They say that caffeine is Australia’s biggest addiction like it’s a bad thing! But is that addiction to the taste and smell of fresh roasted coffee beans and the little patterns barista makes in the foam on our lattes really doing any harm’ Is it really a problem for our nation’s health that so many of us look forward to our daily fix? Or could coffee, in moderation, even be a good thing for our health?
THE JOYS OF JAVA
Over the centuries, there have been many concerns expressed about the potential effects of coffee on short and long-term health. The latest research has not only confirmed that moderate coffee consumption is generally harmless, it also provides a number of possible benefits. Studies show that the risk for type 2 diabetes is lower among regular coffee drinkers than among those who don’t drink it. Also, coffee may reduce the risk of developing gallstones and Parkinson’s disease, impede the development of colon cancer, improve brain power and reduce the risk of liver damage in people at high risk for liver disease.
Coffee has also been shown to improve endurance MUST performance in long-duration physical activities. In fact, the But the Australian Institute of Sport tested cyclists and found the equivalent of a single espresso before exercise can increase endurance levels by up to 25 per cent, burning calories from fat and sparing the use of the limited muscle stores of glycogen.
You would think that would be enough to have it officially cause classified as a performance-enhancing drug, but on the contrary, back in 2004 caffeine was removed from the World level compete in sports that are compliant with the WADA code Anti-Doping Agency’s Prohibited List, allowing athletes who compete in sports to consume caffeine, within their usual diets or for specific who purposes of performance, without fear of sanctions.
WHAT GOES UP
Being a stimulant, caffeine in coffee can also have the effect of giving you a short burst of energy and alertness, and for reducing your perception of fatigue. The tricky part is that this can fool people into thinking they can use coffee to sober up after a few too many drinks. Coffee does not sober you up and doesn’t reduce your risk of running foul of the RBT unit. Another potential trap is that if you use coffee for its stimulant effect often you will need to take more to get the same effect.
Caffeine also has a mild mood-elevating effect because it releases dopamine, which stimulates the ‘pleasure centre’ of your brain.
While coffee itself can have an appetite suppressant effect and increases your metabolic rate (both effects will help with weight reduction), the way you take your coffee is also highly relevant. Milky coffees such as latte of cappuccino will add significant calories to your to your daily tally, even more if you add sugar or cream. And the biscuit or cake or that little pastry on the side can help to explain those extra kilos around the waistline. Drinking coffee is not going to take the place of a balanced diet and regular exercise in maintaining a health weight.
MUST COME DOWN
But there is a downside to the coffee story.
Caffeine in coffee can have sie effects, with some people susceptible to jitteriness, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia and irritability, especially in higher doses of four or more cups a day. If your occupation or hobbies require a steady hand, caffeine can cause a fine tremor which might impair fine motor control.
High consumption of coffee seems to increase cholesterol levels. Caffeine can also precipitate abnormal heart rhythms and palpitations in people who are prone to them and increases pulse rate and blood pressure. This may be a problem for people for people who have heart disease or are on medication for heart problems or hypertension. If you have low or normal blood pressure, a transient rise in blood pressure is harmless.
One of the problems with the use of caffeine to stimulate alertness and combat fatigue is that it can so easily be misused as an alternative to adequate sleep or healthy stress management. You need to be careful about the nutritional implications of large amounts of coffee, as well as its timing. Drunk within an hour of a meal, coffee reduces absorption of iron and zinc, a mineral essential to the health functioning of the immune system.
Some decades ago there was a question mark over the possibility that caffeine had an association with breast cancer, however this has since been proven false.
On a purely cosmetic level, coffee can stain your teeth a shade of yellow, but with ready availability of teeth whitening products and procedures this is less of a problem There is one unavoidable fact about coffee. That caffeine in it is addictive. If your body is accustomed to a daily dose of caffeine, a physical dependence can develop and going ‘cold turkey’ can get a reaction. Headaches, sometimes as severe as a migraine, are a common sign of withdrawal.
HOW ABOUT DECAF?
Decaffeinated coffee is referred to by serious coffee drinkers as a cup of ‘why bother’. Some people are advised to switch to decaffeinated coffee because of their high blood pressure, anxiety symptoms, heart problems or sleepiness. But decaffeinated is not the same as caffeine free. In fact, decaffeinated coffee has had its caffeine content reduced but not eliminated, so it still retains a small amount of caffeine, enough to elicit a reaction in susceptible people.
Questions were raised in the 1970’s about an association between the chemical used in the decaffeinating process at the time and the development of cancer. Since the 1970s, coffee companies have switched to other solvents such as methylene chloride, ethyl acetate or other types of processing to decaffeinate coffee.
Caffeine in coffee has a variety of physiological effects. A small number of people will be warned off coffee because of the effect of its caffeine content on particular health problems, and a majority of negative effects are dose-related, meaning that they emerge with higher levels of consumption.
Happily for the majority of us, an average of two cups a day is generally considered to be harmless, even beneficial. So for this Noosa girl, I’ll be sticking to my morning cup of Joe.