Coffee and Your Health: Current Findings

One week we hear on the news that coffee has detrimental effects on the body; the next, we read on a CBSnews.com blog that coffee reduces depression. With so much flip-flopping over coffee and its effect on your health, how do we know what to believe?

latte art

It’s a good idea to go beyond the headline and lede when you see the words “scientific study” attached to any news item. I’ve discovered that, in many cases, these studies are funded by special interest groups. A PR firm hired by a popular coffee brand might fund a study to show that coffee lowers cholesterol as a retort to a big name news outlet reporting the opposite findings.

The foremost example of illegitimate coffee information readily available on the web is “The Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee” (ISIC) —  an alliance between Nestle, Lavazza, Kraft, Douwe Egberts, and other big name roasteries. The ISIC homepage, www.coffeeandhealth.org, is obscured by it’s misleading categorization as a non-profit organization, with the help of a disingenuous URL name and URL extension. Click on the top left link, “Coffee & Health Topics”.

Choose from any of the topics, and you will be presented with a seemingly neverending chain of slideshow-formatted pages presenting “fact” after “fact” of purported scientific findings. Note that you will never run across a negative correlation between coffee and their widely recognized contradictions. In the rare case that you do, the spin doctors have neutralized the facts to make them seem benign and insignificant. Moreover, the majority of the studies’ summaries do not give essential details or link out to the full report. Another red flag are “statistical” studies which are poorly designed, as when the population samples are much too small from which to draw a legitimate conclusion.

In the name of science and truth, I waded through many recent studies pertaining to caffeine and found, on balance, that coffee — although slightly addictive — is surprisingly good for you. Not only does it have a positive effect on mental health, it’s good for the body, too.

-Coffee makes the ladies smile. By increasing dopamine production in the brain, this “feel good” chemical can lead to reduced symptoms of depression. Especially in women. [Source: Harvard University Study]

-Coffee wards off hypertension. Chlorogenic acid (CGA), a chemical found in coffee has been proven to lower blood pressure. [Source: Cornell University Study]

-Coffee will pep up your peepers. The same chemical mentioned above, CGA, was recently proven to also stave off blindness and deteriorating eyesight. [Source: Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry]

-Coffee helps to you drop extra lbs. In a randomized, double-blind study funded by a the US government, coffee (specifically green coffee extract), was found to help the study’s participants to shed pounds and was effective in fighting obesity. [Source: National Institute of Health]

-Coffee is like a shield against liver failure.  Lowering risk of death from cirrhosis of the liver by 66%, caffeine from coffee isn’t the mean bean some people make it out to be. [Source: National University of Singapore Study]

-Coffee lowers your chances of getting diabetes. Since 1986, studies have been conducted on huge population samples ending with the conclusion that coffee can decrease your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Exercise and proper diet don’t hurt those chances, either [Source: Harvard School of Public Health Survey]

We also know that coffee is jam-packed with antioxidants — and is America’s number one source of these toxin-busing chemicals (according to the American Chemical Society). If you drink it black, it’s calorie-free.

What are some other benefits to being an avid coffee consumer? How has coffee helped your mental or physical health?

By: Alex Riesdorff (G+)

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