Monday, September 15, 2014

Coffee: Health Benefits and Risks

Many of us like our morning cup of coffee.  But is it really good for us?  Let's look at some information about coffee and some recent studies on it's effects on our health.

First of all, how much caffeine is in coffee, both caffeinated and decaffeinated?  And how does the caffeine content of coffee measure up to other beverages?  According to the Mayo Clinic, this is how coffee and other beverages tack up:

Generic, brewed, 8 oz cup                95-200mg

Generic, brewed, decaf, 8 oz cup     2-12mg
Black Tea                                           14-61mg
Black Tea, decaf                                0-12mg
Green Tea                                          24-40mg
Coca-Cola Classic, 12 oz can          30-35mg
Coke Zero, 12 oz can                        35mg
Pepsi Cola, 12 oz can                       32-39mg
Diet Pepsi, 12 oz can                        27-37mg
Mountain Dew, 12 oz can                 45-55mg

There is a range of values for each item because the amount of caffeine depends on a number of factors, such as roasting, grinding and brewing time.  The length of brew time also affects the caffeine content of tea.

Now, let's separate the caffeine issue from the antioxidant issue.  Coffee is the number one source of antioxidants in the diets of Americans at this time.  That includes all other sources of antioxidants combined. It has been shown to have a protective effect in several different health areas.  The results of studies show that both green and roasted coffee possess anti-radical activity, but that it is higher in roasted than in green coffee.  The degree of roasting affects the antioxidant activity of the coffee, with medium roast coffees showing the most activity.  Addition of milk did not alter the antioxidant activity.  Robusta coffees showed more activity than Arabica coffees.

The antioxidants in coffee have been shown to have a protective effect against the most lethal kind of prostate cancer.  It's not the caffeine, it's the antioxidants, so both kinds of coffee - caffeinated and decaffeinated - have the same effect.  Coffee also helps regulate insulin, and protects against Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and Type 2 Diabetes.

However, don't dump sugar in that coffee.  Sugar increases the chances of developing Type 2 Diabetes, and wipes the positive antioxidant effects of coffee.  Sugar also impairs immune system function,  This results in a 50% reduction in the ability of white blood cells to engulf bacteria.  See The Dangers of Sugar.  Use Stevia or Xylitol instead.

If you decide you don't want the caffeine, there are other dangers to consider.  There are several methods by which coffee is decaffeinated using a variety of solvents:  Water, carbon dioxide, methylene chloride, and ethyl acetate. Methylene chloride is a known carcinogen, and after soaking the beans in this solvent, they are washed, roasted and ground, leaving small amounts of the compound in the coffee.  The FDA does not believe these small amounts pose a health risk and so have done nothing abut it.  However, some companies have voluntarily stopped using this chemical in favor of ethyl acetate, which is supposedly less toxic.  The Swiss Water Process is the most desirable method of caffeine extraction.  In this process, the beans are allowed to soak in water and this extracts about half of the caffeine.  A good cup of decaf should have no more than 2-4mg per cup.  Federal regulations state that coffee cannot be labeled as "decaffeinated" unless the caffeine is reduced at least 97.5%.

However, what you aren't told is that many coffees are already 98 percent caffeine free before anything is done to remove the caffeine.  If you take this coffee and remove 97.5 percent of what is there, you get a product that is less than 1% caffeine.

It would behoove you to read the label or talk to someone at the company that makes your coffee and make sure it uses the Swiss Water Process.

What are some of the health risks of coffee?

Those who drink coffee are more likely to develop kidney stones.  Studies show that individuals who drink coffee show an increased output of calcium in their urine.  This is due to caffeine's diuretic effect, and due to the fact that your body neutralizes the acid in the coffee by withdrawing calcium from your bones.

Those who drink an unusually high amount of coffee have a higher chance of spontaneous abortion during pregnancy.

Changes in fetal heart rate and breathing have been observed when there is no observable effect on the mother.

Although the link between caffeine and blood pressure is admittedly not well understood, there appears to be ample evidence that coffee will at least to some extent raise your blood pressure.

So, help prevent diabetes but raise your blood pressure?  What a trade off.....

Then there is the issue of pesticides.  The three crops that have the most pesticides are:  coffee, cotton and tobacco.  So buying your coffee organic, whether regular or decaf, is very important.   Why Buy Organic?  

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Copyright 2015  Judie C. McMath and The Center for Unhindered Living

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