Is Coffee Bad for You? Facts vs. Fiction
by Dr. Josh Axe
Hundreds of millions of people drink coffee on a nearly daily basis, and coffee drinkers commonly ask, “Is coffee good for you?” The answer, unsurprisingly, is yes and no.
The potential benefits of coffee have been extensively studied in recent years as researchers continue to try to understand what coffee can do to your body.
According to the National Coffee Association, more than 50 percent of all U.S. adults drink coffee every single day. Worldwide, coffee is the second most consumed beverage to water in many nations, and it’s the leading contributor of caffeine to the average person’s diet.
There’s still a lot of disagreement about whether or not coffee is good or bad for you?
Coffee seems to be a double-edged sword: While it can make you feel more alert, productive and motivated, for some people it has the opposite effect — leaving them feeling anxious, jittery and unable to focus.
Not only is coffee high in caffeine, but it’s also rich in antioxidants and contains a small amounts of several micronutrients that your body needs as well. However, it’s also been linked to many different side effects, and health experts often advise that certain groups of people limit their intake to avoid adverse effects on health.
So is coffee healthy?
And should your drink coffee or choose other alternatives instead? Here’s what you need to know.
In July 2017, a pair of large studies published in the Annals of Medicine actually found drinking coffee seems to promote longevity. Looking at roughly 700,000 people from different racial backgrounds, cultural and ethnic backgrounds, drinking more coffee was linked to a lower risk of death.
The first study looked at non-white populations and found drinking two to four cups of coffee translated into an 18 percent lower risk of death during the study period compared to non-coffee drinkers. Drinking more coffee appeared to lower the chances of dying from cancer, heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, diabetes or chronic lower respiratory disease.
The second study looked at people living in 10 European countries, finding that the top coffee drinkers were 25 percent less likely to die during the 16-year-study compared to the non-coffee drinkers.
But this isn’t the first time coffee nutrition benefits surfaced in the literature. Previously, researcher Miriam Nelson, a professor in the School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, said:
We looked at all the science … we have found no negative, adverse effects on health when you drink up to three to five cups a day. In fact, there is a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and a couple of cancers, including breast and prostate cancer.
The two most commonly grown types of coffee are arabica and robusta. While not a big contributor of vitamins and minerals to your diet, coffee is a much better choice than energy drinks, soda, and sweetened teas or juices. It contains no sugar or carbs and virtually no calories, so it fits into nearly all diets, including the vegan, Paleo and ketogenic diet.
One eight-ounce cup of regular coffee nutrition contains about:
0.3 gram protein
0.2 milligrams riboflavin (11 percent DV)
0.6 milligram pantothenic acid (6 percent DV)
116 milligrams potassium (3 percent DV)
0.1 milligram manganese (3 percent DV)
7.1 milligrams magnesium (2 percent DV)
0.5 milligram niacin (2 percent DV)
How much caffeine in coffee is there?
The level can vary quite a bit depending on factors like the type of bean, manufacturer and method used for making the coffee. For example, a standard cup from Starbucks is known to contain a much higher coffee caffeine amount than the average medium-roast coffee you’d make at home.
According to the USDA, an average eight-ounce cup of brewed coffee from ground beans contains about 95 milligrams of caffeine. Meanwhile, the same size cup from Starbucks (which would be a “short”) contains a whopping 155 milligrams. In contrast, an average espresso contains about 64 milligrams, and a cup of green tea has about 44 milligrams. That means drinking a cup of coffee from Starbucks provides more than three times the amount of caffeine as a green tea made using one tea bag.
Coffee is a hot beverage brewed from roasted coffee beans, which are the seeds of berries from the Coffea plant. There are plenty of different variations of coffee out there, each of which differs based on the type of bean used, the brand and the method used to brew it.
There are also several specialty coffee-based products available, including coffee flour, coffee scrubs, essential oils, syrups and even coffee enemas. It’s also added to supplements, often in the form of green coffee bean extract, which is made from coffee beans that haven’t been roasted or processed.
There are plenty of different types of coffee drinks out there as well, far beyond the traditional cup of coffee.
A few common types include:
1. High in Antioxidants
Somewhat surprisingly, many health care practitioners now recommend drinking coffee and consider it a “guilty pleasure” that you don’t necessarily need to feel guilty about. That’s because some sources show that one of the top health benefits of coffee beans is its powerful antioxidant properties, which may be even stronger than cocoa or some forms of tea leaves.
How does the antioxidant level in coffee compare to other healthy beverages? Research shows that an average cup of coffee might even contain more polyphenol antioxidants than cocoa, green tea, black tea and herbal tea. While you should still get the majority of your antioxidants from whole food sources like fruits and vegetables, coffee might be another good addition if you’re able to tolerate it.
Coffee is effective at fighting free radical damage because it increases the amount of antioxidants in the blood. Two of the key antioxidants responsible for the majority of coffee benefits are chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid, both of which can help protect cells against damage and oxidative stress.
2. Protects Liver Health
Another one of the benefits of drinking coffee is it increases circulation and can stimulate the liver. For example, a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that increased coffee consumption was associated with lower rates of liver disease progression in people with hepatitis C.
In fact, there was a 20 percent reduction in alcoholic liver syndrome for every cup of coffee a day participants drank. Other research suggests that coffee may also protect against cirrhosis, including alcoholic cirrhosis.
3. Improves Physical Performance
One of the most impressive coffee benefits for men and women alike is its ability to enhance physical performance, helping bring your workout to the next level. In fact, many studies show that coffee increases alertness and improves mental and physical performance in the short run.
According to the research, caffeine doesn’t improve maximal oxygen capacity directly but could help increase power and/or endurance for athletes. It has been shown to increase speed and power output in simulated race conditions and activities that last as little as 60 seconds or as long as two hours.
The caffeine in coffee, in particular, is often used as an ergogenic aid before and during prolonged exercise. This is one reason why many endurance athletes and fitness enthusiasts like to drink some coffee before hitting the gym or competing, since it’s known to be a performance enhancer and contributor to higher concentration and stamina.
One 2013 report published by the School of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Birmingham even found that the power and athletic performance times were significantly faster among adult men who drank caffeine drinks and coffee prior to exercising compared to placebo and decaf groups.
4. Supports Cognitive Function
Coffee also has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain, which helps support cognitive function. In addition, coffee and caffeine have been studied extensively as natural treatments for Alzheimer’s as well as other neurological conditions.
In an animal study conducted by the Florida Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, mice given caffeine in their drinking water from young adulthood into older age showed protection against memory impairment and lower brain levels of the abnormal protein (amyloid-beta or Abeta) thought to be central to Alzheimer’s development. “Aged,” cognitively impaired mice exhibited memory restoration and lower brain Abeta levels following only one to two months of caffeine treatment.
5. May Help Prevent Diabetes
There’s a good deal of evidence that drinking coffee (six or more cups a day) could significantly lower the risk for type 2 diabetes, but even less might still be beneficial. According to the Nurse’s Health Study, drinking two or three cups of coffee per day was associated with a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes in younger and middle-aged women.
Another large review of 18 studies published in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that each cup of coffee consumed was linked to a 7 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
It’s believed that chlorogenic acid, one of the main antioxidants found in coffee, might also reduce the absorption of glucose from sugary or high-carbohydrate foods. This could slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream after a meal and may be beneficial for preventing insulin resistance.
6. Promotes Heart Health
Unfiltered coffee is a significant source of cafestol and kahweol antioxidants, which are diterpene compounds that have been implicated in the cholesterol-balancing effects of coffee. Habitual coffee consumption in large epidemiological studies is associated with reduced mortality, both for all-cause and cardiovascular deaths.
In addition, coffee intake is associated with a lower risk of heart failure and stroke. Surprisingly, coffee is also even linked to a reduced risk for heart arrhythmia, even though many people feel it raises their heartbeat and makes them feel “jittery.”
7. May Have Anti-Cancer Properties
Emerging research shows that there may be a link between consumption of coffee and cancer risk, noting that this powerful ingredient could be protective against several different types of cancer. For example, a review published in Scientific Reports noted that drinking coffee was associated with a lower risk of multiple kinds of cancer, including oral, pharyngeal, colon, liver, prostate, endometrial cancer and melanoma.
8. Boosts Fat-Burning
One of the biggest benefits of coffee is weight loss, and research shows that it can help boost fat-burning and metabolism to increase weight loss. According to a study published in the Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism, caffeine was able to boost metabolism by an average of 7 percent within three hours after consumption.
Note that it’s best to minimize use of added sugars or creamers or stick to unsweetened coffee instead to decrease the amount of black coffee calories that you consume.
Is Coffee Bad for You?
Although there are plenty of benefits of caffeine and coffee consumption, there are several disadvantages of coffee and negative caffeine effects to consider as well. So what are the disadvantages of drinking coffee? Let’s take a look.
1. It’s Addictive
Consuming too much caffeine can have an addictive side effect, leading to a caffeine overdose. The danger there is it can overstimulate the body, burn out your adrenal glands and really be taxing — and when you don’t get your caffeine “fix,” it can lead to headaches, anxiety, irritability, trouble concentrating, fatigue, digestive issues and changes in appetite.
2. It Can Cause Digestive Issues
Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are just a few of the potential side effects associated with coffee consumption. This is due to the laxative effect of coffee, which is caused by the release of gastrin, a type of hormone that stimulates movement in the digestive tract.
Studies also show that caffeine can worsen symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which is a condition characterized by heartburn, nausea and belching.
3. It May Alter Mood and Increase Anxiety
Caffeine in coffee has the ability to impact hormones, neurotransmitters function, nerve signaling and muscles. This is especially true if you have existing health conditions — like anxiety, heart problems or diabetes — or if you turn to coffee to help change how you feel and disguise underlying fatigue.
Because caffeine increases alertness and triggers the release of adrenaline, it may worsen feelings of anxiety and nervousness. Therefore, one of the benefits of quitting coffee and other stimulants may be improvements in mood, especially if you suffer from ongoing stress or chronic anxiety.
4. It Can Be High in Calories
Is coffee bad for weight loss? Although there are plenty of benefits of black coffee when it comes to weight loss and fat burning, piling on the cream and sugar can cause extra calories to stack up, ultimately hindering weight loss altogether.
A good coffee option for weight loss it to simple enjoy your coffee black or use a natural, low-calorie sweetener like stevia to add a hint of flavor. Almond milk, oat milk or cinnamon are a few other simple ways to enjoy your cup of coffee without piling on the pounds.
5. It’s Not Recommended for Some People
In moderation, coffee can be safely enjoyed by most people as part of a healthy diet. However, there are several people who should not consume caffeine altogether. Children, for example, have long been advised to avoid drinking coffee due to its potential effects on growth and development.
So does coffee stunt your growth? Although there’s no evidence to show that coffee makes you short, it can cause issues like hyperactivity and insomnia. Thus, it is typically not recommended for adolescents. Pregnant women should also limit caffeine consumption to less than 200 milligrams per day to prevent adverse outcomes and birth defects.
Wondering how much you need to drink to get these benefits and how much caffeine from coffee is too much? Also, is it good to drink coffee every day, or should you cut back on your caffeine consumption to prevent adverse effects on health?
A “moderate amount” for healthy adults maxes out at 500 milligrams of caffeine per day, which is about five cups of home-brewed regular coffee or a little more than one venti Starbucks coffee (which has about 410 milligrams).
For pregnant women, the amount is less — around 200 milligrams daily or less, although many pregnant women still prefer to have none at all to minimize potential coffee health risks.
Most health experts recommend drinking between one and two cups a day ideally, which isn’t associated with negative reactions but seems to be beneficial for most people.
What are the side effects of coffee?
Some of the most commonly reported symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, anxiety, insomnia and headaches. Many of these are related to caffeine consumption, so decreasing your intake or taking advantage of the benefits of decaf coffee instead is recommended for those who experience persistent adverse side effects.
Coffee is a beverage made from roasted coffee beans, which are derived from the berries of the Coffea plant.
According to the coffee nutrition facts, coffee contains several antioxidants and a small amount of riboflavin, pantothenic acid, potassium and manganese. The coffee caffeine content can vary based on a variety of different factors, but the average cup contains around 95 milligrams of caffeine.
Some of the potential benefits of drinking coffee include improved cognitive function, liver health, physical performance and fat-burning.
Is coffee bad for you? Despite its potential benefits, there are drawbacks associated with coffee consumption. It can be addictive, increase anxiety, cause digestive issues, may be high in calories and is not recommended for certain groups of people.
In moderation, however, coffee can be enjoyed as an excellent addition to a well-rounded, healthy diet for most people.
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