Before you grab that morning cup of coffee, ask yourself if it is doing your body more harm than good. The answer might surprise you due to the many warnings about too much caffeine.
Overall, coffee has far more benefits for your health than it does concerns. It is no wonder that it is one of the most consumed beverages worldwide. However, think again if you are hitting your favorite coffee spot for a supersized, highly sweetened, artificially flavored latte topped with extra whipped cream. That is not the coffee we are discussing.
While most people think the benefits of coffee come from caffeine, the antioxidants in coffee pack a powerful health punch, too. Coffee can help decrease inflammation and protect your body against disease. Along with antioxidants, coffee contains potassium, magnesium, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), and vitamin B3 (niacin).
The negative viewpoint of coffee in the past was partly due to not excluding smokers from earlier studies. Many adverse effects have now been linked to cigarettes rather than coffee.
Principle of Action of Caffeine
The primary stimulant in coffee is caffeine, which significantly impacts the central nervous system (CNS). Caffeine is the world’s most widely used CNS stimulant. The time it takes most healthy adults to eliminate half the caffeine in a beverage is 5 to 6 hours, also known as the half-life of caffeine. Its range may vary between 1.5 and 9.5 hours, dependent on metabolism, weight, altitude, smoking, oral contraceptive use, and other factors. In pregnancy, the half-life of caffeine can increase up to fifteen hours, which is why pregnant women are advised to avoid caffeine. Heavy smokers see the half-life of caffeine decrease by half, so they might find themselves reaching for another cup of coffee sooner than non-smokers.
Because of caffeine’s metabolism by the body, very little is excreted unchanged through urination. The majority of caffeine metabolism occurs in the liver, which metabolizes caffeine, breaking it down into the following three metabolic dimethylxanthines:
- Paraxanthine: 84% of caffeine becomes paraxanthine to help break down fat and increase glycerol and fat levels in the blood.
- Theobromine: 12% of caffeine becomes theobromine to help dilate blood vessels. Caffeine also provides a diuretic effect to increase urination.
- Theophylline: The remaining 4% helps to dilate airways, which is also helpful in treating asthma.
99% of caffeine is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract within 45 minutes of ingesting the beverage. Caffeine can cross the blood-brain barrier, and its effects can be felt quickly, often within 15 minutes of ingestion. Peak plasma caffeine concentrations are seen for up to 120 minutes. The ensuing increase in alertness and reduction in fatigue can last up to six hours.
However, the news is not all good, as continual intake of too much caffeine can lead to adverse effects, including heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, nervousness, sleep deprivation, mood swings, poor concentration, and impaired judgment. High doses of caffeine can increase anxiety and psychosis.
Benefits of Coffee for the Body
We know that many people think a leading benefit of coffee is the energy boost from caffeine. While that can help get you over that mid-afternoon slump, coffee’s positive attributes go far beyond that.
Moderate coffee intake is considered 2 to 5 cups a day – regular-sized cups, not large ones. Early research is leaning toward the potential that coffee consumption may help reduce the risk of early death.
Here are some leading benefits of drinking coffee:
Lower the risk of getting type 2 diabetes
Studies have shown that consuming coffee decreases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes (T2D), with both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee providing the same benefit. The antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and thermogenic benefits of coffee help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. It is crucial to note that studies have shown that both sugar-sweetened and artificially sweetened beverages, including those with and without caffeine, are associated with a higher T2D risk.
Lower chance of developing Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease
Coffee may help reduce the risk of neurodegenerative disorders since caffeine helps decrease dopaminergic neuronal loss. Caffeine may help improve memory while protecting the brain from cognitive decline, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, and other forms of dementia. One study showed that women who consume more than 4 cups of coffee daily had a lower risk of depression than those who consume 2 to 3 cups.
Lower the risk of heart disease and stroke
The biologically active compounds in coffee beans help decrease oxidative stress and inflammation that can affect the heart. Studies have shown that consuming 3 to 5 cups of coffee each day can provide a 15% reduction risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). This does not apply to people with uncontrolled blood pressure (hypertensive patients), who should avoid large doses of caffeine (2 or more cups per day). Further research supports a reduced risk of heart failure for healthy individuals consuming higher coffee intake.
Another study reports that people drinking 2 to 3 cups of coffee daily had the lowest CVD risk. Individuals with irregular heartbeat could benefit from 4 to 5 cups a day, except for decaffeinated coffee, which did not provide benefits for irregular heartbeat CVD risk.
In a meta-analysis of more than 20 studies, 3 to 4 cups of coffee daily lowered the risk of stroke by 21%.
Boost energy levels
Because caffeine is a leading CNS stimulant, it helps to fight fatigue and boost energy. Caffeine blocks the neurotransmitter adenosine receptors in the brain, helping to modulate dopaminergic pathways. Consuming caffeine can help reduce fatigue.
Improve physical performance and longevity
Caffeine can boost physical performance and help reduce muscle pain perception. Drinking coffee can help improve endurance, gait speed, and power output.
Studies have also shown that drinking 2 to 4 cups of coffee daily can lower the risk of death, including heart disease and cancer. Coffee’s ability to protect against free radicals and DNA damage may help extend life expectancy. More research is needed in this area.
Have a protective effect on the liver and gallbladder
Coffee helps to keep liver enzymes at their ideal level. Consuming more than two cups of coffee daily could reduce liver scarring and cancer incidence for people with liver disease. Chronic liver disease risk decreases significantly with increased coffee consumption (4 cups daily). Moderate consumption of caffeine regularly may help prevent gallstone formation.
Coffee may help boost fat metabolism so that you burn more calories and lose weight. Benefits of coffee for weight loss include suppressing appetite by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system to reduce hunger, increasing helpful bacteria to support gut health, and increasing intestinal mobility.
Caffeine can be beneficial when extra weight is due to hormonal imbalance, for example, HGH deficiency, which can lead to fatigue and obesity. Consult a doctor to learn more about HGH deficiency and get the facts about Omnitrope therapy to improve hormonal balance.
Improve alertness and mental acuity
Caffeine can help increase alertness, boost concentration, and improve working memory.
It may help reduce cancer risk
Coffee may help decrease the risk of colorectal, prostate, endometrial, breast, and liver cancer. More research is necessary, and these benefits are not valid for smokers.
3 Rules to Get the Best Benefits of Coffee Consumption
Drinking coffee is a pleasurable experience for many people, a necessity for some, and an indulgence for others. Indulgence often comes at a health cost by adding sweeteners and flavors that can damage the many wonderful effects of coffee.
Follow the rules below to get the best benefits from your daily coffee:
The right amount of coffee per day
The average cup of coffee in studies is 6 to 8 ounces, which is what to go by when calculating how much coffee to consume each day. Focusing on 2 to 4 cups of coffee is ideal for most healthy adults.
Don’t drink coffee on an empty stomach
While it may seem productive to drink coffee first thing when you wake up to get your bowels moving and help with weight loss, there are more negatives than positives with this thought process.
- Anything you consume can promote the production of stomach acid; without food, that acid can cause harm to your stomach lining.
- Drinking coffee on an empty stomach can increase cortisol production, inhibiting other hormones, including HGH and testosterone. Elevated cortisol can increase osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure risks.
- Consuming coffee on an empty stomach can cause mood swings, jitters, and shaking.
- While coffee can help reduce inflammation, drinking it on an empty stomach can lead to oxidative stress and increased inflammation.
- Drinking coffee before eating can interfere with blood sugar levels and alter crucial thyroid hormone conversion.
Drink better coffee with less sugar
Many people turn to creamers, sweeteners, and flavors to mask the bitterness of coffee. A high-quality coffee appropriately prepared should not be bitter. Experiment to find a coffee you like to avoid adding high-calorie or artificial sweeteners and other chemicals to your cup.
Some options for adding more flavor without losing the health benefits of coffee include:
- Cocoa powder
- Vanilla or other flavored extracts
- Liquid stevia
- Maple syrup
- Date syrup
- Oat or almond milk
Avoid caffeine at night
If you enjoy coffee in the evening, switch to decaffeinated coffee to avoid interfering with your sleep.
Avoid caffeine if any of the following are present:
- Pregnant (linked to miscarriage, premature delivery, and low birth weight)
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- High blood pressure
- Sleep disorders
- Kidney or liver disease
- Anxiety or panic disorders
It is also best to limit caffeine in children as there has not been enough research to show the potential benefits or harms.
Coffee has many benefits for healthy adults, as long as it does not contain harmful sweeteners and other additives. Ensure you eat before having that first cup of coffee and avoid caffeine at night to help you get adequate sleep.
As with many other things, if you smoke cigarettes, stop. Your body processes caffeine too quickly, and you might overindulge, which can lead to adverse health effects.
Remember, the average cup of coffee is only 6 to 8 ounces, so getting those supersized cups at your favorite place might mean only one cup per day.