There have been so many studies over the last twenty-five years about the effects of coffee that many people are confused about the real results.
For a few decades, we were told that coffee drinking was unhealthy, and now more recent studies tell us that is not true. Over 400 million cups of coffee are consumed per day in the world, so of course, this is an important issue.
The main problem is the caffeine in coffee. Caffeine is a mild stimulant, and therefore raises blood pressure and can increase heart rate. This was of concern to earlier researchers; today, researchers think the effect is so mild and short lived as to be negligible.
In fact, we are actually hearing about the benefits of coffee consumption. Some studies have even shown that the consumption of coffee reduces the incidence of colon cancer, but at such high levels that the negative effects of coffee may once again be an issue. But moderate levels of coffee drinking may actually be good for us. We know that it helps keep us alert. It has been discovered that wine contains certain antioxidants that help prevent heart disease and some cancers by removing free radicals from the blood system.
The same may be true of coffee. Studies have shown that the concentration of antioxidants in coffee is greater than in cranberries, apples or tomatoes. Of course, those other fruits and vegetables also give us many other benefits such as vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Chinese studies have shown that coffee consumption reduces the effects of Parkinson’s disease. Some studies in both America and Scandanavia indicate that coffee may reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes. And there is growing evidence that coffee can reduce the incidence of kidney stones and gallstones. Benefits have been noted in the degistive system, since caffeine stimulates the production of stomach acid, aiding in digestion. In moderation, the consumption of coffee has been shown to reduce the constriction of the airways in asthma sufferers.
A bronchodilator called theophylline contained in coffee, helps this effect.
But, of course there are always negatives. Excess coffee consumption has been linked with infertility or reduced fertility. Higher blood levels of homocysteine and LDL cholesterol have been associated with coffee drinking; these are both factors in coronory heart disease.
Since coffee contains cafestol, which raises blood cholesterol, this is one of the main reasons it has been indicted in the heart disease debate. However, the European method of making coffee, which is to boil the ground beans, is the real culprit in cafestol; the American method of percolating or filtering coffee, removes it.
Another issue that has been raised regarding coffee drinking is that coffee contributes to loss of bone density among women. In addition, women who drink four or more cups of coffee a day are prone to incontinence.
The bottom line? As always, moderation.
The many benefits of drinking coffee are available, and the risks avoided, if coffee is drunk moderately. Get a one cup coffee maker and enjoy one good cup a day, or splurge on your cappucinno instead of endless cups from the coffee vending machine.
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