To Coffee or Not to Coffee?

To Coffee or Not to Coffee? To Coffee or Not to Coffee? That is the question. In the past few weeks, I have had several clients, friends and even my tennis instructor approach me and ask “so what is so wrong with coffee?” Experts have been arguing about the benefits and health consequences of coffee for decades, and the question of whether to drink or not to drink coffee is even one that many knowledgeable experts disagree upon!

Whether to drink coffee or not has been a question that I have been personally grappling with! I am embarrassed to admit it, but I have been certifiably “addicted” to my one cup of coffee in the morning, and without it I have been beyond cranky all day! My husband, on the other hand, gave up coffee and finds that he sleeps better and has much greater energy throughout his day. I understand the idea that you should not have to need anything to wake up and have been able to successfully give up coffee for periods at a time. At the end of the day, however, I find that having one cup in the morning works for me. And, I have gotten to the place where, while I do like to have one, I do not have to have one and that is very liberating!

Coffee is America’s most popular beverage. Drinking moderate amounts* of coffee has the ability to increase our energy, enhance our mood and sense of well-being, improve our memory and ability to perform complex tasks, and maximize our physical performance. Drinking coffee has also been said to lower the risk of Parkinson’s disease by 30%.

Even some top runners and other athletes use coffee to enhance their performance before races with no detrimental side affects. Not only has coffee been shown to improve mental clarity and energy but it also may enhance endurance in aerobic activity by reducing blood flow to the heart and encouraging fat burning instead of the usage of the glycogen. When we use our glycogen reserves instead of burning fat, we “hit the wall.” Because so many athletes used it to enhance performance, it was even banned in high doses by the International Olympic Committee until 2004!

So, with all of these benefits, why not drink cup after cup of coffee? On the downside, coffee has been linked to sleep problems, headaches, digestive problems, ulcers, fatigue, anxiety, mood swings and depression. Coffee has also been linked to dehydration, the interference of iron and calcium absorption, and an increased risk for heart disease and high blood pressure-points we will discuss in greater detail later. Drinking coffee can also raise our stress hormone levels and tax our adrenals. Are we drugging ourselves to enhance our mental performance and what we can accomplish during our day?

There are several areas where researchers sorely disagree. One such point of contention is the link of diabetes to coffee consumption. A new study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that drinking coffee before breakfast can increase your risk of Type-2 diabetes. Researchers have postulated that caffeine makes our bodies insulin resistant, which leads to spikes in our blood sugar levels. Other studies have shown that if you drink 4-6 cups of coffee per day you will lower your risk of Type-2 diabetes by 28% due to the antioxidants and chlorogenic acid in coffee. Clearly this is contradictory information.

Another point of contention is the claim that coffee is a diuretic and that drinking coffee will cause us to be dehydrated. While studies have shown that drinking coffee or any caffeinated beverage in excess of 575 mg (approximately 5 ¾ cups of brewed or more than a Starbucks Vente) will cause us to lose fluids in our body, amounts up to this show no diuretic effect. Most of us, hopefully, don’t drink that much!

Coffee has also been believed to be linked with heart disease so some patients with high blood pressure are told to avoid it. While large amounts of coffee may be detrimental, multiple studies show no connection and even in an Iowa Women’s Health Study those who drank three cups a day reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by 24%.

While caffeine does induce a small but temporary rise in blood pressure, a study of nurses and one study at John Hopkins both found that drinking coffee played little or no role in the development of hypertension.

Lastly, coffee has been linked to osteoporosis. While some studies have linked caffeinated beverages to bone loss and fractures due to the reduction of calcium absorption, there has been no link to calcium secretion and some have suggested that coffee and tea drinkers may intake less calcium rich products.

My overall feeling is that, if we drink coffee in moderation and just have one or two cups a day (preferably in the morning), then we should have no problem. Where problems start to exist is when we begin drinking cup after cup of coffee to do more and more throughout our day and tax our adrenals. When we lose sleep, we lose the primary way our body rests and heals, and this compromises our absorption of iron and calcium and other vital minerals as well as overall bodily function.

Coffee affects us all differently and we must each make choices that affect our lives in a positive way. If you have to drink a cup of coffee to get through your day then perhaps you should reevaluate your lifestyle and cut back on what you are doing. Have problem sleeping or feeling jittery? Then you should cut back on your coffee. Have just one cup in the morning and feel perfectly rested and happy? Then, continue doing what you are doing. The bottom line is that, instead of drinking a huge Vente at Starbucks or cup after cup of coffee, it is time to Be In Balance and make choices that allow us to rest and recharge our batteries and take care of ourselves.

* moderate amounts defined as 200 mg of caffeine, which is equivalent to 2 cups of brewed coffee or ¾ of a Starbucks grande.

1 Comment

  • clarence
    July 30th, 2014 at 4:59 am



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