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The Truth of Coffee: Health Benefits vs. Risks Explained

By Dr. Sanober Doctor
November 3, 2023
5 minutes

Despite being a subject of debate across the world, most coffee lovers never think about the health benefits vs risks caused by coffee consumption.

According to Harvard, the effects of coffee or caffeine on human beings respond differently across individuals. Caffeine is considered a stimulant and is the most consumed-altering substance in the world. The differences in caffeine response are due to genetic differences and intake amount. It’s commonly found in a number of natural sources which include coffee seeds from coffee plants and the leaves of tea plants. Guarana plants and Cocoa also contain caffeine.

It’s unimaginable for some people to spend a day without taking a cup of coffee or a caffeinated drink. Some believe caffeine awakens their alertness, to others, it stimulates their nervous system and to many, it boosts their energy levels. Caffeine-containing beverages generally include tea, coffee, and soda.

Is coffee more helpful than harmful in terms of health outcomes? Let’s now dive into the science facts on coffee.

How Does Caffeine Work in the Body?

Coffee is a complex beverage with hundreds of bioactive compounds with antioxidants among the main components. Harmful free radicals forming in your body cells are destroyed by antioxidants which makes coffee essential for body health

Caffeine is quickly and almost completely absorbed in the body within 45 minutes after drinking from the gastrointestinal truck and then distributed throughout the body water.

Coffee also contains cafestol kahweol and Trigonelline which turns to niacin or Vitamin B upon roasting the coffee seeds. Once you take coffee, the caffeine compound increases Cyclic AMP (cAMP) by inhibiting phosphodiesterase enzymes found in the adipose tissues and also in the skeletal muscles.

Coffee’s Impact on the Brain

Coffee's Impact on the Brain

The caffeine in coffee affects the central nervous system mainly the brain. It’s this system that is responsible for processing, receiving, and responding to sensory information. The National Library of Medicine has confirmed that coffee or caffeine consumption isn’t harmful if you consume about two and a half cups of coffee daily.

The effects of caffeine are due to its actions as an antagonist. This means it blocks the actions of a neurotransmitter called Adenosine. In this case, the caffeine builds up adenosine receptors thus blocking adenosine from binding. The adenosine in the brain is responsible for promoting sleep.

As these neurotransmitters get blocked, the brain is stimulated thus promoting the brain’s wakefulness and mental alertness.

Caffeine has been proven to enhance cognitive functions. If you’ve got lower cognitive function, taking coffee will improve your reaction time levels. Taking caffeine in doses from 32 milligrams to 300 milligrams enhances cognitive functions such as vigilance, reaction time, and attention.

Taking extra amounts of coffee has negative effects on the brain such as an increase in tension. This is exhibited by nervousness, jitteriness, and anxiety.

Caffeine has also been shown to help sustain performance when performing tedious, boring, and lengthy tasks. When doing vigilance tasks, taking on average 200mg of coffee will help sustain performance for several hours.

Benefits of Daily Coffee

Benefits of Daily Coffee

Coffee is linked to many health benefits besides boosting energy levels. The cup of coffee you consume every morning and evening contains useful nutrients such as riboflavin, potassium, magnesium, and sodium.

Here’s how coffee impacts your health positively.

1. Coffee reduces the risks of Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that causes uncontrollable movements. Caffeine in coffee has been shown to help protect against Parkinson’s disease. Studies have shown men who take 4 cups of coffee a day reduce the risks of developing Parkinson’s disease up to fivefold.

2. Coffee reduces the risks of Type 2- diabetes disease

Drinking caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee reduces the risks of developing type 2 diabetes. Studies have proven that caffeine lowers insulin sensitivity which in turn lowers the absorption of sugar from the blood after taking your meal.

3. Reduces the risk of liver disease

According to the British Liver Trust, drinking moderate amounts of coffee reduces the risks of liver diseases such as liver cancer, fibrosis, and cirrhosis. For patients with liver disease, coffee slows the progression of the disease. It’s recommended you take 1 -3 cups of coffee a day to slow cirrhosis, fibrosis, and Hepatitis B and C.

4. Drinking coffee is linked to a longer lifespan

As to whether coffee is associated with increased lifespan is confirmed by the European Society of Cardiology and other authoritative publications. The final summary in these publications, states that taking moderate to mild decaffeinated, ground, and instant coffee leads to a longer lifespan.

Risks of Overconsumption of Coffee

Risks of Overconsumption of CoffeeCoffee is safe and has health benefits if taken in low, mild, and moderate quantities. Consuming at high levels is likely to have more risks than benefits. Among the dangerous and unpleasant risks of coffee, overconsumption is more evident among those lactating and pregnant.

Overconsumption of coffee triggers the release of fight or flight hormone (adrenaline) which leads to anxiety or an increase in alertness. Nervousness is a common symptom of people who drink coffee excessively.

Taking large quantities of coffee often leads to addiction. High caffeine users become physical coffee dependencies making it difficult for them to go overnight without coffee. Strong coffee cravings become the order of the day thus increasing coffee frequency intake.

By triggering the release of flight or fight hormones, the heart starts to beat faster. Coffee if taken in excess causes a high rapid heart rate and may also lead to altered heartbeat rhythm. You should therefore reduce coffee intake if you detect an increase in your heart rate.

Conclusion

Happy and healthy living is a combination of good food, a mind, and healthy relationships. If you’re a coffee lover, continue enjoying it guilt-free but make sure you consume the right quantities and source it from well-known stores. The truth of coffee is it has more healthy benefits than risks if consumed in proportionate measures.

Remember, it’s the way you start consuming coffee and the levels of intake that determine its usefulness in your body. Excessive coffee use can lead to negative effects like insomnia, restlessness, nervousness, and increased heart rate.

Dr. Sanober Doctor
Sanober Pezad Doctor is a double-board certified dermatologist, & a leading expert in Integrative and holistic Dermatology. She is the face behind the popular YouTube channel- Healthy Aging with Dr. Doctor. She is also the founder & creator of ‘AGEnesis™- The Holistic Aging Blueprint’ & ‘Baby SkinWise™- the World's 1st Audiovisual Skincare Guide for Parents‘.
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