter into a pot). The filter traps most of the oils.
New finding: Research published in the
June 26, 2006,
Archives of Internal Medicine found that among
28,812 postmenopausal women studied, those who drank four to
five cups of coffee (especially decaffeinated) per day were 16%
less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than women who didn't
drink any coffee.
Theory: The antioxidants in coffee may
protect the pancreas's insulin-producing beta cells
from oxidative damage.
BETTER BRAIN HEALTH
New finding: Coffee appears to slow
the rate of cognitive decline in elderly adults. In a study
published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition
in August 2006, researchers gave memory tests to 676 healthy men
Italy and the
Netherlands, then repeated the tests 10 years later.
Non-coffee drinkers had four times more cognitive decline than
men who drank three cups of coffee a day.
Theory: The antioxidants in coffee
reduce age-related damage to brain cells (neurons) and/or cause
beneficial changes in the hormones/neurotransmitters that
are involved in cognitive function.
Scientific studies also suggest that moderate consumption of
coffee reduces the risk for Parkinson's disease as well as
Alzheimer's disease. Researchers have yet to explain why
coffee reduces risk for these two diseases, but the mechanism is
thought to be similar to that associated with reduced cognitive
A HEALTHIER LIVER
New finding: According to research
published in the June 12, 2006,
Archives of Internal Medicine, coffee may reduce the
risk for cirrhosis (irreversible liver scarring that, in severe
cases, can be life-threatening without a transplant), especially
in alcoholics. This link may be due to the anti-inflammatory
effects of the antioxidants in coffee.
In addition, coffee may help protect against gallstones.
Specifically, data from the ongoing Harvard Nurses' Health Study
found that women who drank four or more cups of coffee daily
required fewer operations for gallstones than women who didn't
Theory: Caffeine stimulates
gallbladder contractions, which cause the gallbladder to empty
more often and may reduce the risk for gallstone formation.
Caffeine interacts with
certain medications, causing some to become more potent or
increasing the amount of time caffeine remains in the body.
These drugs include certain selective serotonin reuptake
inhibitors (SSRIs), such as fluvoxamine
anti-arrhythmics, such as mexiletine
bronchodilators, such as theophylline
Caffeine also may interact with the herbal dietary supplement
ephedra. In addition, consumption of more than five cups of
coffee daily has been linked to higher risk for bone fractures
in postmenopausal women.
natural and healthy hormone balancing