Is Coffee Good For You?
Coffee is a universally loved beverage, and one of the most consumed drinks world wide. It is delicious, versatile, affordable, and appealing for its stimulating properties. And unlike tobacco and alcohol, coffee can be enjoyed by almost anyone at any time. But is coffee actually good for you? Many studies have been done on the health risks and benefits of coffee, and the consensus in the medical community seems to flip back and forth with every new study. The fact is, there is no concrete answer as to whether coffee is “good for you” or “bad for you.” The short and long term health effects of coffee can depend greatly on the individual and the quantity of coffee consumed. Everything from your genetics, to your diet, to the type of coffee you drink can change how coffee affects your personal health.
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Let’s start with the positives. There is a reason coffee is one of the most widely produced and consumed beverages in the world. The entire coffee industry is worth billions of dollars, with more coffee styles and products being developed every day. One of coffee’s best attributes is its caffeine content. The caffeine in coffee is what gives it that stimulating effect. It can make you feel more alert, more energetic, and even somewhat elated. Coffee is a social drink with many mental health benefits. The routine, the creative process, the socialization and even the pure enjoyment of drinking coffee can have definitive cognitive benefits in the short and long term. The whole culture around coffee is an endearing and beneficial aspect of this timeless drink.
Of course, coffee comes with its down sides. There are many common side effects of coffee that have immediate and undesirable consequences on your body. One of the most common side effects is acid reflux. Coffee has a high acidity, and many people find that their acid reflux is significantly worsened by coffee. Coffee can also caused generalized stomach aches, especially in people prone to stomach related problems and heartburn. Coffee is also the perfect example that you can have too much of a good thing. Too much can over stimulate you and make you feel queasy, shakey, clammy, and cause problems sleeping. Many people need to limit their coffee intake or avoid coffee after a certain hour because of their high sensitivity to caffeine. Coffee can also contribute to dehydration. Compounds in coffee - including decaf - prevent your liver from properly absorbing fluids, which eventually leads to increased urination and difficulty hydrating. This can be especially bad when you’re trying to use coffee to nurse a hangover. Finally, coffee can also affect your bowels. Many people experience “coffee poops,” which are not well understood. All we know is that compounds in coffee react with your gut in complex ways, often leading to bowel movements or general discomfort. Nonetheless, these short term side effects are rarely enough to stop people from enjoying their favourite morning beverage.
So what about the long term side effects? You may have encountered inflammatory headlines about coffee causing cancers, heart problems, and other horrifying health problems. Some studies have shown connections between heart disease, various types of cancer, and stunted growth. However, these findings often overlook other bad habits and high risk behaviours commonly associated with high coffee consumption - such as smoking, stress, alcohol, and physical inactivity. All of these factors are likely much greater factors in these health risks than coffee alone. So while coffee may play a role in increasing the risk of these health issues in some individuals, it shouldn’t be cause for alarm.
But, More Good Than Harm?
In fact, other studies have shown coffee to possess many health benefits. Coffee may help protect against Parkinsons, Type 2 Diabetes, liver disease, and even help with cognitive functions and mental health. Coffee is a complex substance and it is very difficult to specify exactly how its components react with our bodies. It appears that coffee’s role in our health is secondary to things like our genetics, diet, history, and even how we drink our coffee. A smoker with a history of heart problems will be much more affected by high coffee consumption than a healthier individual. Drinking a few cups of drip coffee per day is much healthier than drinking sugary espresso drinks like flavoured lattes, and the long term health risks may have more to do with fat and sugar content than the coffee itself. This doesn’t mean that you need to cut your favourite coffee drinks out of your diet completely. As with any vice, the best way to approach your coffee intake is in moderation. Understanding you health history and how coffee affects you personally is the best way to predict what advantages or risks it might pose to your health. And while you research, you might as well enjoy a cup of coffee.