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The Wellness Column By Anchan Vegetarian

The pluses and minuses of drinking coffee

The history of coffee goes as far back as thirteenth century Ethiopia, from where it spread into Egypt, with the earliest credible evidence of either coffee drinking or knowledge of the coffee tree in the middle of the fifteenth century, in the Sufi monasteries of Yemen. It then further spread into Persia, the Balkan, onwards to Europe, North Africa and the SE Asian region.
It has turned into a major cash crop worldwide, with an annual production of nearly 8 million tons. There are 2 main varieties, the “arabica” and the “robusta”, with 75% of the world’s production being the more highly valued “arabica”. Robusta is mainly used as a cheap replacement for “arabica” in commercial mixes, as well as being used in Italian high quality espresso to add body and “crema” or foam collar to the finalized brew.
The primary psychoactive chemical in coffee is caffeine that is known for its stimulant effects. In a healthy liver, caffeine is mostly broken down.
Extensive scientific research has been conducted to examine the relationship between coffee consumption and an array of medical conditions. The general consensus in the medical community is that moderate regular coffee drinking in healthy individuals is either essentially benign or mildly beneficial. In 2012, the National Institutes of Health analyzed the relationship between coffee drinking and mortality. They found that the amount of coffee consumed correlated negatively with risk of death, and that those who drank any coffee lived longer than those who did not.
Some studies suggest coffee consumption reduces the risk of prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, diabetes mellitus type 2, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and gout. It may increase the risk of acid reflux and associated diseases.
The fact that decaffeinated coffee also exhibits preventative effects against diseases such as prostate cancer and type-2 diabetes suggests that coffee’s health benefits are not solely a product of its caffeine content. Specifically, the anti-diabetic effect of caffeine has been attributed to other nutrients inside coffee.
The presence of antioxidants in coffee has been shown to prevent free radicals from causing cell damage. Evidence suggests that roasted coffee has a stronger antioxidant effect than green coffee.
Coffee is no longer thought to be a risk factor for coronary heart disease.
Caffeine acts as an acute antidepressant. A review published in 2004 indicated a negative correlation between suicide rates and coffee consumption. It was suggested that the action of caffeine in the brain reduced feelings of depression.
But drinking too much is never good, 2 to 4 cups a day is the maximum. Excessive amounts of coffee can cause very unpleasant and even life-threatening adverse effects. Many of coffee’s health risks are due to its caffeine content and can therefore be avoided by drinking decaffeinated coffee.
Oily components are present in unfiltered coffee and coffee brewed using metal filters, but not in coffee brewed using paper filters. These have been associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease via elevation of LDL levels in blood.
Elderly individuals are more likely to not tolerate coffee with caffeine well. They may also react poorly to decaffeinated coffee because it can cause heartburn.
Coffee consumption can lead to iron deficiency anemia by interfering with iron absorption, especially in mothers and infants. However, excess iron is carcinogenic to the liver. Therefore, coffee consumption’s negative correlation with the development of liver cancer is visible in non-pregnant women and men.
Although some chemicals in coffee are carcinogens in rodents at very high doses, research suggests that they are not dangerous at the levels consumed by humans. Coffee may aggravate pre-existing conditions such as reflux, migraines, arrhythmias and cause sleep disturbances.
Caffeine can cause anxiety, especially in high doses and in those with pre-existing anxiety disorders. Some research suggests that a minority of moderate regular caffeine consumers experience some amount of depression, anxiety, low vigor, or fatigue when discontinuing their caffeine use. Withdrawal effects are more common in heavy caffeine users.
Caffeine alleviates headaches acutely and is used medically for this purpose, generally in combination with a painkiller such as ibuprofen. However, chronic caffeine use and withdrawal can cause headaches. Research has consistently linked caffeine withdrawal to headaches, even in those who drink coffee in moderation. Additionally, studies have suggested that those that drink four or more cups of coffee a day experience headaches more often than others, even without discontinuing their coffee consumption.

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The pluses and minuses of drinking coffee