Coffee: Good or Bad?
Although one cup of coffee per day is not likely to cause any significant health problems, it is clear that excessive consumption of caffeinated beverages is dangerous. Coffee is known to contribute to heart disease by raising blood pressure and LDL cholesterol (the bad type of cholesterol). Furthermore, a 17-year study of over 40,000 people found that those who drank more than 4 cups of coffee per day were at increased risk of death from any cause. Men under age 55 drinking this much coffee had a 56 percent increase in risk of death, and women more than doubled their risk.1 Caffeine is a stimulant—it gives you a false sense of increased energy, allowing you to get by with an inadequate amount of sleep. In addition to quantity of sleep, caffeine also reduces the depth of sleep. Inadequate sleep promotes disease and premature aging, and can fuel overeating behaviors. Sleep deprivation also results in higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol and interferes with glucose metabolism, leading to insulin resistance. This insulin resistance and subsequent higher baseline glucose level, eventually leads to type 2 diabetes and further promotes heart disease and other problems. Drinking more than one cup of coffee per day can even interfere with your weight-loss goals. Those who drink caffeinated beverages are drawn to eat more often than necessary because they mistake caffeine withdrawal symptoms—such as shakiness, headaches, lightheadedness, etc.—for hunger. These detoxification symptoms are easily mistaken for hunger because eating temporarily suppresses them. It is impossible to get in touch with your body's true hunger signals if you are addicted to stimulants. If you do decide to stop drinking coffee, keep in mind that it takes four to five days for the caffeine-withdrawal headaches to resolve once you stop drinking coffee. If the symptoms are too severe, try reducing the coffee slowly. Losing weight is a more important goal for your overall health than eliminating coffee, but including caffeine does not make it easier to control your appetite and food cravings, it makes it harder. What about healthy coffee beverages? I believe that coffee should be well understood for its pros and cons. However, it should also be noted that some companies have taken the extra effort to make their coffee healthier. One such company is Organogold that has infused a very healthy ingredient called ganoderma (also known as reishi). This makes their coffee in my opinion much better than the conventional coffee and would be a better alternative for the coffee lovers. Caution must always be taken to ensure that all claims made by these companies are scientifically verifiable.
What about decaffeinated coffee? There are thousands of different substances in coffee, not just caffeine. Certainly, caffeine is dangerous in large quantities, but decaffeinated coffee also has potentially harmful side effects. Both decaffeinated and regular coffees have cholesterol raising effects, and these effects are known to be due to constituents of coffee other than caffeine. Also, these effects are amplified as the number of cups of coffee consumed per day goes up. It is important to note that chemical substances are used to remove the caffeine to make it decaffeinated but these chemicals may be hazardous. Drinking decaffeinated coffee is also associated with risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, possibly due to the caffeine-removing additives. For this reason, it is probably safer to choose a water processed decaf if you choose to drink decaffeinated coffee. What about the claims that coffee protects against diabetes? A small decrease in risk (7%) of type 2 diabetes has been shown with each additional cup of coffee consumed per day.2 Similar results are seen for decaffeinated and regular coffee, so caffeine is likely not the substance responsible for this benefit. Actually, in the short term, caffeine impairs the body’s sensitivity to insulin; decaffeinated coffee also has an insulin desensitizing effect, but to a lesser degree compared to caffeinated coffee.
Since coffee also raises blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and homocysteine, it is not a good idea to rely on coffee to protect you from diabetes. The best protection against diabetes is maintaining a healthy weight with a nutrient rich diet and regular exercise. In summary, coffee is more like a drug and not a food. Like most drugs it may have some minor benefits, but its toxic effects and resultant risks overwhelm those minor advantages. Caffeine is a stimulant and a long and healthy life is most consistently achieved when we avoid stimulants and drugs and meet our nutritional needs with as little exposure to toxicity as possible. If you do drink coffee it is best to limit to one cup per day, and if you drink decaffeinated coffee, choose water processed. I wish you health and happiness.
References: 1. Liu J, Sui X, Lavie CJ, et al: Association of Coffee Consumption With All-Cause and Cardiovascular Disease Mortality. Mayo Clin Proc2013. 2. Huxley R, Lee CM, Barzi F, et al: Coffee, decaffeinated coffee, and tea consumption in relation to incident type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review with meta-analysis. Arch Intern Med 2009;169:2053-2063. .