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Can Coffee Consumption Actually Boost Your Health?

You may be surprised to learn that coffee can reduce your risk of disease! I’ll bet you didn’t expect to hear this from your health consultant…but some of the research is stunning. There have been an impressive number of studies that found decreased risk of cancer (including breast and prostate), diabetes, liver disease, cognitive decline such as Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease and Parkinson’s disease. For some of these diseases, those who drank the most coffee had the greatest reduction of risk.

There is also emerging evidence that coffee can reduce the risk of developing kidney stones and gallstones. Coffee also stimulates the growth of the good probiotic bacteria, bifidobacteria, which is one of the beneficial bacteria that supports health of the gastro-intestinal tract. One 2011 study of over 50,000 women found coffee consumption lowered the risk of depression.

Decaffeinated coffee has many of the same benefits of caffeinated, in most cases. However, it’s the caffeine in coffee that boosts metabolism and promotes weight loss as a result. For athletes, caffeine before exercise decreased post-workout muscle soreness and enhanced recovery.

How does it work?

Coffee is loaded with anti-oxidants, and may be one of the most anti-oxidant rich substances in the American diet. One substance in coffee, chlorogenic acid, is likely responsible for some of the decreased risk of disease. In the case of Diabetes, it’s the decrease in the post-meal blood sugar rise, lower stored glucose, and increase in cell sensitivity to insulin that improves blood sugar metabolism.

What are the risks?

Coffee has both potential health benefits and health hazards. Although most people tolerate coffee, and in fact enjoy it, for some it can be problematic. See my list of areas of potential concern:

  • Coffee beans are one of the most heavily sprayed crops, so it’s imperative to drink only organic coffee.
  • Decaffeinated coffee is often chemically processed. Be sure to use only water- processed decaffeinated coffee
  • Some people suffer disturbed sleep with coffee in their diet. Decaffeinated coffee has many of the same benefits.
  • If you have high blood pressure, heart risks, or adrenal issues such as decreased adrenal function or adrenal fatigue, caffeine should be used with caution.
  • For people who suffer from acid reflux or GERD, coffee can trigger the symptoms and should be avoided. Espresso is much less acidic than drip brewed coffee and may be tolerated.
  • People with auto-immune disease should also use caution with coffee. Depending on whether you are TH1 or TH2 dominant, the coffee may actually improve or trigger symptoms. The TH1/TH2 dominance is related to what part of the immune system is over-active.

I find many people are trying to eliminate coffee in their diets in an effort to improve health. Yet there are many other areas where the effort can be more effective. For example, adding sugar to coffee. The sugar is more of a problem than the coffee. In fact, all the effort some people make to limit caffeine can be put to much better use eliminating and reducing all the simple carbohydrates in the diet, like sugars in all forms and refined flour products.

If you are lucky enough to both like coffee and tolerate it without issue, then you can feel good about including it in your diet!