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Health, Nutrition, Science

Coffee – Drink Up! The virtues of coffee drinking…

Coffee is that strong smelling and bitter drink that people love or hate.

Conference Time...Personally, I love it. Last year, I visited the UK’s first coffee festival and had so much fun that I’m looking forward to doing it again this summer.

But next time I think I will curb my consumption: Over 20 espressos was probably over-doing it a bit! This major caffeine indulgence left me feeling slightly worse for weather – but could this opinion-polarising beverage actually have any health benefits? Today’s blog tells you more, and there’s plenty in here to satisfy a coffee-lover and a coffee-hater…

Coffee drinkers are getting more sophisticated

Stats show that many of us just can’t get enough of the pungent brown stuff in recent years – and despite a global economic downturn, sales continue to soar.

This growth has undoubtedly been stimulated (get it?) by the likes of the the US sitcoms ‘Friends’, ‘Frasier’ and ‘Seinfeld’ – with their likable 20 and 30-somethings whiling away the afternoon in a trendy coffee bar.

In the UK, people are getting a bit more sophisticated in their tastes. Increasingly, Brits are opting for the higher quality ground coffees over the freeze-dried instant preparations (good job too, freeze-fried coffee is nasty)! in 2009, sales of ‘posh coffee’ leapt 17% to an impressive £149 million and growth looks set to continue in this way.

And Coffee can be Good for you! (just don’t overdo it like me)

We all know that coffee contains caffeine – the world’s most popular recreational drug! Caffeine is called an ‘ergogenic‘ stimulant that energises and increases mental alertness. A slurp of coffee can even improve your performance down the gym or out on the track!

In the short term, coffee (and caffeine) can give you a quick fix – just make sure that you don’t go overboard: One hundred cups of brewed coffee would be enough to kill a typical adult!!

But in moderation drinking coffee may have some note-worthy health benefits:

  • Recent analysis of data suggests that coffee consumption can protect against liver and uterine cancers
  • High intakes of coffee and tea reduces your chances of getting Type-2 diabetes
  • Coffee protects the liver from alcohol excesses (liver cirrhosis) and liver cancer
  • Drinking coffee may well also delay the onset of Alzheimer’s Dementia
  • Caffeine encourages the body to break down fat and increases the body’s metabolic rate, meaning drinking coffee burns calories and could help you lose weight!

Coffee’s Darker Side: Caffeine

If you live for the morning coffee buzz, then take heed – because decaffeinated coffee seems to have the same health-boosting properties. So caffeine junkies beware – be careful, because too much can have a negative effect:

  • Caffeine acts as an irritant to the stomach lining and can worsen acid reflux (heartburn)
  • Caffeine is addictive and you get withdrawal symptoms when you stop (tiredness, headaches, irritability)
  • It can worsen some psychiatric problems (e.g. anxiety) and causes anxiety in children
  • Caffeine can trigger heart rhythm problems when in excess
  • It can disturb sleep patterns, reducing the amount you sleep and the quality of your sleep

Moderation is definitely the key…

(69/365) ARGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

Looks like someone’s clearly had too much coffee…

Related post: Britain’s Energy Drink Addicts

References:

Arab L. Epidemiologic evidence on coffee and cancer. Nutr Cancer. 2010 Apr;62(3):271-83

Paluska SA. Caffeine and exercise. Curr Sports Med Rep . 2003 Aug;2(4):213-9

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About Stuart Farrimond

I love writing about science and health subjects. Strange, because I also teach the same things. I trained as a medical doctor before turning my hand to other things. Shortlisted for The Guardian/Observer for Science Writer of the Year 2011 and editor for Guru Magazine I also like to grow large pumpkins...

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