I love coffee; I drink it everyday! When I was studying Nutritional Medicine at uni, I had a supervisor who drank several cups during our Saturday morning clinic sessions and she beamed with good health. Other supervisors were completely opposed to the idea and I quickly learned to tailor my treatment plans in line with different supervisors views on coffee. It was ridiculous! Of course, everyone has their own opinion on coffee and caffeine.
No wonder everyone gets confused with what’s good for you and what’s not!
I set out to do my own research on this bittersweet brew and form an opinion based on medical research. You’d be surprised at what I found…
Conflicting Evidence! No surprise, really.
Why Choose Filter Coffee?
Coffee naturally contains a variety of compounds including caffeine, diterpenes and antioxidants. Unfiltered coffee contains significant amounts of the diterpenes cafestol and kahweol. High consumption of these compounds have been linked to raised serum levels of total and LDL (the ‘bad’) cholesterol. The method in which coffee is brewed, however, can filter out these compounds so there is lower impact in the body. Choosing filtered coffee over plunger, Greek and Turkish coffee is a much better choice if you’re worried about cholesterol. For those who ask about espresso coffee; moderate consumption (2-3 cups/day) has been shown to have negligible effects on blood cholesterol.
Does it cause Cancer?
Here’s where you get the conflicting evidence: the diterpenes in coffee may have chemopreventive potential, meaning the compounds may prevent certain cancers. Coffee has been found to reduce the risk and development of colorectal, kidney and liver cancers. Now, to confuse you, some studies suggest that coffee has been positively associated with an increased risk for prostate, stomach and lung cancers.
Coffee Reduces the Risk of Diabetes
The connection between coffee consumption and type 2 diabetes is astounding; the caffeine and antioxidants found in coffee have been found to increase glucose tolerance – meaning the glucose you eat is more efficiently metabolized and utilized by cells instead of staying in the blood. Chlorogenic acid, in particular has various antioxidant functions, improves glucose metabolism and inhibits glucose-6-phosphatase (an enzyme that is increased in individuals with diabetes). The caffeine component of coffee reduces glucose storage and lowers the risk of the development of the condition as well.
Chlorogenic acid improves the antioxidant status of the body and reduces LDL oxidation, lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease. The oxidation of LDL occurs when LDL cholesterol particles react with free radicals and can cause tissue damage. Coffee even lowers inflammation in the body – lowering plasma concentrations of C-reactive protein and E-selectin (biomarkers of inflammation); the effects of which may contribute to heart health.
A recent study published in 2013 in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimenting Biology found that chronic coffee consumption can alter gut bacteria and may have a protective effect against type 2 diabetes. Although the study was done on mice, it’s interesting that the researchers found alterations in gut microbiota with mice fed a high fat diet. Coffee was found to lower weight gain and body fat percentage as well as preserving Lactobacillus bacteria in the gut (beneficial bacteria). Mice in the group that consumed no coffee with a high fat diet were found to have lower levels of this bacteria.
I prefer to do my research on human studies, but thought this animal one was pretty interesting. Previous human studies have found coffee to be beneficial for type 2 diabetes; alteration of gut microbiota may be the potential mechanism to explain why this is so.
Hold the Milk!
Before you go running off to drink ten cups of coffee because of its amazing health benefits, I want you to stop and think what you’re putting into your coffee.
Milk & Sugar?
The two most inflammatory substances.
Coffee is full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory particles. Adding milk and sugar is negating the beneficial affects of these compounds. Milk, in particular, is shown to decrease the bioavailability of chlorogenic acid. This means that the absorption of this antioxidant is impaired by the addition of milk to coffee. When 25% milk is added to coffee, up to 40% of chlorogenic acid is bound to dairy proteins. There is debate on whether this affects the overall antioxidant power of coffee.
Coffee and the hormone cortisol is another story. If you would like any more information on coffee or anything else I’ve mentioned in this post I’d love to know!
Have a great week everyone!
Love Stace x
*Please take note that all the studies researched for this article used black coffee unless otherwise stated.