I love coffee.
Anticipating the first morning cup is comforting. In days gone by, I enjoyed walking into coffee shops and enjoying the room-filling aroma of freshly ground beans.
So, it gives me pleasure to share the findings of a comprehensive review article on coffee and caffeine that was published last month in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Caffeine is not the only active ingredient in coffee. Coffee beans contain hundreds of biologically active and potentially beneficial phytochemicals.
A study from 2005 stated that Americans received most of their antioxidants from coffee, not fruits and vegetables. Berries are bursting with goodness but most people drink more coffee than eat the recommended minimum of five a day of fruits and vegetables.
A few benefits of coffee:
▪ Increases mental performance
▪ May reduce risk of depression
▪ May reduce risk of Parkinson’s disease
▪ Slightly improves lung function in adults
▪ May reduce risk of liver fibrosis, cirrhosis and cancer
This review article dismissed certain negative beliefs about coffee. High doses of caffeine can have a diuretic effect, but regular moderate intake does not substantially affect hydration status.
In coffee virgins, caffeine intake can initially raise blood pressure but tolerance develops within a week.
The authors reviewed two studies that found no effect of caffeine on blood pressure even among persons with hypertension. Anyone with hypertension should monitor their own levels to determine a potential impact from coffee and speak to their physician, if necessary.
French press, boiled Turkish coffee and espresso contain cafestol, which can increase unwanted LDL blood levels. In these studies, a significant blood cholesterol change was measured after six cups, not an occasional espresso.
The authors conclude that a large body of evidence suggests that three to five cups a day of standard coffee has been consistently associated with a reduced risk of several chronic diseases.
I don’t recommend adding coffee for improved health but if you enjoy a cup or two a day, keep drinking.
Sheah Rarback MS, RDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist in private practice in Miami.