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I’ve been talking about the health benefits of drinking coffee for many years, and so here we go again…

  • Coffee has the health benefits of vasodilation (improves the flow of blood).
  • Coffee improves mental clarity and short term memory.
  • Coffee improves exercise tolerance & recovery, and for those of you who say, “Hmm, I don’t like to exercise!” Coffee also increases the production of specific enzymes (proteolytic) which reduces muscular soreness and fatigue!
  • Coffee is loaded with antioxidants! The antioxidants in coffee are known as polyphenols.

Coffee (1.64 cups) has 1,299 milligrams of Antioxidants. The closest competitor is Tea at 294 milligrams and the next top five sources are: Bananas, 76 milligrams, Dry Beans, 72 milligrams and Corn, 48 milligrams.

So is coffee the great “healer”? No it’s not some all-encompassing elixir, but it does have some definite health benefits that make it worth considering a cup maybe even 2 cups a couple times each week.

There are six areas of concern with coffee:

1) Coffee can exacerbate heartburn?

When you drink coffee, you raise the level of acidity in your stomach. That’s often a good thing as an increased acid level helps with the digestion of food. Problems can arise when you drink too much coffee on an empty stomach. The overly acidic gastric juices can irritate the lining of the gut and cause heartburn.

2) Too much could cause you to store more fat?

According to a study published in 2005 in “Psychosomatic Medicine,” caffeine can increase levels of cortisol — a stress hormone — in stressed individuals. Chronically high levels can trigger excess fat storage which can lead to obesity.

French Pressers could be increasing their bad cholesterol. A 2007 study from Baylor College of Medicine demonstrated that that ingesting the structurally similar molecules cafestol and kahweol (both of which are found only in coffee beans) can lead to significant increases in LDL levels in humans. That need not be cause for concern if you drink your java via a method that employs a paper filter as it can bind cafestol and kahweol in the course of brewing. That means that only a tiny fraction of these cholesterol-upping molecules never make it to your morning cup and into you. If you have high-cholesterol and use a French press, you may want to think about your brewing method

3) Coffee drinking can exacerbate stomach ulcers?

Stomach ulcers can be excruciatingly painful. Coffee can do a number on the lining of your gastrointestinal tract, giving rise to ulcers and other forms of gastric irritation and damage. If you have an ulcer, you may be best off forgoing coffee until the situation has improved.

4) Coffee can make you hear things go bump in the night?

If you end up needing to spend the night in a haunted house, you may want to bring a beverage other than coffee. A study conducted at Durham University in 2009 found that people who consumed at least 315 mg of caffeine (about three cups of brewed coffee) a day were three times more likely to hallucinate than people who drank less than that amount. Seeing things, hearing voices and sensing the presence of ghosts were among the experiences reported by test participants. Spooky.

5) Coffee isn’t good for unborn babies?

A study published in 2008 in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and found that the risk of miscarriage among pregnant women is more than double in women who consume over 200 mg or more of caffeine per day. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists also recommends an upper limit of 200 mg/day.

6) The withdrawal is real?

Regular caffeine consumption leads to physical dependence on caffeine, which manifests as withdrawal symptoms when a caffeine user abruptly stops using caffeine. A diffuse throbbing headache is a hallmark feature of caffeine withdrawal. The reason for this is that one of the pharmacological effects of caffeine is a constriction of blood vessels in the brain.

Well there you have it coffee isn’t perfect, it’s not the be end all elixir, in fact it clearly has some areas of potential concern!

So what’s all the whoopla about coffee?

1) Coffee can reduce anxiety!

It’s often associated with the jitters so the idea that your coffee habit could be a salve to your daily worries and preoccupations may seem counterintuitive. However, coffee actually stimulates the release of dopamine. This feel-good chemical elicits feelings of contentment. Is it any wonder that this stuff is free in most offices?

2) It might make you live longer!

Research published in the journal Circulation suggests that drinking coffee could ward off the reaper. To come to this finding, Harvard School of Public Health researchers surveyed more than 250,000 Americans over 28 years and asked them questions them about their diet and coffee consumption. After analyzing their rates of disease and death over the following twenty years, they found that among nonsmokers, those who drank between three and five cups of java daily were up to 15 percent less likely to die of any cause than those who weren’t as friendly with their neighborhood barista.

3) Coffee is good for your heart!

Harvard researchers found that coffee drinkers have a 10 percent decreased risk of death from heart disease. But a common java add-in may counteract the drink’s health-boosting effects: creamer. The traditional varieties are packed with trans-fats, often hiding under the guise of its lesser-known name: hydrogenated oil, which raises levels of cholesterol and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. So keep the creamer out of your cup to reap the heart-healthy benefits of your daily sip. Or consider a low sugar, organic creamer.

4) Coffee can help reduce pain better and faster!

Even if you aren’t a regular coffee-drinker, caffeine can help speed pain relief. Not only can caffeine make pain relievers 40% more effective in treating headaches, but it also speeds the body’s reaction to the medications. That being the case, it shouldn’t be surprising that many OTC headache medications also contain caffeine. Now I’m not promoting OTC medications, in fact many of the same benefits are realized with herbals……give me call/text or email on this conversation (Dan Prater, ND 219-613-1161 dp@21ctw.com)

5) It’ll keep you feeling positive!

The researchers found that study participants (both smokers and nonsmokers) who drank at least one cup of coffee a day had up to a 36 percent lower rate of suicide—and this wasn’t the first group of researchers to make this discovery. Several other studies have hinted at an inverse association, too. Even so, it’s not yet clear if there’s something in the drink to thank or if coffee drinkers just happen to share common lifestyle factors (like higher rates of employment) that are often associated with a lower risk of suicide. One theory is that the caffeine could be a contributing factor, which makes a lot of sense. Caffeine was shown to reduce the loss of dopamine (AKA the happiness hormone), according to the report.

6) It’s good for your brain!

The good news keeps on coming! Coffee drinkers were also found to be between 9 and 37 percent less likely to die of neurological diseases like Parkinson’s and dementia. Though the reason for this is not yet fully understood, one theory is that the coffee’s caffeine could be a contributing factor.

7) Coffee helps you burn calories faster!

Coffee is one of the best drinks for weight loss because it boosts your metabolism. The average metabolic rate of people who drank caffeinated coffee was 16 percent higher than that of those who drank decaf, according to a study published in the journal Physiology & Behavior. A cup of black coffee is a good choice for a pre-workout beverage, too: Researchers found that cyclists who took a caffeine supplement were able to ride about a mile farther than those who took a placebo. Make yours a venti and skip the sweeteners.

But don’t overdo it. Have a few cups of coffee for a metabolism boost, but if you’re never seen without a mug at your lips, that could work against you! Caffeine is a natural appetite suppressant. If you’re constantly consuming it, you may not eat much — or realize how hungry you are — until you get home for dinner. Not eating enough throughout the day can make your metabolism sluggish. By the time you eat dinner, instead of immediately using that food for energy, your body is aggressively storing it as fat, just in case it will be deprived again.

8) Just smelling coffee could alter your brain!

Sure, we all know that coffee can perk you up when you drink it but according to research, just huffing some roasted beans can have a profound and measurable effect on how the brain functions. At least, studies performed on the brains of stressed and non-stressed rats. The stressed rats showed different levels of activity in 17 genes in the brain and Levels of some brain proteins also changed in ways that could have a calming effect on stress or have an antioxidant function.

9) And last but not least, it may fend off liver cancer if you drink a lot of it!

A new study from the London-based World Cancer Research Fund International (WCRF) suggests that regular coffee consumption could reduce the risk of liver cancer among people who consume large quantities daily.

So there you have it, the Good, Bad, and yes even some Ugly points about Coffee! One of the fundamentals of Naturopathy is balance and moderation, and so with all that said I would say enjoy a rich-medium blend of Organic Coffee, 1 maybe even 2 cups a couple times week and enjoy the many benefits!

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For more information on specific programs to address a nutritional plan to meet your goals, contact Dan Prater, ND on 219.613.1161 or via email.

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