14462682 – woman drinking coffee at home with sunrise streaming in through window and creating flare into the lens.
Could coffee do more than just stimulate alertness and stress out the adrenals? What if there was more going on to this ritualistic beverage consumed by billions around the world than just caffeine addiction? What if it was medicine for both the body and soul?
That coffee possesses ‘drug-like’ properties, we know quite well. Some of us, in fact, revel in its addictive properties, as it comes with a certain — albeit a tad bit pathological — industriousness. After all, is there anyone more disciplined/obsessed than a coffee drinker — at least, that is, when it comes to acquiring and drinking coffee?
You can set your clocks with exactitude to the performance of their daily coffee-associated machinations, to the point where some coffee makers already have built in clocks, so as not to delay or miss any opportunity for its owner to imbibe. The type of sober religiosity required to turn drinking a beverage into a ritual is known only by a few Zen tea drinkers and quite possiblybillions of habitual coffee drinkers.
It is inhumane, in my opinion, to force people who have a genuine medical need for coffee to wait in line behind people who apparently view it as some kind of recreational activity.” ~ David Barry
Let us also not forget that one of the first documented uses of coffee over 500 years ago was in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen where coffee was known as qahhwat al-bun, or, the ‘wine of the bean,’ the phrase which provided the etymological origin of the word coffee. Once lauded as a “miracle drug” and used as a sacrament in late-night rituals to invoke the sensation of God within revelers, still today, coffee drinkers are known to cast themselves into bouts of coffee-drinking induced reverie and enthusiasm (literally: en “in” + theos “god” or “god-filled”) by drinking this strangely intoxicating, and yet somehow still sobering concoction.
It is interesting that even addictions can be viewed as a form of ritual — albeit degenerated ones performed semi- or subconsciously. But that cup of Joe gets many of us up in the morning to perform our secular duties, which says a lot considering what many of us are forced or coerced to do for a living.
While many attribute coffee’s vise-like hold on their physiology to its caffeine content, there is much more going on than simply a fixation on a ‘stimulant.’ It has been known for over a quarter of a century that coffee contains a compound known as cafestrol with significant opiate-like properties and which is found within both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee forms. The ‘narcotic’ properties of coffee, therefore, are no doubt due to a complex interplay between a wide range of compounds — not just a stimulant, but an opioid agonist as well.
Coffee is also a ‘brain-booster’ and contains a compound called trigonelline which in vitro research both stimulates the release of dopamine (not unlike cocaine), and stimulates neurite outgrowth, which involves the extension of dendrites and axons in neurons and which may compensate and rescue damaged neuronal networks in the aging brain.
One of history’s greatest nutrition philosophers, Rudolf Hauschka, described coffee’s action on our body-mind as follows:
Coffee makes us more aware of our bodily structure. And since this structure is so wise and logical, our thoughts become logical in their awareness of it. Coffee thus helps thinking to find a firm foundation. The connection between bodily being and thinking, keeps calling itself to our attention.
Coffee has the same effect on digestion that thought has on our upper man, i.e., a properly ordered metabolism goes hand in hand with orderly thinking. Both are founded on a properly ordered physical structure.” ~ Rudolf Hauschka, Nutrition: A Holistic Approach
Coffee is also one of the only sources of “bitters” remaining in the sweet-fixated Western diet, which sadly comes with a certificate of guarantee that the bearer will likely develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease or a receive a cancer diagnosis at some point in their life. Could the extreme bitterness of coffee be the reason why it has been repeatedly shown to reduce type 2 diabetes risk, as it is one of the only ways we can balance out the highly inappropriate excesses of carbohydrate in our modern dietary configuration?
We don’t normally think of grains as sweet, but they are on the glycemic index. Puffed rice, for instance, can make the blood sweeter than white sugar which is why ‘complex’ carbs are known as “crouching diabetes, hidden sugar.” Coffee contains a wide range of blood-glucose and insulin sensitizing compounds, making it an ideal complement to a carbohydrate-deranged diet.
Coffee also awakens and stimulates the Qi, as it is known in the Chinese medical tradition. This was recently discussed in an article entitled “Similarity between the effects of coffee and qi stimulating events“. While raising Qi through exercise and energy work is the ideal situation, coffee provides a short-cut which is the modus operandi in the modern world: instant gratification in exchange for (energy) indebtedness.
When used responsibly,* however, coffee may be a great boon to health. There are in fact over 80 health conditions which may respond favorably to its use, or whose risk will be reduced through its consumption, as documented on our coffee research database node. We have also identified 33 distinct ‘pharmacological actions’ coffee may activate to produce positive health results. Just make sure its organic and prepared with clean, toxicant-free water.
Learn more about coffee’s potential health benefits by clicking the image below:
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It’s one of the most popular beverages in the world, and many of us rely on it to stay awake every day. But not every cup of coffee is created equal. From the bean to the brew, science can help you get the perfect cup.
This week, Reactions goes on a quest for better coffee through chemistry.
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We all love a morning brew to kick-start the day. While it certainly has its pros and cons, most acknowledge coffee is good for health. In fact, in Western countries we get more antioxidants from coffee than both fruits and vegetables combined.
But is there such a thing as too much coffee? Well, yes and no.
Consider Your Caffeine Tolerance
Caffeine is a stimulant.
Consuming large amounts in a day can lead to undesirable side-effects, generally related to brain function and digestion.
However, the severity of these effects greatly depends on your personal caffeine tolerance. Frequent coffee drinkers have a much higher threshold than their non-coffee-drinking colleagues.
Exceeding your personal caffeine threshold is known to cause insomnia, anxiety, tremors and heart palpitations. Especially if you have existing elevated blood pressure.
For these reasons it’s important to listen to how your body tolerates caffeine and know your limits.
Coffee and Dehydration
Conventional wisdom says that coffee is dehydrating because it makes you need to pee.
But this long-held belief is actually wrong.
A 2014 study found that drinking regular amounts of coffee actually contributes to daily fluid requirements, just as other fluids do.
In theory caffeine intake should cause excess urination and fluid loss, however, caffeine in moderate quantities—such as a regular cup of coffee—does not offset the fluids you are addingwhen you drink it.
In other words, the amount of water (and milk) you consume with your coffee is more than enough to replace any fluids lost in the toilet.
So from this perspective, the more coffee the better.
Some Numbers To Follow
As a general rule of thumb for healthy adults, 400 mg of caffeine (about 4 standard coffees per day) is considered safe.
Again, it depends on your personal caffeine tolerance and any existing medical conditions.
Just be mindful that the amount of caffeine in coffee varies widely. Home-brewed and instant coffee usually contains 50-80 mg per small cup. A store-bought large or grande might have up to 300 mg.
It’s also important to note that those safe levels don’t apply to take-away coffees that contain excessive amounts of sugar, cream and other additions. The caffeine content may be okay, but the overall calories are unnecessary.
That means a daily pumpkin-spiced latte is still too much from a health point of view.
Some like it hot, some like it iced, and some just don’t like it at all. Until recently, coffee was on the list of habits to break if you really wanted to be healthy.
Not anymore. Systematic reviews of the research – the most powerful method to weigh up scientific evidence – judge the current evidence as mostly in favour of drinking coffee. Coffee drinking is linked to a decreased risk of premature death, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer.
However, some people will need to be cautious of the amount. Heavy coffee intake has been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer and can exacerbate heart problems.
Coffee drinkers live longer. A review of 20 studies including more than 970,000 people found those who usually drank the most coffee had a 14% lower risk of dying prematurely from any cause, compared with those who drank the least.
Even drinking just one to two cups a day conferred an 8% lower risk.
Decaffeinated coffee drinkers who had two to four cups a day still had a 14% lower relative risk of premature death than those who didn’t drink coffee at all.
Coffee drinkers, particularly men, have a lower risk of liver cancer. This is important as liver disease is the sixth-most-common cancer in the world and is more common in men.
Results from six studies, based on the total number of cups of coffee drunk per day, found the relative risk of liver cancer was 14% lower for every extra cup.
Research shows that naturally occurring coffee components, including kahweol and cafestol, have direct cancer-protection and anti-inflammatory properties. Coffee appears able to up-regulate biochemical pathways in the liver that protect the body from toxins, including aflatoxin and other carcinogenic compounds.
Type 2 diabetes
Coffee drinkers have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Across 28 studies of more than one million adults, those who drank three or more cups of coffee a day had a 21% lower relative risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who never or rarely drank it.
For those drinking six or more cups a day, the risk was lowered by 33%.
Interestingly, the risk was lower for both regular and decaffeinated coffee drinkers. For each cup of regular caffeinated coffee there was an extra 9% lower relative risk of developing diabetes and a 6% lower risk for each cup of decaffeinated coffee.
The active components of coffee help reduce oxidative stress, the imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants. Coffee contains chlorogenic acid, which has been shown to improve glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity, and caffeic acid, which increases the rate muscles use up blood glucose, as well as having immune-stimulating and anti-inflammatory properties.
Coffee drinkers have a lower risk of prostate cancer. Across 13 studies that included more than 530,000 men, those who drank the most coffee had a 10% lower relative risk of developing prostate cancer than those who drank the least.
For every extra two cups of coffee drunk per day, cancer risk decreased by a small extra amount of 2.5%.
However, when prostate cancer grade was factored in, there was no protective effect for advanced or terminal types of prostate cancer.
Now, the reasons to watch your coffee intake.
Watch you total coffee intake to lower your risk for lung cancer. Studies of more than 100,000 adults found those with the highest coffee intakes had a 27% higher relative risk of lung cancer.
Every extra two cups of coffee per day was associated with an 11% greater risk of developing lung cancer.
There were only two studies on decaffeinated coffee and they had the opposite finding: a 34% lower relative risk for high decaffeinated coffee intakes.
The relationship between coffee and risk of miscarriage and other adverse pregnancy outcomes in older research studies was more likely to be seen in poorly designed studies, especially for outcomes like low birth weight and congenital anomalies.
Some of the risk of miscarriage was probably confounded by the fact that women with severe morning sickness, which is a sign of good implantation of the embryo, tend to cut down on coffee due to nausea.
It also appears that cigarette smoking, which tended to be associated with coffee consumption in older studies, was not always adjusted for, so some of the risk is likely to have been due to smoking.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends pregnant women drink less than 200 milligrams of caffeine per day. This is equivalent to one to two cups of coffee a day (instant coffee has 50-100 mg caffeine per cup; brewed coffee about 100-150 mg).
People with high blood pressure or heart conditions, older people, adolescents, children and those who don’t usually drink coffee will be more sensitive to caffeine found in “energy” drinks, cola and coffee, and it can take longer to metabolise. Switching to decaffeinated coffee will help.
It’s important to note that most of the research on coffee comes from population-based observational studies that measure association and not causation. That is partly because it would be very hard to do a randomised controlled trial of drinking more coffee and measuring health outcomes over many years. But there’s a thought – anyone like to volunteer for that study?
If you’ve been wondering what all that coffee is doing to you, cheer up. A recent review of data completed at Gill Heart Institute in Kentucky focused on the cardiovascular, genetic, antioxidant and caffeine effects of coffee and found that drinking the brew reduces the risk of mortality right across the board. They also documented that coffee:
Reduces risk of stroke
Does not increase risk of coronary heart disease
Does not increase risk of congestive heart failure and may be preventative
Does not increase risk of sudden cardiac death
Decreases risk of type 2 diabetes
Does not increase risk of hypertension
Does not increase risk of metabolic syndrome
Arrhythmias with coffee are not a significant factor
The study goes on to note that coffee contains a myriad of other components besides caffeine, especially antioxidant polyphenols. These may be altered or removed by coffee preparation methods such a paper filtration or putting milk into the coffee. Additionally, there was no noted cardiovascular advantage or disadvantage to drinking decaffeinated coffee.
“The bottom line on coffee for those who enjoy the brew, is that it is a wonderful beverage with rare associated CV [cardiovascular] disadvantage and with much to recommend it from an overall CV standpoint”, concluded the study author.
It’s not just fruits and vegetables that make the world go round
Other scientists have reported that the average cup of coffee has more antioxidants than an average serving of blueberries or an orange. And the much touted green tea can’t hold a candle to coffee, with a cup of it containing only about 25% of the antioxidants as found in a cup of coffee.
Antioxidants are the anti-aging polyphenols that counter oxidation in the body. The high amounts of antioxidants found in coffee may prevent or delay the diseases associated with growing older.
The dominant antioxidant polyphenol in coffee is chlorogenic acid (CGA). Scientists have demonstrated that CGA exerts many biological properties that include antibacterial, protection against cancer, and regulation of glucose and lipid metabolism.
It looks like the combo of caffeine and CGA is a powerful one for weight loss. Another recent study concluded that this combination suppresses fat accumulation and body weight gain by regulating mRNA and protein expression levels of liver lipid metabolism-related enzymes. These affects are stronger than those exerted by CGA and caffeine individually.
Regular coffee consumption may reduce the risk of liver cancer. Two studies have found that as consumption of coffee increases, the risk of liver cancer decreases. This association is seen in the healthy as well in those with previous liver disease. The decrease was large, and the findings were consistent across both studies. Amazingly, a two cup per day increase in the amount of coffee consumed was associated with a 43% reduction in risk of developing liver cancer.
As for cataracts, researchers in Sweden followed 30,607 women for a period of 7.7 years to see how total antioxidant capacity affected their development of cataracts. They found that women with the highest antioxidant rating had the lowest incidence of age-related cataracts.
Coffee has a long-term impact on cognition. Researchers in Finland investigated the association between coffee and tea drinking at midlife and the outcome of Alzheimer’s disease years later. The 1409 participants were followed for 21 years as part of a longitudinal study. Those who had been coffee drinkers at midlife showed a significantly lower incidence of Alzheimer’s compared to those who did not drink coffee or drank only small amounts. An jaw dropping 65% decrease was noted in participants who drank 3 to 5 cups of coffee each day. No association was found between cognitive decline and tea drinking.
Another study found that caffeine all by itself may protect against development of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers credited caffeine’s antioxidants as the protective force, through their ability to reduce inflammation.
Coffee and caffeine are known to affect the limbic system, a complex system of nerves and networks in the brain, involving several areas near the cortex concerned with instinct and mood. It’s what powers emotions like fear or pleasure, and drives like hunger or dominance. But data on the influence of coffee and its constituents on neurotransmitter release has been limited. Researchers investigated dopamine release and mobilization in cells after stimulation with coffee. Dopamine is a hormone as well as a neurotransmitter, and it plays important roles in the human brain that include motivation and reward behavior, and motor control. The researchers concluded that each of the coffee constituents tested stimulated dopamine release, underscoring the multifaceted nature of coffee.
So if you’re having a cup of coffee right now, relax and enjoy it knowing you are contributing to so may aspects of your health.
This article was written by Barbara Minton and first appeared on Natural Society