Is coffee good for you?
As a self confessed coffee addict, I may subjectively answer this question with, a perhaps ever so slightly biased, yes. In reality, there is a darker side to your daily roast.
The true answer may lie within the scientific research behind coffee, so lets take a non nerdy look at the pros and cons.
How coffee works
There are several mechanisms of action that are attributed to how good coffee makes you feel. One of the most well known is the inhibition of an enzyme that breaks down a messenger chemical that then in turn tells the body there is enough energy.
Picture this: you are a kid at a playground and there is an awesome roundabout which you are about to go on. You step on it, hold on for dear life and your mum pushes the roundabout at a nice steady speed. This is your body normally, working at a nice steady speed.
Then your rather mischievous friends arrive and you convince your mum to go home whilst you continue playing. Your friends push the roundabout at unlimited speeds, because its a fun new game. The brakes have been taken off.
This is your body on coffee, the brakes are taken off whilst more energy is injected into your system.
The wide ranging benefits of coffee are well documented.
Population studies suggest a positive association between coffee consumption and the reduced risk of cognitive decline, including Alzheimer’s1, gout2, liver cirrhosis (especially in drinkers)3, colorectal cancer4 and depression5.
Coffee is a great choice as a pre workout boost with several studies proving its efficacy in enhancing exercise performance6. Take into account the fact that most pre workout supplements are full of unnecessary chemicals, coffee is a clear winner in this field.
Coffee may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), but then it may not. The truth is not clear cut and may come down to individual differences.
For example, some studies indicated an increased risk of CVD with coffee consumption but once smokers were excluded, there was no apparent association between coffee and CVD risk7.
Caffeine initiates the stress response. The stress response is a really handy human adaptation when it comes to running away from wild animals but not so handy when you are sat in an office. Whilst the stress response is kicking in, other functions are suppressed, namely your ability to repair and digest your food. In small doses this is manageable but if you are generally stressed, then it may be time to break out the decaf.
Furthermore, long term coffee consumption may increase fracture risk in women8 and up the chance of developing gastric ulcers in both sexes9.
If you are on medication, coffee may interfere with how the meds are absorbed. Check with your doctor to ensure your coffee habit isn’t doing you more harm than good.
Coffee has many benefits, but it isn’t for everybody.
If you are generally stressed or suffer from serious health conditions, it may be time to switch to a good quality decaf. By good quality, I mean one that has been decaffeinated using the Swiss cold water process and not chemically altered.
Still confused? Take the below quiz to find out if coffee is for you:
- Liu QP, Wu YF, Cheng HY, Xia T, Ding H, Wang H, Wang ZM, Xu Y (2015) Habitual coffeeconsumption and risk of cognitive decline/dementia: A systematic review and meta-analysis ofprospective cohort studies. Nutrition, doi: 10.1016/j.nut.2015.11.015.
- Park KY, Kim HJ, Ahn HS, Kim SH, Park EJ, Tim SY, Jun JB (2016) Effects of coffeeconsumption on serum uric acid: systematic review and meta-analysis. Seminars in Arthritisand Rheumatism, doi: 10.1016/j.semarthrit.2016.01.003.
- Kennedy OJ, Roderick P, Buchanan R, Fallowfield JA, Hayes PC, Parkes J (2016) Systematicreview with meta-analysis: coffee consumption and the risk of cirrhosis. AlimentaryPharmacology & Therapeutics, doi: 10.1111/apt.13523.
- Vitaglione P, Fogliano V, Pellegrini N (2012) Coffee, colon function and colorectal cancer. Food& Function, 5: 1695-1717.
- Grosso G, Micek A, Castellano S, Pajak A, Galvano F (2016) Coffee, tea, caffeine and risk ofdepression: A systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of observational studies.Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 60: 223-234.
- Richardson DL, Clarke ND (2016) Effect Of Coffee And Caffeine Ingestion On ResistanceExercise Performance.The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001382.
- Ding M, Bhupathiraju SN, Satija A, van Dam RM, Hu FB (2014) Long-Term CoffeeConsumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review and a Dose-ResponseMeta-Analysis of Prospective Cohort Studies. Circulation, 129: 643-659.
- Lee DR, Lee J, Rota M, Ahn HS, Park SM, Shin D (2014) Coffee consumption and risk offractures: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis. Bone, 63: 20-28.
- Deng W, Yang H, Wang J, Cai J, Bai Z, Song J, Zhang Z (2016) Coffee consumption and therisk of incident gastric cancer-A meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Nutrition and Cancer, 68: 40-47.