Coffee: Health Benefits and Risks: Information, Research, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

The Scoop on Coffee / Caffeine



Index of Diseases / Health Conditions ... Medicinal Foods, Herbs, Spices & Household Items

Coffee

The below provides a general overview on this topic and may not apply to everyone. Any treatment protocol should be discussed with a qualified healthcare practitioner ... Please refer to: Medical & Legal Disclaimer.


Decaf -- Doing More Harm than Good? (Scroll down)

Food Remedies

Health Benefits of Caffeine

The "Downside" of Coffee

Recommendations





Caffeine is not just ANY food additive. It's has been called a pharmaceutical agent, a drug, and it leads to physical dependence in people who use it regularly. However, there are some health benefits associated with caffeine ingestion; listed below. At the bottom of this page are some health warnings to watch out for.



How Safe Is Your Decaffeinated Coffee?

Link to Heart Disease:

An U.S. National Institutes of Health study suggested that drinking decaffeinated coffee could increase your risk of heart disease. Research indicated that it could lead to a rise in harmful cholesterol levels. The U.S. study looked at 187 people, a third of whom drank three to six cups of caffeinated coffee a day, while a second group drank the same amount of decaffeinated coffee, and the rest had no coffee. Researchers measured the level of caffeine in people's blood, as well as a number of heart-health indicators, including blood pressure, heart rate and cholesterol levels over the course of the three-month study.

At the end of the study, the group drinking decaffeinated coffee had experienced an 18% rise in their fatty acids in the blood, which can drive the production of bad 'LDL' cholesterol. Fatty acids did not change in the other groups. Having a high level of LDL cholesterol is one of the risk factors for metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease and diabetes. In addition, a protein linked to bad cholesterol (apolipoprotein B) went up 8% in the decaffeinated group but did not significantly change in the other two groups.

The research results were presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association. Dr Robert Superko of the Fuqua Heart Centre in Atlanta, Georgia, who led the research, said: "Contrary to what people have thought for many years, I believe it's not caffeinated but decaffeinated coffee that might promote heart disease risk factors." But he added: "If you only drink one cup each day, the results of our study probably have little relevance because at that level your daily coffee dose is relatively low."

Link to Cancer & Organ Damage:

  • Methylene Chloride: The decaffeinated coffee you drink is likely to contain the solvent methylene chloride that is used to remove caffeine from coffee. This process leaves small amounts of this chemical in the beans. Methylene chloride is a proven carcinogenic that is toxic to lungs, the nervous system, liver, mucous membranes, Central Nervous System (CNS). Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage.
    • Please refer to the Material Safety Sheet for information pertaining to safety.

  • Ethyl acetate is an alternate solvent used to extract caffeine. This solvent is commonly used to dissolve the pigments for nail varnishes, and is responsible for the solvent-effect of some nail varnish remover (acetone and acetonitrile are also used). In the field of entomology, ethyl acetate is an effective poison for use in insect collecting and study. In a killing jar charged with ethyl acetate, the vapors will kill the collected insect quickly without destroying it. As this chemical is in low quantities found naturally in fruit, companies often market coffee decaffeinated using this process as "naturally decaffeinated." However, this is a chemical with serious health consequences.
    • Please refer to the Material Safety Sheet for information pertaining to safety.


Those who wish to avoid caffeinated beverages for health reasons, yet don't want to be exposed to methylene chloride and other chemicals, there are other options:

  • Decaffeinated coffees where the caffeine has been removed during a steam process. The process is similar to the "indirect" method used in methylene chloride processing, but no chemicals are used. After the caffeine is leached out of the material by soaking in hot water for a period of time, the solution is then passed through a carbon filter for caffeine removal. The water is then returned to the beans for reabsorption of flavors and oils. In the "Swiss Water Process," the same method is used, but instead of soaking in water, the beans are soaked in a coffee-flavored solution. This results in the caffeine being extracted without removing the coffee flavors.
  • You can also check with the producer of your favorite decaf to see what process they are using.
  • Herbal coffee substitutes are also available at health food stores.
  • Check at your local health food store for options.






Health Benefits of Coffee:



Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease

A Finnish study found that those who drank coffee at midlife had a lower risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in late-life than those who drank no coffee at all. Those who drank three to five cups of coffee a day lowered their risk by 65 percent.

Details about this research: Lead Researcher, associate professor Miia Kivipelto from the University of Kuopio, Finland and Karloinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. stated: “We aimed to study the association between coffee and tea consumption at midlife and dementia/AD risk in late-life, because the long-term impact of caffeine on the central nervous system was still unknown, and as the pathologic processes leading to Alzheimer’s disease may start decades before the clinical manifestation of the disease.”

Coffee-drinking was categorized into three groups: low (0 to 2 cups daily), moderate (3 to 5 cups) and high (more than 5 cups).

Tea-drinking was categorized into two groups: those not drinking tea and those who drank at least one cup daily.

While all coffee drinkers had a lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than non-drinkers, those who drank moderate amounts of coffee lowered their risk by a surprising 65 percent.

Drinking tea had no impact on the risk of developing dementia.

Dr. Kivipelto wrote: “Given the large amount of coffee consumption globally, the results might have important implications for the prevention of or delaying the onset of dementia/AD. The finding needs to be confirmed by other studies, but it opens the possibility that dietary interventions could modify the risk of dementia/AD.”

Diabetes

Scientists found that as coffee consumption went up, people's risk for diabetes went down. In fact, the risk of diabetes dropped about 7 percent with each daily cup. 3 or 4 cups of tea a day had similar diabetes-thwarting benefits. Decaf coffee also appeared to have diabetes-thwarting benefits. Certain chemical compounds in coffee and tea, such as lignans, chlorogenic acids, and magnesium may be helping to improve the body's regulation of blood sugar and its release of insulin.

Parkinson's Disease

An estimated 1.5 million Americans have Parkinson's disease. Parkinson's is caused by the loss of brain cells that produce a chemical messenger called dopamine. They experience trembling n the hands, arms, legs, jaw and face. Their limbs and trunk become stiff. They move slowly and lose balance and coordination. As the disease progresses, they have difficulty walking, talking or performing simple tasks.

Caffeine: Researcher Alberto Ascherio of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston states as follows: "There is fairly convincing evidence that people who drink coffee or consume caffeine regularly have a lower risk of developing Parkinson's disease. "When researchers exposed mice to a chemical that causes a loss of dopaminergic neurons in a pattern similar to that observed in Parkinson's disease, those that had first been given caffeine equivalent to moderate amounts of coffee in humans lost fewer neurons than those not given caffeine," explains Ascherio.

Caffeine also seems to protect human brain cells. In a meta-analysis that pooled 13 studies, drinkers of regular coffee - but not decaf - had a 30 percent lower risk of Parkinson's disease than non-drinkers. (Ref. Ann. Neurol. 52: 276, 2002). "Even a modest amount - the equivalent of between one and two cups of coffee per day - is associated with a lower risk," notes Ascherio.

Coffee doesn't protect everybody though. "In our study, women who took post-menopausal hormones didn't benefit," says Ascherio.

Gallstones

In the Nurses' Health Study, which tracked nearly 81,000 women for 20 years, and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, which tracked 46,000 men for 10 years, those who drank two to three cups of regular coffee a day had about a 20 percent lower risk of gallstones than non-drinkers. (Refs: Gastroeneterology 123: 123, 2002; JAVA 281: 2106, 1999).

Michael Leitzmann of the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, states as follows: "Tea, decaf coffee, and caffeinated soft drinks weren't protective. Probably because they don't contain enough of what's making the difference - caffeine." One theory: caffeine may stimulate the gallbladder to contract, which helps empty it of stone-forming cholesterol and bile pigments.


Mental Performance

Harris Lieberman, a psychologist and caffeine investigator of the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, Massachusetts, states as follows: "Caffeine improves alertness and reaction time in people, whether they are habitual consumers of caffeine or not. But 'the effect is clearly limited to the ability to maintain attention. Things like memory or complex reasoning won't improve.

In sleep-deprived individuals, the impact appears to be greater. French researchers accompanied young males as they drove 125 miles on a highway between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. When the young men were given coffee with 200 mg of caffeine before getting behind the heel, they inadvertently crossed into another lane an average of two times during their drive. When they were given decaf, they crossed an average of six times. (Ann. Intern. Med. 144: 785, 2006).


Mood

After consuming anywhere from 20 mg to 200 mg of caffeine, "people report increased well-being, happiness, energy, alertness and sociability," says caffeine expert Roland Griffiths at the John Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore.

That may be why a study that tracked more than 86,000 women for 10 years found that those who drank at least two cups of regular coffee a day were about 60 percent less likely to commit suicide than those who drank none. (Ref.: Arch. Intern. Med. 156: 521, 1996)

However, more than 200 mg of caffeine produces "increased anxiety, nervousness, jitteriness, and upset stomach" in some people, says Griffiths.


Physical Performance

Caffeine helps the body burn fat instead of carbohydrate, and it blunts the perception of pain. Both can boost endurance.

For example, endurance runners who ran to exhaustion on a treadmill lasted an average of 32 minutes without caffeine, but made it to 42 minutes after drinking coffee with around 250 mg of caffeine. (J. Appl. Physiol. 85, 83, 1998).

"There is no question that caffeine will improve aerobic physical endurance in non-athletes as well," says Lieberman, adding that people who run, job, swim or cycle can last longer if they had 200 mg to 600 mg of caffeine beforehand. "And new research suggests that caffeine can also improve anaerobic performances," he adds, which include lifting heavy objects and sprinting short distances.


Headaches

When you get a headache, the blood vessels in your brain dilate, or become wider. Caffeine causes blood vessels to constrict, which may explain why it can help relieve headache pain.

"It's also a mild analgesic, or painkiller, and it has the ability to increase the availability of other analgesics that it's combined with," says Robert Shapiro, a headache expert at the University of Vermont College of Medicine in Burlington. That's why caffeine is included in prescription headache medications, such as Florinal, and over-the-counter ones like Anacin and Excedrin.


Heart Health

A Nurses Health Study, published in the Annals of International Medicine, found women who drink two to three cups of coffee a day have a 25% lower risk of heart disease and an 18% lower risk of developing diseases other than cancer than non-coffee drinkers. These health benefits may be linked to the anti-inflammatory properties in coffee as well as its rich supply of antioxidants.

In a meta-analysis that pooled 10 studies that tracked more than 400,000 men and women for three years to 44 years, those who drank coffee every day - whether regular or decaf -- were no more likely to suffer from heart disease than non-coffee drinkers.(Nutr. Metab. Cardiovasc. Disc. 17: 209, 2007).

If caffeine were a threat to the heart, coffee drinkers would have had a higher risk.



Pregnancy

Danish researchers found that women who drank up to three 6 oz cups of coffee daily during the second half of their pregnancy were no more likely to experience pregnancy complications than women who avoided coffee. Though much higher levels of caffeine have been associated with premature births and low-birth weight babes, moderate coffee intake was not found to increase risk.



Coffee as Odor Eliminator / Room Deodorizer:

  • Charcoal and / or coffee grounds placed in a bowl or vinegar in a cup or bowl


Coffee Grounds for your Garden:

Ground coffee deters, but only kills young snails and slugs, and you need ground up coffee beans for it to really work, not used coffee grounds. Used coffee grounds makes a pretty good mulch for your garden and if it deters a few slugs and snails.







The "Downside" of Coffee:

  • Osteoporosis: According to osteoporosis expert Robert Heaney of Creighton University in Omaha, you lose up to 5 milligrams of calcium for every six ounces of regular coffee (or two cans of cola) you drink. As little as 300 to 400 mg of caffeine a day doubles the risk of hip fracture. He suggests offsetting the loss by adding one or two tablespoons of milk to your coffee. Note: caffeine is also in black or green tea, as well as chocolate.

  • Heart Disease: Caffeine is also linked to coronary vasospasms - the cause for 20% of all fatal heart attacks. Both decaf and regular coffee increase your cholesterol and homocysteine, the biochemical thatscience has linked to increased risk for heart attack.

  • Diabetes: A study conducted by researchers from Duke University Medical School and published in the journal Diabetes Care indicated that diabetics who consume caffeine may experience a significant increase in blood sugar. Scientists placed tiny blood sugar monitors under the skin of 10 people with Type 2 diabetes, which allowed the participants' glucose levels to be tracked over the course of a normal 72-hour period. Participants were given a caffeine pill one day, and a placebo pill the next. When given the caffeine pill, the participants experienced an 8 percent rise in blood sugar levels. The increase was even stronger after meals, with blood sugar increasing 9 percent after breakfast, 15 percent after lunch and 26 percent after dinner. The increase in blood sugar was not observed in those taking a placebo pill. The amount of caffeine contained in the pill was roughly equivalent to the caffeine contained in four cups of coffee. Previous studies have shown that caffeine could increase the body's insulin resistance, leading to an increase in blood sugar levels.

  • Emotional & Overall Health: Caffeine stimulates the excretion of stress hormones which can produce increased levels of anxiety, irritability, muscular tension and pain, indigestion, insomnia, and decreased immunity.

  • Loss of Sleep: "Consuming caffeine within three to four hours of bedtime will disturb the sleep of most people, says Tim Roehrs, director of research at the Sleep Disorder Center of the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

  • Fertility: A 1988 National Institutes of Health study reported that as little as one cup of coffee a day could slash in half the odds of becoming pregnant. But subsequent studies have found that if caffeine affects fertility, it takes at least 300 milligrams a day. "Low to moderate caffeine consumption doesn't seem to reduce a woman's chance of becoming pregnant," says the Organization of Teratology Information Specialists.

  • Miscarriage: A new study suggests that too much caffeine may increase the risk of miscarriage. Among 1,063 pregnant women interviewed by researchers, 24 percent of those who consumed at least 200 mg of caffeine a day suffered miscarriages, compared to 10 percent of those who consumed less than 200 mg. (Am. J. Obstet. Gynec, doi: 1016/j.ajog.2007.10.803).






Summary:

  • The recommendation for most people would be to enjoy one or two cups of coffee a day, which will allow you to capitalize on its health benefits without incurring health drawbacks. Note: each person is different - so keep this in mind when deciding how much coffee is right for you.

  • Avoid coffee after 3 pm to prevent insomnia. This is especially important if you have problems falling asleep.

  • If you need to avoid caffeine for health reasons, stay away from coffee and other caffeinated beverages altogether. If you can't live without your coffee, you can purchase decaffeinated coffee that has had the methylene chloride removed during a steam process. Such coffee is available at better health food stores.

  • If coffee doesn't agree with you, try alternative beverages, such as Inka Naturalis, dandelion blends, and Teeccino that have the flavor you want, without the negative effects.






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