Coffee drinking has been a perennial target of mistaken ideas about nutrition. Some will say that coffee is a drug, not a food, and that its drug action is harmful. Others will praise the medicinal benefits suggest its use for a variety of health conditions or as a preventative medicine. As a coffee connoisseur myself, there is an urge to jump to conclusions where coffee is a good thing, however it seems there will always be two sides of the coin with everything in life.
Julia Ross, in The Diet Cure, says that stimulants such as coffee overstress the body in many ways. “These stimulants deplete nutrients such as B1, biotin, inositol, vitamin C, calcium, potassium, and zinc…also increases thirst; overstimulates and weakens the kidneys, pancreas, liver, stomach, intestines, heart, nervous system, and glands (especially the adrenals); and overacidifies pH… Coffee is laced with pesticides and free-radical producing hydrocarbons that weaken cell membranes.”
Here is an interesting image found on the net which shows someone’s (feel free to comment if this is you) interpretation of caffeine’s effects on mood over time;
On some level of intensity, we’ve had our own or other’s experience of the above. The image above highlights the potential psychoactive effects and our understanding that coffee is a drug and impacts our central nervous system.
We’ve generally been fed the belief that coffee is not healthy. Now here are some ball-breakers – and the stuff most of us want to be true – purported effects of coffee drinking (black) include;
1. Coffee drinkers have a lower incidence of thyroid disease, including cancer, than non-drinkers. There are substances in the coffee berry besides caffeine that protect against mutations and cancer. One of the ways in which caffeine functions as an “antioxidant” is by modifying the activity of the enzyme xanthine oxidase, which in stress can become a dangerous source of free radicals.
2. Caffeine protects the liver from alcohol and other toxins (dichotomy hey?), and coffee drinkers are less likely than people who don’t use coffee to have elevated serum enzymes and other indications of liver damage.
3. Caffeine protects against cancer caused by radiation, chemical carcinogens, viruses, and estrogens.
4. Caffeine synergizes with progesterone, and increases its concentration in blood and tissues*. “Caffeine has remarkable parallels to thyroid and progesterone, and the use of coffee or tea can help to maintain their production, or compensate for their deficiency” (Ray Peat). Women spontaneously drink more coffee premenstrually, and since caffeine is known to increase the concentration of progesterone in the blood and in the brain, this is obviously a spontaneous and rational form of self-medication. A common issue with studies here is correlation versus causation, and coffee has past been blamed for the symptoms it is actually alleviating. Some women have noticed that the effect of a progesterone supplement is stronger when they take it with coffee.
5. A variety of studies show that caffeine protects against breast cancer.
6. Coffee provides very significant quantities of magnesium, as well as other nutrients including vitamin B1 (which is the opposite of what Julia Ross found above).
7. Caffeine “improves efficiency of fuel use” and performance.
8. Caffeine improves mental alertness and concentration.
9. Coffee drinkers have a low incidence of suicide. Caffeine tends to inhibit the release of serotonin, or to promote its reuptake and binding. The observation that coffee drinkers have a low incidence of suicide may be physiologically related to the large increase in suicide rate among people who use the newer antidepressants called “serotonin reuptake inhibitors.” Serotonin excess causes several of the features of depression, such as learned helplessness and reduced metabolic rate, while coffee stimulates the uptake (inactivation or storage) of serotonin, increases metabolic energy, and tends to improve mood. Serotonin increases blood pressure, blood vessel leakiness and inflammation, and the release of many other stress mediators.
10. Caffeine inhibits blood clotting.
11. Coffee drinkers have been found to have lower cadmium (a heavy metal) in tissues; coffee making removes heavy metals from water.
12. Caffeine, like niacin, protects against stress-induced cell death, without interfering with normal cell turnover.
13. Caffeine can prevent nerve cell death.
14. Caffeine dilates the coronary and gastrointestinal blood vessels and it constricts blood vessels in your head. This effect may help relieve headaches. Despite its medicinal properties, excessive caffeine isn’t good for people with heart problems as the caffeine may speed up the heartbeat.
Keep in mind that with all of the above points, and with any scientific studies, correlations are not always the cause.
PROBLEMS WITH CAFFEINE STUDIES
The negative effects ascribed to coffee usually involve administering large doses in a short period of time. Imagine taking 6 or more shots within a few minutes and you may just experience some jitters and heart palpitations! While caffeine is commonly said to raise blood pressure, this effect is slight, and may not occur during sensible use of coffee.
The effects of caffeine taken on an empty stomach confuse the issue of low blood sugar in a fasted state. Experiments that study the effects of coffee taken on an empty stomach are measuring the effects of increased temperature and metabolic rate combined with increased adrenaline (low blood sugar in a fasted state) and so confuse the issue of caffeine’s intrinsic effects.
The negative effects ascribed to coffee may involve the presence of a high level of pesticide residues. Commercial coffee beans are said to be one of the most highly sprayed crops.
CAFFEINE, EXERCISE AND WEIGHT MANAGEMENT
Caffeine has been found to enhance physical performance and endurance if it isn’t overused. This, combined with its effect of fat burning during exercise, can actually enhance workouts and enable you to get in better shape if you take it at the right time and in the right quantities.
Many experts believe that increased levels of cortisol lead to stronger cravings for fat and carbohydrates, and cause the body to store fat in the abdomen.
The good news, though, is that caffeine can speed up metabolism. Also, it can help the body break down fat about 30% more efficiently if consumed prior to exercise. (You must be exercising to get this benefit, since the actual coffee drinking does not promote weight loss, but it does promote your capacity for weight loss with a higher intensity workout).
Caffeine can keep blood sugar levels elevated, leaving you feeling less hungry. The downfall is a blood sugar crash! If caffeine elevates levels of cortisol and other hormones for a temporary boost, after caffeine wears off, the body can feel fatigued and feelings of mild to moderate depression can set in. This can make physical activity more difficult, as well as causing sugar and carbohydrate cravings.
THE VERDICT ON COFFEE..
I have come to the immature conclusion that if you search for any supporting evidence on the web, you will find it. So it would really be best to go with how your body feels after ingesting coffee rather than taking anyone’s word or searching for scientific proof to support your claims. It could be true that the benefits of caffeine mentioned in this article are more in line with minimal consumption (1 cup per day or 1 cup every few days) and the negative effects may be related to higher dosages, more frequent and/or long-term consumption. For example, caffeine used in moderation or therapeutically may support increased progesterone levels, whereas excessive use or long term effects of drinking more than 2 cups every day may have the effect of increasing oestrogen levels (?).
With potential positive and negative consequences, here are a few things to consider making the most out of your pot of black gold:
-Coffee may have high levels of pesticide residues, therefore it is best to go with organic sources
-Coffee is an adrenal stressor, so if you are under a high level of physical, mental or emotional stress, have poor recovery from exercise, frequently get the flu, have poor quality sleep or are feeling fatigued for no particular reason coffee may not be a good idea.
-Caffeine has a 4-6hr half life which means it can stay in your system for 8 hours or longer, so drink no later than 2pm to ensure that your sleep isn’t disrupted.
-Coffee is an irritant to the colon
-Coffee may have a decreased physiological effect on frequent coffee drinkers
-Caffeine is best consumed with a fat source such as organic butter, cream or coconut oil to create a slower and more sustained release of caffeine into the bloodstream, and hence avoiding a strong spike in cortisol followed by a deep ditch.
– Caffeine is best ingested before exercise—that way your performance is enhanced and the stress-management benefits of exercise can keep you healthy and feeling less stressed throughout the day.
If you know more about coffee, hit me up!