Like millions of other coffee lovers, I rejoice at the sight of new research bolstering the health benefits of my favorite beverage. From increased alertness to improved workouts to better brain function, you really can’t go wrong with a cup of joe – or two – in the morning.
With new research surrounding the mysterious coffee bean, experts now believe we may be one step closer to elevating the benefits of coffee from good to prescription-worthy.
As reported by CNN, recent studies propose that it may be the antioxidants in coffee that give it its superior health qualities. This is because our bodies produce oxygen radicals that can damage DNA, but antioxidants work to prevent this damage. This is especially good news for U.S. coffee drinkers since coffee was recently found to be the top source of antioxidants for Americans.
Another major benefit of coffee comes from the caffeine, which can have positive effects on brain health and alertness because it binds to adenosine receptors which can slow us down and leave us feeling sleepy. No wonder one cup of joe alongside breakfast is the way so many people start their day.
Additionally, coffee appears to lower levels of insulin and estrogen, fending off certain types of cancer. And it’s also suspected to help prevent type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and depression.
Timothy Caulfield, research director of Health Law and Science Policy Group at the University of Alberta and author of “The Cure for Everything,” backs these findings enthusiastically, especially since he’s a daily coffee drinker himself.
“Looking at all the available research, I think it is fair to say that coffee is a pretty fine drink with a strong possibility of real health benefits,” he told Diets in Review. “But most of the studies are association studies, like the one that found a correlation between drinking coffee and living longer. So [there's] no rock solid reason to start recommending it, but I think we are moving closer to that level of evidence. So, if you enjoy it, drink up!”
DietsInReview.com’s resident dietitian, Mary Hartley, RD, agrees, noting that most health professionals say it’s safe to consume up to 300 mg of caffeine a day. For reference, depending on the strength of the coffee and the serving size, each cup of brewed coffee contains between 60 – 120 mg of caffeine.
“I believe coffee is a healthy food based on the results of thousands of studies from the U.S. and Europe. Large amounts of caffeine, in the range of 500 – 600 mg per day, however, may produce sleeplessness, irritability, nervousness, digestive problems, and even ringing in the ears,” she said. “However, there is considerable variation among individuals in their ability to metabolize caffeine.
Hartley also pointed out that coffee is a good source of antioxidants and potassium, and has appreciable amounts of magnesium and manganese. And although it can be a source of empty calories when too much cream and sugar is added, when served with a healthy portion of skim milk it adds a considerable amount of calcium and vitamin D to a person’s diet.
While Hartley would not “prescribe” coffee for general health purposes, she does see exceptions in cases when it’s essential to remain awake and alert – such as while driving at night.
So it seems the evidence is more concrete than ever: coffee is, in fact, incredibly healthy for you. That’s not to say if you’re not a java drinker or you experience adverse effects when consuming it, you should force yourself to strike up a cup-a-day habit. But for those of us coffee lovers, this one more reason to continue topping off the mug – if not for taste, than for health.
August 22nd, 2012