Is Coffee Good For Our Health?

In one of my books Eat to Get Younger we discuss the research surrounding coffee.

There is much debate about the potential health benefits of drinking coffee. While there is clearly scientific research to suggest that coffee can be beneficial. Equally there are some people and health conditions where is not helpful.

What About Bulletproof Coffee?

Recently there has been a lot written about bulletproof coffee.  Bulletproof coffee is in fact a recipe which includes products developed by Dave Asprey, the man behind the website Bulletproof Executive. A bulletproof coffee is made from ‘upgraded’ coffee blended with a tablespoon of organic butter and MCT coconut oil. The result? a rich, creamy tasting cup which is supposed to help support energy levels, focus and concentration all morning.

Now I am not against coffee, butter and MCT oil but large quantities of any of these is not necessarily a good thing. Again adding fat to your breakfast can certainly help support energy levels and curb hunger but I am concerned that replacing a nourishing breakfast with this drink may mean overall your diet is not rich in all the nutrients our bodies and brain really need.

There is no doubt that this drink may taste good and in fact some traditional cultures do add fat to their hot drinks. For example the Ethiopians often put butter in coffee and the Mongolians consume yak butter tea. Yes butter is a good source of butyrate for gut health and some vitamin A and K but should we really be consuming this in large amounts to replace a healthy breakfast option? Typically a coffee made in this way would contain around 440 calories without any fibre and around 50g fats – most of this is saturated.  Compare this to a 2 egg omelette with loads of spinach and mushrooms – this would be around 166 calories with 12g fat plus 14g protein. There are also other concerns that for some it may hike up your cholesterol and triglycerides too – read this report if you are considering making this a daily addition to your diet

Coffee and its Health Benefits

A very recent study on coffee and autoimmunity has raised some new concerns if you currently suffering with an autoimmune condition but interesting the effects coffee has depends on your specific condition. In this research paper they found coffee consumption seems to increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and type 1 diabetes mellitus (T1DM). By contrast, coffee consumption may exert a protective role against multiple sclerosis, primary sclerosing cholangitis, and ulcerative colitis. Concerning other autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus, psoriasis, primary biliary cholangitis and Crohn’s disease, no significant association could be found. In other studies, coffee consumption led to a decrease in insulin sensitivity in T1DM, in methotrexate efficacy in RA, and in levothyroxine absorption in Hashimoto’s disease.

Looking more generally at other scientific studies surrounding coffee on healthy people it appears that people drinking coffee may have a lower risk of early death, lower risk of metabolic diseases like diabetes and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Studies have suggested it may improve fat burning and metabolism mainly it appears due to the caffeine content. Although the plant chemicals in coffee (including chlorogenic and caffeic acids) may be useful if you are overweight because they appear to curb overeating and reduce body fat.

Laboratory experiments indicate that coffee works on human cells in a number of different ways. For example, it reduces the absorption of glucose into the bloodstream, it increases the helpful hormone adiponectin and, like green tea and cinnamon, it prevents the liver enzyme G-6-P from dumping newly made glucose into the bloodstream. And the benefits may also extend to black (roasted) coffee, especially if it has been enriched with the flavonoid chlorogenic acid. Coffee is loaded with phytochemicals and antioxidants that are beneficial. In fact, various studies suggest people who drink coffee have a lower risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia and it may enhance memory too. It may also reduce the risk of Parkinson’s. These benefits may be because of the antioxidant effects as these conditions appear to be driven by oxidative damage in the brain.

Interestingly studies comparing caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee have found it is the caffeinated versions that have the benefit when it comes to overall cognitive function.  Similarly caffeinated coffee has been associated with a lower risk of depression in women

Other studies have demonstrated moderate coffee consumption (1-3 cups) has been associated with a lower risk of certain cancers (e.g Liver and Colon cancer)

Many of the studies do suggest that the benefits may be linked to the quantity of coffee consumed. With excess (for example more than 3-4 cups daily) there may be a greater risk of miscarriage and stillbirth, disrupted sleep and possibly hypertension.

Is Coffee Right For You?

Coffee can affect us very differently. This is partly due to how well we metabolise caffeine. Some people are more sensitive than others depending on how fast you metabolise it.

In addition if you’re burning the candle at both ends, you’re lacking sleep or overtraining then coffee may not be a good idea for you. Other people find that coffee makes them wired or jittery so again drinking coffee is probably not the best idea. And if you’re suffering with adrenal fatigue then drinking coffee is the last thing you should be doing – it will cause flutuations in blood sugar levels and consequently crashes in energy. You may be able to tolerate small amounts, like half a small cup or decaf occasionally, but it’s generally best to stay away from coffee until your adrenal health improves. Ideally if caffeine is not a real problem you may well find that drinking the odd cup may lead to a general improvement in mood or mental clarity, but it shouldn’t have a really big systemic effect on energy production. Remember Caffeine can be addictive which can be why cutting it out completely after habitual consumption can lead to some withdrawal effects (e.g headaches, fatigue).

If you are sensitive to caffeine, organic decaffeinated varieties and/or supplements of the polyphenol extracts would be a better option to consider. It’s worth mentioning however that some people find decaf even more of a problem. This may be in part due to the chemicals that were used to process decaf, hence why organic versions may be better. It’s worth mentioning that coffee now is one of the most heavily sprayed crops, so there could be a difference in how you react to organic and nonorganic coffee. Remember too that some people are slow metabolisers of coffee which may mean they are more sensitive – we can test you for this in our clinic

So should you drink coffee? What is clear is that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Pay attention to your body and listen to how it reacts when you drink it. Take note too of your energy levels and concentration. Are you using it to prop you up through the day?