Monday, March 09, 2009

Coffee - To Drink Or No?

Coffee cortado, wiki

Confusion Abounds About This Brew's Relation With Our Health

Coffee. The beverage of choice for millions. The day begins with a cup of this brew. The liquid begins its action on the brain no sooner it washes down the mouth into the gullet - actually even the aroma is enough to trigger something in the brain. One sip of the hot decoction has the power to revive sagged spirits and tired muscles of a weary body. This one drink has been at the center of so many businesses - ask Messieurs Siegel, Baldwin and Bowker, the gentlemen from Starbucks or members of the Mathivat family that owns Les Deux Magots (I hope I got the owners' name right) - and they will be happy to tell you how they earn their living. The GDPs of entire swathes of countries are driven by the sale of the dark-brown beans. The culture of coffee has spun so many stories, weaved so many mysteries, and deepened so many relationships down the ages --- as one slogan on the banner of a coffee-shop says intriguingly, "A lot can happen over coffee".

The two Chinese mandarin statuettes adorning the walls at Les Deux Magots -*

* The two Chinese mandarin statuettes adorning the walls at Les Deux Magots - Coffee is said to have stirred the imagination and creativity of the likes of Sartre and Camus.

And perhaps because of its ubiquitousness at the coffee table (sigh), coffee is also surrounded by the usual controversies about its impact on health. Is drinking coffee good for health? Or bad?

 Playing cards in a coffeehouse, Damascus, wiki

Recent research suggests that consumed moderately, the brew is beneficial to health because of its inherent antioxidant properties. For certain individuals however, the beverage is a strict no-no. Plus, the preparation process from the raw beans to the dark-brown liquid that is poured into the cup also apparently makes a difference.

image by brybs,

For instance, if you like your brew unfiltered-regular or decaff or boiled or French-pressed, then beware! These preparation processes let certain chemicals pass through into the cup that can raise your LDL, or bad, cholesterol. On the other hand, filtered coffee is safe - it holds back the LDL.

image by flaivoloka,

Do you also smoke while drinking coffee? Researchers say that's not good for your blood pressure, and negatively impacts the flow of blood between the lungs and the heart. Coffee has been found to be a probable preventive (not curative) measure in Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. For offspring of families where these two medical conditions run in the genealogical tree, coffee could be _the_ elixir of life, and they might consider incorporating coffee-drinking - low doses, daily, along with small intake of wine and regular physical exercise - in their daily ritual right from childhood. On the other hand, one conjecture is that heavy coffee drinking increases seizure frequency in people with epileptic conditions. Stop drinking coffee, and see the seizure-frequency drop.

image by magdisma,

Science also cautions post-menopausal women against heavy consumption of coffee; in fact the recommendation is to cut down even the usual daily intake at onset of menopause. The reason is that heavy caffeine intake has been associated with increased risk of hip fracture, which has been in turn linked to the calcium in the bones getting dissolved and expelled through urine.

image by weirdvis,

Coffee has a paradoxical impact on diabetes 2 cases. Those of us who are not yet diabetic, can postpone / avoid-altogether its occurrence in their life by making it a point to drink coffee every day. On the other hand, once it is established that you have this condition, you are advised to reduce or totally eliminate its intake. This paradox is because coffee triggers an enhanced insulin response when the insulin is already there in the blood. But, when insulin is not there or is in low quantity, caffeine goes and expends all its belligerence on gastrointestinal hormones, which then sulk and pout and refuse to ooze from their glandular homes as abundantly as they should, resulting in slower glucose absorption.

image by spindoc,

Symptomatic gallstone disease, a condition that affects more than 20 million Americans every year, can be prevented or altogether banished from occurring in one's life by making coffee-drinking a lifelong affair.

image by lusi,

As you can see, it's indeed a complex relationship - between man or woman and coffee. You have to assess where you stand healthwise, and then decide how much you would like to indulge in your favorite cuppa. A lot can happen over coffee, as you know.

image by jellyeater,

[All research information gleaned from a 2007 paper published in the Journal: Nutrition & Food Science.]


  1. Hey Sanjay,

    Great post. I gave up coffee just over 2 years ago and noticed a very significant improvement in my overall health. I still do frequent the coffee shops for my soya hot chocolate. Since I gave up coffee my quality of sleep improved dramatically and I also found that I had more energy overall even though I had nothing to give me a boost during the times when I was tired.

  2. Wow! I didn't realize the impact of coffee on the body. I have heard the good and the bad throughout the years. I am still an avid coffee drinker and probably always will be, but you did shed some information that I will use in purchasing my coffee. Thanks for the great article.