Did that get your attention? It was meant to. These are the types of headlines we see quite often when it comes to some of our favorite things, like coffee, chocolate, and wine. One day they are bad for us, and the next they are considered the fountain of youth. But does drinking a lot of coffee really make you live longer? Read on to find out what's behind this claim
Drinking a lot of coffee can make you a long-lived person
Why the controversy? Well, that's usually because these headlines don't tell the full story, and the studies are often misinterpreted by the media.
So today we're going to take an objective look at everyone's beloved morning drink, coffee, with some fresh eyes and a perfectly brewed cup.
Coffee grows on small trees native to tropical Africa, originating in Ethiopia. Today, coffee is one of the most valuable products and is produced on all continents with Brazil, Vietnam, Columbia, Indonesia and Ethiopia as the top 5 exporters.
Like good wine, the flavor and distinctive flavor of coffee vary by region.
In terms of consumption, it is surprising to find that Nordic countries such as Finland, Norway, Iceland and Denmark are among the biggest coffee drinkers with up to 12 kg of coffee per person per year, compared to 6.5 kg in Canada and only 4.2 kg in the U.S.
Fun facts about coffee
Did you know that coffee leaves can also be consumed in the form of tea? They have a subtle taste and caffeine, as well as exotic antioxidants. Coffee leaf tea has been traditionally consumed in Ethiopia for more than 200 years. It is harvested in the off-season, helping to create year-round jobs for coffee growers.
Caffeine acts as a natural protector for the coffee plant by helping the leaves stay pest-free by avoiding insects. Coffee can also be used to keep your garden pest free.
Health benefits of coffee according to science
Since the Western diet lacks the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables, coffee can be considered the largest source of antioxidants in our daily diet.
We know that antioxidants protect us from free radical damage, but what are other benefits of your morning cup of coffee?
Reduces the risk of Alzheimer's / Dementia
One of the most studied and endorsed benefits of coffee is when it comes to our memory.
Many studies and reviews have shown that caffeine has a protective effect, and coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Reduces the risk of Parkinson's
Parkinson's disease is a disease that affects the central nervous system and more specifically our motor system responsible for movement.
After Alzheimer's, it is the second most common neurodegenerative disease. While we don't know the exact cause of Parkinson's disease, we do know that there are genetic components.
Studies have shown that those who drink coffee have up to a 60% lower risk of developing Parkinson's. This only seems to apply to those who drink regular and non-decaf coffee.
Helps protect against type 2 diabetes
A systemic review and meta-analysis that reviewed more than 18 studies and 457,922 participants showed that those who drank coffee had a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes.
Every 1 cup of coffee was associated with a 7% reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. That doesn't necessarily mean more coffee is better for you, but more on that later.
Improves exercise performance
This makes sense since one of our main reasons for drinking coffee is to increase our energy levels.
Caffeine stimulates our brain and nervous system, increases adrenaline production and improves exercise performance by up to 12.3%.
In some it reduces the risk of heart disease
This one is a bit tricky as low to moderate coffee consumption (1-3 cups) seems to offer a protective effect especially for women.
However, a subset of people who have a genetic variation (slow CYP1A2 * 1F allele) have a much higher risk of non-fatal heart attacks because they cannot metabolize caffeine well.
More than 1 cup of coffee a day for those with the genetic variation resulted in a 36% higher risk, and more than 4 cups increased the risk by 64%.
Coffee for longevity
There are several studies that associate coffee consumption with a longer lifespan and / or a reduced risk of premature death from all causes.
The most recent cohort study of half a million people published in ound that people who drank 1 to 8 or more cups of coffee a day lived longer than those who did not drink coffee.
What's surprising about this most recent study is that not only did it find similar results for instant, ground, and decaffeinated coffee, it also accounted for genetic variations, and the benefits occurred independently.
This tells us that there may be more merits in coffee than just caffeine.
So what's the sweet spot when it comes to coffee and longevity? Well, according to this study, it was 6 to 7 cups a day which offered a 16% reduction in the risk of premature death.
A similar study published in the New England Journal of Medicine had similar results, but their coffee "sweet spot" was around 4-5 cups.
This amount showed a 12% and 16% risk reduction of premature death in men and women respectively.
If you think 6-7 or 4-5 cups sounds like a lot, you're right. We will discuss more about that below.
Limitation of studies
But let's take a step back and consider that while this study offered us an idea, it was observational and just because there is a correlation between coffee consumption and longevity, it doesn't mean that coffee is the only reason or cause for that.
Studies like these take into account multiple factors, but cannot yet determine causality, which means that coffee may not have been what caused certain populations to improve longevity.
It is important to also look at the currently recommended upper limits we have for caffeine consumption, and ask if any of the people who consumed more than 8 cups a day had other side effects that were not considered.
Coffee is not perfect
After a big moment of glory, it's important to know that coffee comes with its fair share of unpleasant side effects for many of us.
Caffeine activates our "fight or flight" response with the release of adrenaline which, as a result, increases our energy. But, for sensitive people, this can trigger irritability, anxiety, and anxiety.
Because it stimulates the nervous system and increases the heart rate, caffeine can also increase blood pressure, so you should limit its consumption if you have high blood pressure.
Also, sensitive people can experience insomnia if they drink too much caffeine or take it too close to bedtime, as it can take up to 9 hours for your body to fully metabolize it.
It is also not recommended for people with iron deficiency, as it can reduce iron absorption (or must be separated from meals), and for anyone with digestive problems or GERD.
Enjoy your coffee, but watch your portion size
In the end, whether you drink coffee or not, having a glass of wine with dinner or a bite of dark chocolate shouldn't depend solely on the latest and greatest study.
How much coffee is it okay to drink?
If you like coffee then that's perfectly fine, as it may be offering some good health benefits. It is important to know that although some studies may show that up to 8 cups of coffee are beneficial, this is more than double the daily amount recommended by the FDA.
They recommend no more than 400 mg of caffeine, or three 8-ounce cups of brewed coffee per day.
A standard small serving of coffee, for example, a short coffee made at Starbucks contains 130 mg of caffeine, while the venti (large) has around 340 mg, which is almost at the upper daily limit for caffeine.
Also, keep in mind that lighter roasts tend to contain more caffeine.
Organic coffee is always recommended, as I know it is sourced ethically and more sustainably. To get the most out of your cuppa, skip the sugar and use milk or milk alternatives in moderation. You can really appreciate the flavor when you have a bold, pure cup with nothing added.
If you are a decaffeinated drinker, choose coffee made with natural caffeine extraction methods, such as the Swiss water process versus chemical solvents. Organic growers generally use this method.
It is important to pay attention to your own body and how it reacts to drinking too much coffee. If you feel irritable, anxious, or agitated, or know that you are sensitive to the effects of caffeine, then opt for other beverage options.
There are many healthy and delicious coffee alternatives, such as green and white tea that have an incredible antioxidant profile, rooibos tea with low tannin content and a heavenly aroma, and coffee leaf tea that provides sustained energy and only 20 mg of caffeine per cup.
So if you think that 4-5 or 6-7 or even 8 cups sounds too much for some people, you are probably right. Most of us are familiar with our coffee tolerances, so we need to take that into account.
In general, it seems that coffee is something we can enjoy on a daily basis, and if we normally drink more than one with no ill effects, it is something we don't have to worry too much about.
You drink a lot of coffee? How many cups of coffee do you have per day?
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