Coffee and your health: the good and the bad

Coffee and your health: the good and the bad

Coffee is the most consumed beverage in the world (after water), with the planet drinking two billion cups a day. But how healthy is all that caffeine? Surely nothing addictive can be good for us?

Turns out it might be – and it doesn’t seem to be doing much harm. That’s according to a significant body of research on caffeine’s health effects that has been conducted over decades. We break down some of the key recent findings below.

The good

You might assume that considering what a few espressos can do to your heart rate, the effects of caffeine on the organ might be unpleasant. But many studies actually show heart benefits.

A study by scientists at the University of Bologna, published last year, found that Italians who drank one to three cups of coffee a day had lower systolic and pulse pressure than those who did not drink coffee. Caffeine drinkers also had lower peripheral and central aortic pressure.

Another observational study found that people who reported drinking 1 or more cups of coffee per day had a lower risk of long-term heart failure (5-12% per cup of coffee per day) than their noncaffeinated counterparts. Interestingly, the risk of heart failure did not change between 0 and 1 cup per day, but was about 30% lower in people who drank at least 2 cups per day.

Other reviews and meta-analyses also concluded that habitual consumption of 3-5 cups of coffee per day was associated with a 15% reduction in cardiovascular disease risk, and higher consumption was not associated with increased risk.

Even those who drink up to 25 glasses a day (yes, you read that right) don’t seem to be at risk of major heart problems. A British Heart Foundation study published in 2019 found that participants were no more likely to have arterial stiffness if they consumed two dozen coffees a day. The study also found that drinking a cup of coffee can stimulate the body’s brown fat tissue, which generates body heat by burning calories.

Other obesity research has found evidence that a cup of java may even help keep your waistline in check.

According to a 2023 study, people who carry genes that slow down their coffee metabolism are associated with lower body weight, body fat levels, and a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Therefore, researchers conclude that high Caffeine levels in the blood can limit body fat.

A daily glass may also benefit the brain. In a recent advance IVF In a laboratory test, compounds in espresso were observed to inhibit the aggregation of tau protein, a process believed to be involved in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Another study last year found a positive link between coffee (and tea) consumption and the thickness of the macular layer of retinal nerve fibers – the thin layer of nerve cells that transmit visual information from the eye to the brain.

Down in the liver, caffeine also seems to help prevent certain liver diseases. In 2015, a meta-analysis of 16 studies showed that coffee consumption can significantly reduce the risk of liver fibrosis and cirrhosis. Why? The researchers claim that the energizing compound can lower the expression of α-smooth muscle actin and procollagen, promoting liver healing.

Regardless of any of these potential health benefits, a cup of coffee might just make your mornings a little more pleasant. A social study found that people gave more positive feedback about their group’s performance on a task—and their own contribution—if they drank coffee beforehand.

The less the better

However, this mood-enhancing quality of caffeine may just be the relief from caffeine withdrawal, which can cause headaches and irritability. Compensate too much for this withdrawal, however, and one can experience the negative effects of excessive caffeine consumption, such as anxiety and headaches.

These effects are more significant for certain people. People with panic disorders, for example, are more likely to have a panic attack if they consume five or more cups of coffee a day, according to one systematic review, and those who already live with insomnia are likely to have a long night if they drink before bed.

In rare cases, high caffeine consumption can lead to caffeine overdose. In one case study, a student ended up in a hospital emergency room with nausea, palpitations, and vomiting after taking a caffeinated energy supplement that contained 6,000 milligrams (mg) of caffeine—about 60 times the typical levels found in a cup of brewed coffee.

At lower, regular doses, however, caffeine does not appear to be associated with any long-term, cumulative health defects, unlike many other recreational drugs (alcohol, tobacco, etc.).

However, this safety certificate does not quite apply to the unborn. High levels of caffeine during pregnancy have been linked to miscarriages and low birth weight, which is why many national health agencies recommend a pregnancy caffeine limit of 200 mg per day. 2020 review published in British Medical Journal even going so far as to say that “there is no safe level of caffeine consumption for pregnant women and expectant mothers.”

Conclusion

Caffeine is undoubtedly one of the safest recreational drugs. Although it has its harms when consumed in excess, every non-pregnant woman should be able to enjoy the revitalizing taste of coffee without worrying too much about her health.

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