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Coffee: Your Friend or Foe?

Posted on June 22 2023

There are a lot of new studies coming out about coffee (maybe you’ve noticed): its advantages, its health benefits, and its plethora of antioxidants. It has a romantic bevvy of devotees and just as many nay-sayers that avoid it for its acidity and effects on the nervous system. So who’s right? Is coffee a friend or foe?

Well, let’s look at some of the key science studies that have been making waves in the past five years about this little roasted coffea berry seed.

Why Coffee is A Friend

  1. The American Diabetes Association published a study that showed that High habitual coffee consumption was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and moderate consumption of both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee may lower risk of type 2 diabetes in younger and middle-aged women!  There seems to be a component in the bean itself, unassociated to its caffeine quality that performs this positive work.
  2. Other studies observed a strong inverse association between coffee consumption and a lower risk of prostate cancer. Again, the association appears to be related to non-caffeine components of coffee.
  3. Another research team found support for their hypothesis that coffee may inhibit the onset of alcoholic and nonalcoholic liver cirrhosis.
  4. Coffee drinkers had significantly decreased urinary tract isoprostane levels, suggesting a reduced oxidative stress. And coffee may have the capacity to create a greater health by empowering the body to cope with illnesses such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
  5. Particularly, Harvard Research suggests that coffee drinking is associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s Disease. And, tea drinking was associated positively with an even lower risk of Parkinson’s.
  6. Further, coffee, as a caffeinated beverage, stimulates the autonomic nervous system and thereby, increases mental alertness.

Why Coffee is a Foe

  1. Some people just don’t take kindly to caffeine.  It just so happens that regular caffeine consumption may be harmful to some hypertension-prone people. Why?  Well, it seems that caffeine blocks adenosine receptors and inhibits the absorption of phosphodiesterase in the brain. The result is that, for these people, caffeine spikes the blood pressure.
  2. Acidity.  Coffee can add more acidity to an already “acidogenic” Western diet, leading to acidosis and excess cortisol.  This can actually lead to osteoporosis!
  3. Is the French Press deadly?  The French press coffee is a trend seems to contribute higher serum cholesterol levels.  Specifically, in one study, those that drink coffee brewed by mixing coffee grounds directly in boiling water (which IS caffeinated) had significantly higher serum cholesterol levels than consumers of filtered coffee.
  4. Addictions. The Young should probably skip coffee. Why?  With so many teenagers drinking caffeinated products, the young are now starting adult life with a chemical dependency.  The ramifications are only now beginning to be explored. 
  5. Caffeine and alcohol don’t mix.  Scientific American publish a report that both alcohol and caffeine affect the brain’s dopamine production (a neurotransmitter that causes feelings of happiness and wellbeing). Because caffeine can temporarily mask the effects of alcohol, drinking them together can increase the intoxication power of the alcohol. The article goes on to point out that this is especially dangerous to teens.
  6. And does coffee enhance bonding?  There is evidence that because caffeine stimulates the brain’s dopamine centers and attachment pleasure centers means that what you engage in while drinking caffeinated beverages you become bonded to. That includes stress, poor relationships, bad working environments . . . you get the idea.

Summing it Up: Positives are About the Coffee Bean, the Negatives are About the Caffeine.

Most studies on coffee are short and specific. They have not yet explored long-term consumption. However, physician John Douillard expresses his opinion, that caffeine, and thus caffeinated coffee, is a drug or medicine. It boosts dopamine and drives degenerative hormones like cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), and norepinephrine, and inhibits calming GABA. He goes on to explain that while these changes may help in emergencies or when certain specific boosts are desired, the long-term affect on your nervous system is likely undesirable.

So, what do you do if you LIKE the caffeine?  Try slowing the delivery of caffeine into the bloodstream.

Maybe Bulletproof is on to something: try adding coconut oil, ghee, or butter, Dr. Douillard concurs: ‘ghee has been used for thousands of years to slow the absorption of herbs — in a sense, to naturally time-release them. Adding fats to meals has long been an Ayurvedic strategy to blunt nutrient surges with sugar, caffeine, and herbs.’

So, the conclusion is clear: coffee — especially decaffeinated — seems to have several positive benefits. These benefits are also in its caffeinated brother.  However, caffeine can be harmful; so, if you want to drink ‘regular’ coffee, do so with food — particularly fats.