The Latest Findings
by John Manchester
For some reason, coffee is a more controversial drink than tea (ignoring the slight misstep of the Boston Tea Party).
It arouses passion and controversy; and the question of whether its consumption offers net health benefits has long been debated, with the suspicion being that the “coffee lobby” may be trying to influence scientific findings (a practice which is all too common in many areas of research on what we eat and drink.)
However, the preponderance of reputable evidence now indicates that coffee, drunkin moderation, is good for you.
In fact, the recent 90+ Study(of the oldest-old) published in late December by researchers from the University of California supports the view that those who drink moderate amounts of coffee (and alcohol) tend to live longer than those who abstain completely.
Caffeine is the most commonly consumed psychoactive substance on the planet. When you drink coffee, the caffeine enters your bloodstream and travels to your brain, where it blocks a so-called inhibitory neurotransmitter called adenosine. This allows other neurotransmitters to function, leading to increased energy levels, quicker reaction times and better mood. Of course, persistent and heavy consumption of coffee can lead to “withdrawal symptoms” if consumption declines or ends, so you do need to monitor how much coffee you drink. The consensus is that the equivalent of up to four cups a day is optimal.
However, the health benefits of coffee drinking are not confined to mental stimulation. It has been demonstrated to boost physical performance and break down body fat, as well as reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes(but lay off the five spoons of sugar per cup…)
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons – TS Eliot
Importantly, in an ageing world in which the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Senile Dementia presents an ever-increasing threat to a healthy retirement and enjoyable old age, several studies show that, when coupled with exercise and a sensible diet, drinking coffee can lower the risk of onset by up to 65 percent; while also reducing the risk of Parkinson’s disease materially.
And while we would not condone the consumption of coffee as an antidote to the metabolic ravages of excessive intake of alcohol, there is evidence that drinking four or more cups of coffee a day may combat the onset of cirrhosis of the liver. Similarly, while coffee is rich in anti-oxidants (and sometimes said to be the major source of these beneficial compounds for those on a standard Western diet), that should not be used as an excuse to avoid eating fresh fruit and vegetables!
For many years there was also debate over the impact of coffee consumption on the risk of heart disease. It now seems to be accepted that reasonable consumption does not increase that risk, and actually reduces the probability of a stroke.
If the results of the above-mentioned 90+ Study are replicated, they probably represent the most compelling case for regular, moderate consumption of coffee.
So, by all means, drink your Joe and boast about how healthy it is – but not persistently in the form of a heavily-sweetened, cream-laden Venti Caramel Latte! As in many other areas of health, moderation and quality matter most.
This article was written with the help of Luis E. Mazareigos, Coffee Expert and Head Barista at Devil’s Isle Coffee and originally published in the 2019 edition of the rg Health & Wellness supplement.