Before designer coffee and baristas and the explosion of cold brews that are popping up like daisies – there was just coffee. Fun fact: the first instant coffee was created in the US in the early 1850s. Clearly, coffee has come a long way.
It’s a lifestyle imbued by very few daily consumables. There are blogs and magazines devoted to coffee culture. The National Coffee Association (yes, there is such a thing) performed a study in 2020 finding that 64% of Americans are robust coffee drinkers.
Coffee comes from beans in a “cherry” on trees, and they are harvested when those cherries turn a rich shade of merlot, and the most fertile area of coffee growing is the “bean belt” spanning tropical and sub-tropical regions, with primary types being robusta and arabica. They are processed and roasted for flavor.
Why Do We Crave Coffee?
There are people we all know who cannot be spoken to until after their morning coffee, which clears away the night-webs – and this is exactly why the morning coffee ritual is so important to the millions of coffee drinkers. It hastens the full-body-and-mind wakeup. And for many, it helps “move things along” (bowel evacuation), which also helps clear the mind and add the spring in the morning step. In fact, the caffeine in coffee is fully absorbed by the stomach and small intestine within an hour after that last sip.
Coffee beans, though small, are packed with power. To get technical here, according to food scientists, coffee contains more than 800 volatile compounds, notably caffeine and chlorogenic acids, the latter which are hepatoprotective (supports the liver). Caffeine in coffee “appears to exert most of its effects through an antagonism of the adenosine receptors,” which play a part in energy production.
Before we go further, we all know that “one day coffee (and eggs and butter) is good for you and another day it isn’t,” a research summary declares, “For adults consuming moderate amounts of coffee (3–4 cups/d providing 300–400 mg/d of caffeine), there is little evidence of health risks and some evidence of health benefits. Most prospective cohort studies have not found coffee consumption to be associated with a significantly increased cardiovascular disease risk.”
A recently published review of scientific literature happily explained, “In recent years, numerous meta-analyses have come up with positive health outcomes associated with habitual coffee consumption in the general population, and this has changed the perception of coffee from that of a luxury stimulant drink to that of a health promoting beverage, if consumed within usual levels of intake.”
According to one source, research has shown that not only can consuming morning coffee help keep your heart well, it can lower risk of diabetes type 2, reduce risk of liver disease, help burn fat, and also provide antioxidant benefits.
And, when someone says that coffee may not be good for health, authors of a recent study exploring the health impacts of caffeine write, “beneficial effects of coffee probably employ the same pathway as recently suggested for ‘healthy’ vegetables or fruits, i.e., the induction of a health promoting adaptive response of cells in the body. Additionally, non-digestible components of coffee may modulate the composition and function of the microbiota, as is known for other plant foods.”
In short, strongly suggest the scientists, coffee is as healthy as produce. And there are meta-analyses and other strong studies showing how coffee drinking is beneficial to humans – beyond the simple but-oh-so-good morning refresh (this is a high-traffic area of research, show we’re presenting just some).
It used to be believed that drinking coffee was bad for the heart because of the caffeine, which as we know amps us up to a degree. However, a 2014 meta-analysis (study of studies) showed that drinking between 3 to 5 cups of coffee each day was associated with a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD). And if you drink six cups (or more) you’re safe too.
Yet another significant review of studies also demonstrated that those who love to drink a lot of coffee per day were also safe from developing cardiovascular disease and dying from it.
One study showed that caffeine helps the heart by a specific mechanism of action. In the study, a caffeine equivalent to four cups o coffee showed an enhanced movement of a regulatory protein (p27) into the cell’s mitochondria which increases functionality to better protect cardiovascular cells from damage.
Blood Sugar Health
A significant systematic review and meta-analysis based on nearly 1.1 million individuals, 45 335 of whom had type 2 diabetes has shown a clear inverse correlation between coffee consumption and the risk of diabetes. Compared with no coffee consumption, even up to six cups per day of coffee was associated with a 33% lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Another meta-analysis of 41 836 postmenopausal women who were followed for 15 years showed that high coffee consumption is inversely correlated to the severity of inflammatory diseases.
Interestingly, in research, a naturally occurring chemical in coffee – cafestol – has been shown to increase glucose-stimulated insulin secretion. This information was the basis of a murine study that showed after 10 weeks of consumption, cafestol increased insulin secretion over placebo.
More good news if you are a post-menopausal woman (or who loves one) – women who had about one more cup of coffee per day over four years had an 11% reduced risk of type 2 diabetes compared with those women who did not add that one cup per day. Further and conversely, women who decreased their coffee consumption by one cup a day or more had an increased risk (17%) for type 2 diabetes development. The researchers concluded that in women, “increasing coffee consumption over a 4-year period is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, while decreasing coffee consumption is associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes in subsequent years.”
There are many more studies about how coffee supports human health, and we will explore those in time. But you may be wondering still – why does drinking coffee encourage a bowel movement? Well, a study presented at the annual Digestive Diseases Week in 2019 may have the answer: the murine study showed that it may be the combination of caffeine with your gut bacteria that increases the motility of the gut – meaning, moving things along.
So you can enjoy your coffee with no fear of health harm. And it’s truly like so many other things in life: it’s all in the moderation.