So then, so then……is coffee good for you? These guys at the BBC, along with these chaps, the fellas over here and the dudes in this article think so. But then the BBC also think it’s bad for you, as well as the researchers here and the white coats in Athens. Karen is not sure.
There has been more debate on this than I know what to do with, so I will try and keep this concise. Brevity has not always been my strong point (been living with a girl for too long), but I will try my hardest to keep this quick and to the point!
Is Coffee Good for You?
If you do a google search on is coffee good for you you will see that the search results are dominated by articles with the message ‘Good News! Coffee is Good For You After All!’.
So there must be something in it, right? Indeed, the highly respected webmd.com kick off their coffee article with:
Want a drug that could lower your risk of diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and colon cancer? That could lift your mood and treat headaches? That could lower your risk of cavities?
If it sounds too good to be true, think again.
And they even boast:
the more you drink, the better.
Hmmmm…..I’m guessing you can sense my skeptical tone, but I am putting all preconceptions aside for the time being.
So what health benefits does drinking a cup of the hot, brown stuff bring? Let’s take a look:
- Reduced Risk of Diabetes: Harvard researchers analysed data on 126,000 people over approx. 18 years and found that drinking 5-6 cups of caffeinated coffee a day men slashed their diabetes (type 2) risk by 54% and women by 30%.
- Heart Disease: the Scottish Heart Health Study looked at 11,000 men and women aged 40-59 and found that the higher the consumption of coffee the lower the chance of death from heart disease.
- Parkinson’s: Men who drank four to five cups per day of caffeinated coffee cut the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease nearly in half compared to men in a recent study who consumed little or no caffeine daily.
- Liver Cancer: Manami Inoue, Itsuro Yoshimi, Tomotaka Sobue, Shoichiro Tsugane, researchers from the JPHC Study Group published research in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that showed that ‘habitual coffee drinking may be associated with reduced risk of hepatocellular carcinoma’ (liver cancer).
- as well as the other general benefits of the antioxidants contained in coffee.
But I Thought Coffee Was Bad For You?
The very fact that there are so many articles saying ‘hey coffee is good for you after all’ would suggest that historically it has been accepted that it is not really so good for you. We all know that coffee is addictive, causes exhaustion, increases blood pressure and vulnerability to heart attacks, arthritis, induces stress, plays with our hormones, and is associated with a list of other ailments – but don’t the positives outweigh the negatives? After all – wouldn’t it be a good thing to be addicted to something that has all of those benefits?
After reading all of this, I turned to our in-house, Energise Food Scientist – Giles – for his opinion on the matter:
…it would seem that coffee giveth with one hand and taketh with the other.
Not knowing about the health benefits in full it would be difficult for me to comment. However, all coffee is roasted and this roasting process changes the very chemical nature of the coffee bean. It undergoes a chemical reaction known as the Maillard reaction whereby proteins and sugars react to make the bean go brown. The same thing is what makes your roast butternut squash go brown (I was going to say roast beef, but then I remembered).
Itâ€™s this reaction I did my dissertation in. Basically the sugars break down and combine with proteins which in turn break down and combine with the other breakdown components around. Coffee is roasted to such a degree that there have been so many chemical reactions that the most noxious of all Maillard chemicals are present, these include aldehydes and alkaloids. Both of which have certain carcinogenic qualities (nice).
The above reactions are in turn complicated by the reaction between the breakdown components and the coffee beansâ€™ very own aromatic oils. And so it goes on. Welcome to food science, itâ€™s fascinating and never ending.
From what I have read there is a lot more science fact going against the coffee bean than fighting for it.
So, is there a conclusion? Not quite…
So let’s look at the facts so far.
- Approximately 54% of Americans drink coffee daily (an average American drinks over 3 cups a day apparently)
- With a market this big, it obviously makes a good news story to tell us about the benefits of coffee rather than the risks
- Coffee contains antioxidants
- Antioxidants have health benefits
- Coffee also contains caffeine
- Caffeiene is not so good for us
- Coffee is often drunk with dairy (bad for us) and sugar (bad for us)
But to me, this begs the question:
– what else contains the antioxidants that are found in coffee beans?
WHY HASN’T THIS BEEN ASKED BEFORE?
It seems obvious to me, but hey, I guess I am neither a coffee addict trying to justify my 3-cup-a-day habit, or a newspaper/magazine trying to make my readers feel better about themselves.
So here is the conclusion – antioxidants are good for you!
Two facts are indisputable.
1. Coffee contains antioxidants
2. Antioxidants are good for you
But there is a third fact that is essential to my conclusion:
3. There are hundreds of much more healthy sources of antioxidants than coffee.
This final point almost makes the whole ‘is coffee good for me’ debate void. There are known and scientifically proven harmful effects from drinking coffee – so why not go elsewhere for your antioxidants.
Other Sources of Antioxidants
- Beta-carotene: carrots, spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli & fruits such as mango, melon and apricots
- Lutein, Zeaxanthin: kale, collards, spinach, corn, citrus
- Lycopene: tomatoes, watermelon
- Anthocyanidins: berries, cherries & red grapes
- Flavanols: apples, grapes, broccoli, green tea, onions, berries
- Flavanones: citrus fruit
- Proanthocyanidins: apples, strawberries, grapes, cinnamon, broccoli
- Sulforaphane: cauliflower, broccoli, broccoli sprouts, cabbage, kale, horseradish
- Caffeic acid, Ferulic acid: apples, pears, citrus fruits, some vegetables
Sulfides: garlic, onions, leeks, scallions, cruciferous vegetablesâ€”broccoli, cabbage, bok choy, collards
So doesn’t this mean the debate is useless? Isn’t it like saying eating a Big Mac is good for you because of the nutrients in the lettuce?
I know where I would rather get my antioxidants from.