What are the health effects of coffee? Is it good or bad? Depends who you ask, it seems
By Jody McCutcheon
Coffee is your day-starter, your morning thunder. And when I say your, I mean our. Nearly ubiquitous, coffee is the world’s second most-tradable commodity, after oil. Most of us can’t go a morning or get through a day without at least one cup.
But what are the health effects of coffee? Is this traditional morning pick-me-up actually bringing us down? Does coffee have detrimental effects on human health and, more important, on the environment? Here below, I take a deep dive on the health effects of coffee.
How Coffee Affects Your Health
The Positive Effects Of Coffee
Besides a delicious taste, coffee contains, of course, the stimulant caffeine. That’s pretty obvious. But what can caffeine and the other chemicals in coffee do for our health?
If you suffer from tension headaches, this is one of the health effects of coffee you’ll be pleased to read! Coffee is a noted, fast-acting, headache reliever. Caffeine narrows blood vessels, increasing blood flow to the brain. It might help soften tension headaches by relaxing the tense muscles over the scalp or the back of the head.
Over the years, research has indicated that moderate coffee consumption offers the general population several mildly beneficial effects. Studies have linked coffee consumption to lowered risks for many conditions, including dementia, heart disease, diabetes mellitus type 2, liver cancer, cirrhosis and gout.
Free radical eater
Coffee’s benefits stem from more than just caffeine content. Decaffeinated coffee can help prevent prostate cancer. And coffee’s antioxidants–stronger in roasted than green coffee–help prevent free radicals from damaging the body’s cells. And guess what? As a result of this, your morning cuppa can actually be good for your skin!
This is not only because it protects it from the free radicals that result in wrinkles, but also because coffee can lend your skin some protection from the sun’s damage. Apparently coffee drinkers have lower chances of developing skin cancer than those who don’t indulge.
Bringer of mental clarity
But there’s even more good news about coffee drinking. As most employers are aware, coffee can enhance mental clarity, increase speed of thought, and stimulate the memory. It also blocks receptors for a chemical called adenosine, which normally prevents the release of excitatory brain chemicals.
With adenosine out of the way, brain-sparking chemicals can flow more freely. This gives you a surge of energy and potentially improving your mental performance, whilst slowing age-related mental decline. No wonder most offices offer free java!
Giver of improved workouts
Gym bunnies and dieters will also be happy to know that studies show that coffee can benefit your workouts. It increases your metabolism up to 11%, helps burn fat, and enhances your performance in the gym. Which in turn, helps you burn more calories, of course.
The only caveat is that you do build up tolerance over time. So if you don’t hit the gym daily, ensure you only drink coffee before your workout, and you should be fine.
Negative Effects Of Coffee On Health
Of course we should all know by now that more than two strong coffees a day isn’t a great idea. That will basically lead to a serious caffeine addiction creeping up on you. The result? No java, and you’ll be listless, grumpy, and. you might suffer wicked headaches.
Chronic-user withdrawal may include headaches, increased depression, anxiety or fatigue. See how our editor realised she had a caffeine addiction here.
But that’s not all. Coffee can also have these negative health impacts.
Prone to tics and twitches? Coffee will likely make them worse. And overconsumption may exacerbate pre-existing problems like anxiety, migraines and arrhythmia.
One of the most obvious negative health effects of coffee is how it disturbs sleep patterns. This can lead to illness, as a good sleep is necessary to keep your immune function strong. Even one cup six hours before bedtime can lead to one hour of sleep less.
Too much coffee can also interfere with ferritin and iron absorption, potentially leading to iron-deficiency anaemia and other health problems. This is a serious issue for many women, in particular. Oh, and fetuses are sensitive to caffeine and metabolise it very slowly. Thus pregnant women should limit their cuppas.
Toxic pesticides & mold
One of the least known negative health effects of coffee is its myriad mold, toxins, and pesticides. Many conventionally grown coffees contain harmful contaminants like ochratoxin A, acrylamide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, yeast, and pesticides. These can cause short term symptoms like fatigue, weakness, and brain fog, as well as long-term health consequences like cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and more.
So ultimately, what are the health effects of coffee? As with everything, coffee should be enjoyed in moderation – and the best way to do so taking it in the most natural way possible.
You can certainly still enjoy your morning Joe guilt free. Here’s how:
- Be sure your coffee is sustainable. Organic-certified coffee is best. It’s usually shade-grown, with all the natural benefits. Good crop rotation helps prevent soil erosion and depletion of soil nutrients while controlling for pests.
- Don’t exceed a cup a day. Preferably in the morning. Coffee is more addictive than you think!
- Look for Rainforest Alliance certification on the packet, which identifies brands concerned with conservation and sustainability. In general, big brands like Nescafe are more suspect: the larger the company, the more decentralisation and thus difficulty in monitoring the goings-on at all stages of production. Buy small, benefit big!
- If you’re off to Starbucks or another cafe chain, make sure you ask for the Fairtrade or organic blend (most have at least one). And if you’re staying in the shop, ask them not to give you a paper cup! Whenever possible, drink from your own reusable cup. Those are NOT recyclable and are a huge contributor to waste.
Finally, if you love the taste but worry about the health effects of coffee, why not try one of these substitutes? They’re tasty, cheap, and bring their own benefits.