Nutritional Myths: Coffee is bad for you

Coffee - the most beautiful drink on earth. Okay, maybe after wine if you ask me. There so much back and forward information about this drink, it's hard to keep track. We keep on asking ourselves - should we drink a cup a day, 5? Or shall we stick to green tea?

There is a popular health-culture that circulates mistaken ideas about nutrition and coffee drinking. We have been told too much coffee is bad for us and that we shouldn't drink coffee at all because coffee is bad for your health. It is commonly said that coffee is a drug, not a food, and that its drug action is harmful, and that this harm is not compensated by any nutritional benefit.

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The negative reputation coffee or caffeine have been given from the science world is due to studies that involve administering caffeine in large doses for a short period of time. Caffeine is usually said to raise blood pressure. Now, this can and is true in many cases, but so does salt, processed meat, pizza and dairy products to mention a few things. Even water can cause a rise in blood pressure, especially if you're old. Studies that focus on the effect on caffeine and caffeine alone, does not take to account for other essential factors such as food accompanied by coffee.

The increased metabolic rate caffeine produces increases the cellular consumption of glucose, so studies that explore the effect of coffee taken on an empty stomach are measuring the effects of increased temperature and metabolic rate, combined with increased adrenaline (resulting from the decreased glucose), and so confuse the issue of caffeine intrinsic effects.

Now, what is the actual truth?

If you haven't been living under a rock, you have probably seen the odd Facebook post that people who drink coffee have a longer and healthier lifespan. Is this correct? YES! Well, according to science.

Coffee is actually something you should consume! Why? Well let me tell you some of the most incredible proven statements that have been studied on coffee and how it can improve our health:

  • Coffee drinkers has a lower incidence of thyroid disease, including cancer than non-drinkers.

  • Caffeine protects the liver from alcohol and some medications. Coffee drinkers are less likely than people who don't drink coffee to have elevated serum enzymes and other indications of liver damage.

  • Caffeine protects against cancer caused by radiation, chemical carcinogens, viruses and estrogens.

  • Caffeine synergises with progesterone and increases its concentration in blood and tissues.

  • Cystic breast disease is not caused by caffeine, in fact, caffeine effect is likely to be protective: a variety of studies show that coffee, tea and caffeine are protective against breast cancer.

  • Coffee provides very significant quantities of magnesium, as well other nutrients such as vitamin B1.

  • Caffeine "improves the efficiency of fuel use" and performance: JC Wagner 1989.

  • Coffee drinkers have a low suicide rate.

  • Caffeine supports serotonin uptake in nerves and inhibits blood platelet aggregation.

  • Coffee drinkers have been found to have lower cadmium in tissues: coffee removes heavy metal from water.

  • Coffee inhibits iron absorption if taken with meals, helping to prevent iron overload.

  • Caffeine, like niacin, inhibits apoptosis (programmed cell death), protecting against stress-induced cell death, without interfering with normal cell turnover.

  • Caffeine can prevent nerve cell death.

  • Coffee/Caffeine prevents Parkinson's disease (Ross, et al., 2000)

  • Caffeine stops production of free radicals by inhibiting xanthine oxidase, an important factor in tissue stress.

  • Caffeine lowers serum potassium by stabilising platelets and reducing thromboxane production.

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So how many cups a day?

3-4 good quality coffee is said to be the magic number. I wouldn't drink 3 cups of instant coffee I day, I can't see how that can be good for you!

Coffee consumption seems generally safe within usual levels of intake, with summary estimates indicating largest risk reduction for various health outcomes at three to four cups a day, and more likely to benefit health than harm.

But Ive read that the best number of cups of coffee you should drink a day is 6. Yes 6. Now if you're pregnant, suffer from any health related conditions, are sensitive to caffeine or dealing with anxiety I would not recommend 6 cups a day.

How many cups a day do you drink? Let me know in the comments!

DC x