Thursday, March 12, 2015

Is It OK To Drink Coffee?

Many consider coffee drinking an unhealthy habit. However, for the vast majority of people, drinking coffee is not associated with negative health outcomes and may actually reduce the risk of chronic disease.

Although by far the biggest ingredient in coffee is water, it also contains an abundance of antioxidants, flavonoids, and other biologically active substances. These compounds can have a powerful impact on our health. In the large cohort studies at Harvard University, coffee drinking has been associated with a lower risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, and even Parkinson’s disease. 

So, while coffee drinking is fine, here are a few points to consider:

1) It appears that up to 6 cups per day have no negative impact on health (Reference 1). Keep in mind that a cup is 8 ounces, so if you are having a large, or extra large, you are really having 3 or 4 cups.

2) Adding cream and sugar can turn a healthy drink into a decidedly unhealthy drink. The additional calories, saturated fat, and sugar can add up quickly and negatively impact both your weight and your health. This is especially true if you are having multiple cups per day. Stick to skim or 1% milk and avoid sweeteners.

3) Coffee contains a fair amount of caffeine. In small amounts, this is not a problem for most of us. However, for certain populations, like pregnant women and those with hypertension, decaf is probably a better choice. If you have any health issues at all, check with your doctor about your recommended caffeine intake.

4) If possible, use a paper filter when brewing your coffee. There is evidence that a compound found in coffee, called cafestol, may increase LDL cholesterol. Using a paper filter greatly reduces the amount of cafestol in your coffee (Reference 2).

References
1) Lopez-Garcia et al. Relationship of coffee consumption with mortality. Annals of Internal Medicine 2008; 148:904-14.

2) Urgent R, et al. Separate effects of the coffee diterpenes cafestrol and kahweol on serum lipids and liver aminotransferases. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1997; 65:519-24.

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