Sunday, March 22, 2015

The best way to start your day?

coffeeSo, I will begin by disclosing that I drink about three cups of freshly brewed, filtered, coffee daily, brewed from whole beans that I grind just before brewing, and I drink it black, with nothing in it, and I enjoy it! 

Having said that, I had a request from WebMD for an interview about

How could I pass that one up?  So, along with the article above, here are some questions and answers that I engaged in about coffee.

1. What is it about coffee that makes it so good for us? Is it the caffeine? Is it the antioxidants?( Do scientists know?)

Although there certainly are studies which relate health benefits to coffee consumption, it is anything but clear as to from where those benefits come.  While coffee does, itself, contain antioxidants, some say that coffee is a major source of antioxidants, it is not clear if those antioxidants actually have an effect in the body, if they are absorbed and utilized intact.  One can also postulate that a preferance for coffee is present in people who have lower incidents of certain diseases.  We always want to look for that cause and effect, the issue is that such an effect is not always there.

 2) In some studies (in the heart and endometrial cancers one, I believe) you have to drink 3 to 5 cups a day to get that benefit. That’s a LOT of coffee and it seems to me that that might lead to other concerns. Would drinking 3 to 5 cups of coffee daily lead to other health concerns? How much is too much? Are there any documented risks from drinking coffee?

Although some of the studies, such as with diabetes, have suggested that decaffeinated coffee may be as effective as the regular stuff, other disease relationships have typically involved caffeinated coffee.  For blood pressure and heart disease, up to about 200 mg of caffeine a day, which would be the equivalent of 2 six-ounce standard cups of coffee, would appear to be acceptable for most people.  More that that, or using a stronger coffee to get more caffeine, may cause issues with the cardiovascular system. 
3) Does it make a difference what kind of coffee or how it’s brewed?

Coffee made with a French Press may have substances which influence serum lipids; filtered coffee removes those substances in the brewing.  Instant coffee is also lacking those chemicals, and likely is lower in caffeine (for regular instant) than brewed coffee.  Some studies have suggested there may be toxins in instant coffee, but these are likely at very low level, it at all, and may or may not be of clinical significance in typical coffee drinkers.

4) If you don’t drink coffee, should you start?  (In other words... I do not drink coffee. I drink tea. If I were your patient, what would you tell me?)

Since at least some of the studies have suggested that the relationship may be that the person who prefers coffee is more resistant to a particular disease process, I would not feel at this time that there would be justification for starting coffee drinking for its perceived health benefits.

5) Is there anyone who just shouldn't drink coffee? 

Again, blood pressure and heart disease would be relative contraindications to consuming more that a few cups daily.  Certain specific cardiovascular problems may be exacerbated by even less than that.  In addition, compound in coffee, even decaffeinated coffee, can cause GI upset in many, limiting consumption.  Pregnant women should limit coffee intake to under the 200 mg limit, and people on diuretics should be aware that both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee can increase urine output.

6) What if you load your coffee down with cream and sugar - does that negate the benefit or cause other health worries?

While cream and sugar won't change the amount of caffeine in your drink, it can certainly affect the amount of calories.  Some creamer and sugar could increase the calorie content by 1000% - ten times the calories of black coffee.  Have a few of those a day, and the calories can add up; make it a frappe latte and a few a day could be a pound a week.  And that will certainly impact your health. 

As always, these words of wisdom are to be taken generally, without any specific advice expressed or implied, and you should always check with your physician or health care provider regarding this, or any other food, supplement, or health related regimen.

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