To say that I love coffee would be quite an understatement; I begin each morning with a large cup, and I’m craving my second by 2 pm. Sometimes, I’ll even have a third after dinner. I know, I have a problem. But, I don’t think I’m alone in my glorious addiction to coffee. Did you know that Americans drink 1.4 (women) to 1.9 (men) cups of coffee per capita per day? And, just so I don’t have to feel too bad about my caffeine habits, among coffee drinkers, Americans consume 3.1 cups of coffee per day (National Coffee Association).
Being the scientist that I am, I have often wondered, “Is this healthy?” Growing up, you may have been told that coffee will stunt your growth, which is why I waited so long to start (I am only 5’2.5″). But now people are starting to say good things about coffee; it’s full of antioxidants, it reduced depression and it may prevent cancer. Or it causes cancer (depends on which research you’re reading ) So, I thought I would search through some of the current literature and give you all an update on where the scientific and medical community stands on your morning cup of joe.
The Good News: There are definitely benefits to regular coffee consumption, but do take note that the amount of coffee you consume and what you consume it with (do you take your coffee black or with cream and artificial sweetener?) may affect the potential health benefits. Long-term coffee consumption has been associated with a decreased risk of Type II diabetes, and in some cases a reversal or decrease in symptoms. Coffee may also be protective against certain types of cancer including pancreatic, endometrial and colorectal. The caffeine in coffee increases your cognitive function and may increase long term memory. There is also some preliminary evidence that long term coffee consumption may help prevent some of the signs of aging in the brain, due to it’s high anti-oxidant properties.
The Bad News: Coffee consumption may not be so great for your blood pressure and your heart. In people who had already been diagnosed with hypertension, drinking coffee elevated blood pressure for 2-3 hours after consumption. This may not seem like such a big deal, but if you have 2-3 cups throughout the day, you may be spending a great deal of your time with an elevated blood pressure. This could put you at an increased risk for heart disease. There have been several large studies trying to determine whether coffee could directly increase your risk for a heart attack and so far the results have been mixed. Here’s a nice review if you’re interested.
Conclusion: Overall, moderation is the key. In most of the studies that found detrimental effects of coffee, the drinkers had more than 3 cups per day, but those who consumed 1-2 still retained some protective benefits. But, be cautious if you have or are at risk for hypertension, because you could be making your condition worse. For most of us however, it seems that 1-2 cups of deliciousness everyday may actually be beneficial! Hooray! So, drink up and enjoy.