The Good and the Bad of Coffee/Caffeine – Dr. Rob America’s Fitness Doctor®
Ah, the almost indescribable aroma of freshly brewed espresso in the morning! The rushes of chemicals in my brain as I inhale the chocolaty aroma and taste the fruity flavor of some earthy berry grown in a distant land. For myself the act of making and drinking espresso in the quiet of the dark of the morning is such a calm way to start the day before the mad rush of ferrying children to school and dashing off to work.
You may also think coffee tastes good and it may get you going in the morning, but what will it do for your health?
There is a growing body of research shows that coffee drinkers, compared to nondrinkers, are less likely to have type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia and have fewer cases of certain cancers, heart rhythm problems, and strokes. But, coffee is not proven to prevent these conditions.
It is possible that coffee drinkers have other advantages, such as better diets, exercise more, or have protective genes.
So there isn’t solid proof. But there are signs of potential health advantages and of course a few cautions.
If you’re like the average American, who drinks an estimated 1.5 8-ounce cups of coffee each day you might want to know what all that caffeine is doing for you, or to you.
Coffee scores big points when it comes to the prevention of diabetes and the vast majority of studies on coffee have shown a distinct benefit when it comes to the prevention of diabetes. This holds true for both caffeinated, decaffeinated and tea drinkers.
It is believed that it is the very strong antioxidant capacity in coffee that provides the benefit. Also coffee contains minerals such as chromium and magnesium, which help the body regulate the hormone insulin. And we know consistent high levels of insulin is bad.
Studies reveal that coffee has been linked to lower risks for heart rhythm disturbances in men and women, and lower risk for strokes in women.
In a study of about 130,000 Kaiser Permanente health plan members, people who reported drinking 1-3 cups of coffee per day were 20% less likely to be hospitalized for abnormal heart rhythms than nondrinkers regardless of other risk factors.
A study of 83,700 nurses enrolled in the long-term Nurses’ Health Study showed a 20% lower risk of stroke in those who reported drinking 2 or more cups of coffee daily compared to women who drank less coffee or none at all.
Coffee has also been linked to lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. A 2009 study from Finland and Sweden showed that, out of 1,400 people followed for about 20 years, those who reported drinking 3-5 cups of coffee daily were 65% less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, compared with nondrinkers or occasional coffee drinkers.
Coffee consumption also has been linked to a decrease incidence of liver cirrhosis and liver cancer.
Coffee/Caffeine the Angelic Side
- Stimulate the release of dopamine, which helps us focus
- Increases lipolysis to use fat for energy
- Increases athletic performance
- Decreased incidence of diabetes
- Decreased incidence of neurocognitive disorders
- Decreased incidence of liver cancer
- Decreased incidence of stroke
- Decreased incidence of heart arrhythmias
- Decreased incidence of basal cell carcinoma
- Decreased incidence of depression
- Strong antioxidant capacity
- Boost sex drive
Coffee/Caffeine the Seductive Dark Side
Now what about the dark side of coffee/caffiene? A lot of patients ask me about coffee/caffeine. Caffeine is a drug like many others, and I recommend using it in a limited quantity. It is my opinion that one or two cups of coffee first thing in the morning is fine, but drinking caffeine throughout the day is something you want to avoid or you can end up with caffeinism.
Caffeinism or caffeine intoxication, is a condition where you end up suffering with elevated blood pressure, rapid heart beat, nervousness, insomnia, stomach cramps, muscle twitching, stomach upset, dehydration, stressed adrenal glands, and more. For those of you who are excessive caffeine drinkers, I would definitely wean yourself off of the caffeine. For example, if you are drinking six cups a day, I would decrease by one cup a day until you get to one or two cups daily.
Not everyone responds to caffeine the same way. Some people metabolize coffee differently than others and the gene involved is called CYP1A2. Our detoxification pathways are genetically determined. Which is why some people have one cup of coffee and are nervous and irritable and can’t sleep for days and others like myself can have coffee any time of the day and sleep very well.
But this was not always the case. While I was in the Army in the 80’s stationed in Germany I drank over “10 cups of Joe” every morning and I suffered from caffeine intoxication. So much so I could hardly hold a pen because my hands shook so much. I drank ridiculous amounts of coffee every morning mostly out of boredom. There’s a lot of “hurry up and wait” in the military and I had a platoon sergeant that would reprimand us for reading books, but it was ok to smoke cigarettes and drink coffee while we sat and waited for our assignments for the day.
Coffee and Caffeine is most likely safe for most adults when used in moderation.
However, caffeine can cause:
- Nervousness and restlessness,
- Stomach irritation (regular and decaffeinated coffees)
- Nausea and vomiting,
- Increased heart rate and respiration
- Chest pain
- Ringing in the ears.
- Raises blood pressure
- Raises adrenaline
- Raises cortisol
- Raises homocysteine
- Caffeine is a mild diuretic so it makes you urinate which means you, can become dehydrated faster
- It’s addictive
- Depletes neurotransmitters like dopamine
Caffeine can make these conditions worse!
- Bipolar disorder
- Bleeding Disorders
- Heart conditions
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- High Blood Pressure
A single cup of coffee with nothing added is about 15 calories. But start adding milk and sugar and the calories skyrocket to upwards of 500 in a single cup! So if you are trying to lose weight, keep your coffee simple.
Coffee/Caffeine Calorie Count
Coffee Black 15 calories
Frappuccino 400 calories
Café late 165 calories
Café au lait 155 calories
Café mocha 570 calories
Cappuccino 150 calories
Carmel macchiato 320 calories
That being said there is evidence on both sides of the fence as to whether coffee/caffeine is good or bad for you. What appears to be the key here is moderation. So let me share my opinion with you, if you are a healthy adult, one or two cups of coffee a day is unlikely to hurt you. There is evidence to suggest that mild caffeine consumption aids in weight loss through increased lipolysis, which is the breakdown of fat in the fat cells, elevates your metabolism, may prevent cancer, diabetes and neurocognitive disorders because of antioxidant properties and increases athletic performance. Those all sound like winners to me, however if you are not a user of coffee or are sensitive to the effects of caffeine then it is best left on the shelf for someone else but you.
Dr. Rob Kominiarek, America’s Fitness Doctor®
“Fitness is the Footprint of Life…Follow It!”