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Coffee: What’s The Verdict?
From an early age, we are all warned about the dangers of drug addiction, but how many of us realized as children that almost everyone in society is addicted something most people don’t even recognize as a drug? That’s right, we’re talking about caffeine.
It’s hard to think of a single drug out there that has so many users. Countless millions of people drink it every day, a great deal of whom are literally chemically dependent upon it just to function. For most, the method of choice for getting their caffeine fix is coffee.
Coffee is the most widely consumed psychoactive drug in the world
The average person drinks 1-5 cups a day. Many people wouldn’t dream of starting their day without it.
Everyone knows that the primary reason for drinking coffee is that it wakes you up and makes you more focused and alert. The average cup of coffee contains between 90 and 150 mg of caffeine. It’s important to determine what the total health benefits and risks of something we consume so regularly are.
Let’s examine the additional benefits of coffee below:
1. Coffee reduces your risk of neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.
Perhaps it’s due to coffee’s ability to stimulate brain function. Multiple studies have shown that coffee can protect your brain from these debilitating conditions in your old age.
A study published in the European Journal of Neurology showed that regular coffee drinkers had an amazing 65% reduction in their risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Other studies found that drinking coffee was associated with a reduction in the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by up to 60%.
2. Better Liver Health.
The liver is an absolutely essential organ. In the event of liver failure, it’s pretty much game over unless that person unless has a transplant.
The liver is particularly sensitive to alcohol. Alcoholics frequently suffer from cirrhosis, a condition in which the liver so damaged it is nearly non-functional. Cirrhosis can occur for other reasons though, and also in people who do not drink. Cancer of the liver is also a serious common form of disease.
The good news is that coffee can be surprisingly good at protecting your liver. Studies have shown that coffee can reduce your chances of developing cirrhosis by over 80%, and can even protect from further liver damage in those with livers severely damaged by alcoholism.
A review of 4 cohort and 5 case-control studies found that simply drinking 2 cups of coffee a day led to a 43% reduction in the risk of liver cancer.
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3. Coffee contains vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Health-conscious people usually think of beverages like green tea or fruits and vegetables when they hear the word “antioxidants,” but did you know that plain ol’ coffee is one of the most plentiful sources of these essential nutrients? In fact, the majority of people nowadays get most of their antioxidants from this beverage that isn’t necessarily thought of as a health food.
Coffee also contains small amounts of potassium, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus, as well as vitamins B1, B2, B3, and B5.
4. But wait, there’s more.
Studies at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that coffee use was linked to a reduced risk of depression in women, type-2 diabetes and even cardiovascular disease.
What’s the catch?
As with any drug, coffee isn’t without its downsides. Some people are very sensitive to caffeine, which can make them anxious and jittery. Caffeine can also lead to mildly increased blood pressure and heart palpitations in some individuals.
As mentioned earlier, the caffeine in coffee is addictive. As addictions go, caffeine addiction doesn’t pose serious health risks, and since coffee is one of the most abundant resources in the world, for most people the benefits far outweigh the risks. But the coffee-drinking lifestyle does come with some strings attached.
The fact is that as with any drug, frequent users can develop a tolerance to it over time. If you’ve been drinking coffee for a long time, you probably noticed that at some point you had to start drinking more to get the same effect. This is very common, and it can become a hassle (not to mention expensive) over time.
When a caffeine-addicted individual is unable to get coffee or other drink of choice, they can experience withdrawal symptoms which include headaches, “brain fog,” irritability and fatigue.
A few other things to keep in mind
This article made a pretty strong case for the benefits of coffee, but those benefits ONLY apply to the coffee itself. The benefits are cancelled out if you’re drinking it with 500 calories of sugar, creams and syrup added in. Those massive specially-made coffees from chain coffee shops are NOT healthy at all. Stick to black coffee or just a little bit of milk added in.
Those sensitive to caffeine may opt for Decaf. It’s important to keep in mind that “decaffeinated” does not mean “caffeine free.” There is no such thing as naturally and completely caffeine-free coffee. Decaffeinated coffee comes from beans that have been heated up to very high temperatures to release the caffeine-containing oils and then washed with a chemical solution to remove the compounds. The process must be repeated several times before the beans can be labeled “decaf,” but there are always trace amounts of caffeine left behind.
Decaf coffee still has caffeine, but in amounts so small it doesn’t pose any real risk to most individuals who are highly sensitive to it.
READ ALSO: Are You Drinking Coffee Correctly? Video
Bottom line: For most people, the advantages of drinking coffee significantly surpass whatever risks there may be. As with anything, moderation is called for. With time, you will find the amount of coffee that’s right for your body and learn to enjoy the varieties of this rich and invigorating beverage.