Approximately two billion cups of coffee are consumed around the world every day. That makes it the second most valuable trading commodity after oil. Come the rainy season, the joy of that perfect cuppa is amplified. After all, what book lover doesn’t enjoy the gentle pitter-patter of raindrops on a window, a steaming cup of java firmly in hand?
The reassuring warmth of caffeine is underrated, especially after getting drenched. The peace of monsoon evenings can be made even better with good music and a well-brewed mug of coffee. Ahhh… the simple joys of life!
But sometimes, health can get in the way of fun. Various scientific studies, as well as wide-ranging myths and rumours surrounding coffee make us weigh each cup, forcing it to become a guilty pleasure for some. But is the dark beverage really all that dark?
Coffee is a complex beverage with several compounds. Its benefits are still an area of active research, but it has been suggested that the effects of coffee are different from other products that contain similar amounts of caffeine. In short, coffee compounds can actually negate some of the effects of caffeine.
Research has shown that drinking two to three cups of decaffeinated coffee everyday can significantly cut down the chances of suffering a stroke. A study carried out by researchers in Sweden found that coffee significantly reduces the likelihood of a clot forming in the brain – two cups by 14% and three to four cups by 17%. It isn’t directly proportionate, so six or more cups of the beverage only cut the likelihood down by 7%. So it’s best not to go overboard.
There’s some good news for coffee buffs. The latest Harvard study on coffee did not find any correlation between coffee consumption and an increased risk of death from any cause – be it cancer or cardiovascular disease. The research looked at the connection between coffee consumption and overall mortality, and included around 130,000 study volunteers. Researchers followed these volunteers for 18 to 24 years to see who died during that period, tracking their diets and lifestyle habits, including coffee consumption. No relationship was found between coffee consumption and death, so you can have that cuppa without any guilt – for now.
There is a lot of talk about coffee consumption leading to miscarriages. While this has yet to be confirmed, it has been proven that caffeine passes through the placenta and reaches the foetus. Developing babies are very sensitive to caffeine and cannot metabolise it fast enough. So it’s best for mums-to-be to cut down on this beverage.
It’s been observed that when people start drinking coffee, it initially leads to a substantial spike in blood pressure. The effect, however, mellows down in a week’s time. After several weeks, only a minor increase remains. This is a good remedy for people suffering from low blood pressure. If you have hypertension, you might consider switching from caffeinated to decaffeinated coffee, at least some of the time.
Cafestol, a substance found in coffee, is thought to stimulate the production of low-density lipoprotein in cholesterol; LDL is what we call ‘bad cholesterol’. One simple solution to this is to use a paper filter. Brewing coffee this way strains away the cafestol, while boiled coffee contains much higher traces. Espresso is the middle ground and contains less cafestol than boiled coffee, but more than the paper filtered variety.
Many studies support the theory that coffee drinkers have a considerably lower chance of developing mental problems like Alzheimer’s, dementia and even Parkinson’s. Researchers from universities in Florida conducted a study in which they tested the caffeine levels in the blood of older people in relation to initial symptoms of dementia. The study concluded that people with minimal or no caffeine in their blood were more likely to develop Alzheimer’s in the years to follow, while those with three cups’ worth flowing in them weren’t as likely.
“When you're sleep-deprived and consume caffeine, pretty much anything you measure will improve,” said Harris Lieberman, a research psychologist for the U.S. military, speaking to CNN in 2006. “Reaction time, vigilance, attention, logical reasoning — most of the complex functions you associate with intelligence.”
Finally, as they say, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The benefits of coffee extend beyond what research has to show. The psychological benefits of the drink are considerable. Like good conversation, coffee brings about a sense of contentment and is, therefore, good for your health. Dopamine levels, related to happiness and health, increase with coffee consumption. A good cuppa is a delight for the senses – from the aroma of the roasted beans to the wonderful, bitter flavour it possesses.
Like all things, coffee is best enjoyed in moderation. Too much can lead to a lack of sleep (or even insomnia), tremors or increased stress. Another thing to note is that a standard cup (as mentioned here) is about 250 gm, with 100 mg of coffee. Happy sipping!