I remember growing up and hearing warnings about consuming too much coffee, because it was possibly related to health problems. Well, my fellow java drinkers, the tide seems to be turning.
The results of new studies are coming out showing that coffee consumption — especially in larger quantities, such as four to six cups a day — appears to be beneficial for a number of health problems.
Many of the studies found that decaffeinated coffee had as many good effects as the caffeinated variety.
It’s been estimated that there are more than 1,000 different chemicals found in a cup of coffee. Many of these chemicals are antioxidants. These are substances which, when floating around the bloodstream, can prevent or at least slow damage to many types of cells in our bodies. Although fruits and vegetables are also high in antioxidants, coffee is the main source for most Americans.
Some could argue that there must be potentially harmful chemicals found in coffee as well, but so far the benefits of the brew seem to outweigh the risks.
Caffeine is actually a drug and not a nutrient required for good health, as are vitamins and minerals. It is a mild stimulant, resembling the more potent stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamine. Its positive effects are related to stimulating the brain and boosting the strength of muscle contractions.
Caffeine does have some short-term undesirable side effects, such as raising blood pressure and causing blood vessels to stiffen. Those with high blood pressure should limit their coffee intake. Young people, many of whom are now drinking highly caffeinated “energy” drinks, also ought to limit or avoid caffeine, because it might weaken their developing bones.
Some diseases that have been shown to be less frequent from coffee consumption are:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Certain cancers
- Liver disease
The bottom line is that although coffee consumption might be good for you, it still can’t be said that it’s so good that drinking it should be recommended.
So to those of us who enjoy our cup of joe, continue to do so. For those who don’t, there are many other ways to keep healthy.
- Terry Hollenbeck, M.D., is an urgent-care physician at Palo Alto Medical Foundation Santa Cruz in Scotts Valley. Readers can view his previous columns on his website, valleydoctor.wordpress.com, or e-mail him at email@example.com. Information in this column is not intended to replace advice from your own health care professional. For any medical concern, consult your own doctor.