Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

"Let us speak courteously, deal fairly, and keep ourselves armed and ready." - Theodore Roosevelt, 1903

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Benefits of Coffee

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Believe it or not, medical researchers agree that coffee is actually very healthy for us.

While most know coffee can increase anxiety and disrupt sleep patterns, and make some folks jittery, coffee is loaded with antioxidants and beneficial nutrients that can improve your health. In fact, studies show coffee drinkers have a much lower risk of several serious diseases.

And yes, the evidence-based health benefits of coffee have been confirmed in actual human studies should not be understated.

Back in the early 1980s when I decided to get my degree in the Administration of Justice, one of my teachers told me that having a couple of cups of coffee was good for us -- especially before taking tests because it improved energy levels and actually helped to stimulate one's memory.

Now, 30 years later, studies say he was right, as coffee has been been found to improve energy levels and make one smarter. This is because caffeine is a stimulant which actually is the most commonly consumed psychoactive substance in the world.

After you drink coffee, the caffeine is absorbed into the bloodstream. From there, it travels into the brain. In the brain, caffeine blocks an inhibitory neurotransmitter called Adenosine. When that happens, the amount of other neurotransmitters like nor-epinephrine and dopamine actually increases, leading to enhanced firing of neurons.

Many controlled trials in humans show that coffee improves various aspects of brain function. This includes memory, mood, vigilance, energy levels, reaction times and general cognitive function.

Studies prove caffeine blocks an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, which leads to a stimulant effect -- which improves energy levels, mood and various aspects of brain function.

Caffeine the Fat Burner

Caffeine can increase adrenaline levels and release fatty acids from the fat tissues. It also leads to significant improvements in physical performance. Besides, memory and energy, coffee can help burn fat. 
In fact caffeine is found in almost every commercial fat burning supplement. And yes, there’s a good reason for that because caffeine is one of the few natural substances that have actually been proven to aid fat burning. 
Several studies show that caffeine can boost the metabolic rate by 3-11%. Other studies show that caffeine can specifically increase the burning of fat, by as much as 10% in obese individuals and 29% in lean people. However, it is possible that these effects will diminish in long-term coffee drinkers.
Several studies show that caffeine can increase fat burning in the body and boost the metabolic rate. Caffeine can also drastically improve physical performance.Caffeine stimulates the nervous system, causing it to send signals to the fat cells to break down body fat. But caffeine also increases Epinephrine (Adrenaline) levels in the blood. This hormone is designed to make our bodies ready for intense physical exertion.

Caffeine makes the fat cells break down body fat, releasing them into the blood as free fatty acids and making them available as fuel. Given these effects, it is not surprising to see that caffeine can improve physical performance by 11-12%, on average. Because of this, it makes sense to have a strong cup of coffee about a half an hour before you head to the gym.

Coffee has essential nutrients

A single cup of coffee contains: Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5), Manganese, Potassium, Magnesium and Niacin (B3). Although this may not seem like a big deal, most people are drinking more than one cup per day. If you drink 3-4, these amounts quickly add up.

Coffee may also lower your risk of Type II Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a gigantic health problem, currently afflicting about 300 million people worldwide. It is characterized by elevated blood sugars in the context of insulin resistance or an inability to secrete insulin.

For some reason, coffee drinkers have a significantly reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The studies show that people who drink the most coffee have a 23-50% lower risk of getting this disease, one study showing a reduction as high as 67%.

According to a massive review that looked at data from 18 studies with a total of 457,922 individuals, each daily cup of coffee was associated with a 7% reduced risk of developing Type II Diabetes.

Coffee may protect you from Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common neurodegenerative disease and the leading cause of dementia worldwide. This disease usually affects people over 65 years of age. Unfortunately, there is no known cure for Alzheimer’s. However, there are several things you can do to prevent the disease from showing up in the first place.

This includes the usual suspects like eating healthy and exercising, but drinking coffee may be incredibly effective as well. Several studies show that coffee drinkers have up to a 65% lower risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease.
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Caffeine may lower the risk of Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease, right after Alzheimer’s. It is caused by death of dopamine-generating neurons in the brain.

Same as with Alzheimer’s, there is no known cure, which makes it that much more important to focus on prevention. But, in studies, coffee drinkers have a much lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease, with a reduction in risk ranging from 32-60%.

In this case, it appears to be the caffeine itself that is causing the effect. People who drink decaf don’t have a lower risk of Parkinson’s.

Coffee appears to have protective effects on the liver

The liver is an amazing organ that carries out hundreds of important functions in the body. Several common diseases primarily affect the liver, including hepatitis, fatty liver disease and others.

Many of these diseases can lead to a condition called cirrhosis, in which the liver has been largely replaced by scar tissue. It turns out that coffee may protect against cirrhosis. People who drink 4 or more cups per day have up to an 80% lower risk.

Coffee can fight Depression and make you happier

Depression is a serious mental disorder that causes a significantly reduced quality of life. It is incredibly common and about 4.1% of people in the U.S. currently meet the criteria for clinical depression.

In a Harvard study published in 2011, women who drank 4 or more cups per day had a 20% lower risk of becoming depressed. Another study with 208,424 individuals found that those who drank 4 or more cups per day were 53% less likely to commit suicide.

Coffee drinkers have a lower risk of some types of cancers.

Cancer is one of the world’s leading causes of death and is characterized by uncontrolled growth of cells in the body. Coffee appears to be protective against two types of cancer: liver cancer and colorectal cancer.

Liver cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in the world, while colorectal cancer ranks fourth.
Studies show that coffee drinkers have up to a 40% lower risk of liver cancer. One study of 489,706 individuals found that those who drank 4-5 cups of coffee per day had a 15% lower risk of colorectal cancer..

Coffee does not cause heart disease and may lower the risk of stroke.

It is often claimed that caffeine can increase blood pressure. This is true, but the effect is small (3-4 mm/Hg) and usually goes away if you drink coffee regularly. However, the effect may persist in some people, so keep that in mind if you have elevated blood pressure.

That being said, the studies do NOT support the myth that coffee raises the risk of heart disease. In fact, there is some evidence that women who drink coffee have a reduced risk of heart disease. Some studies also show that coffee drinkers have a 20% lower risk of stroke.

Coffee may help you live longer

Given that coffee drinkers are less likely to get many diseases, it makes sense that coffee could help you live longer. There are actually several observational studies showing that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of death.

In two very large studies, drinking coffee was associated with a 20% lower risk of death in men and a 26% lower risk of death in women, over a period of 18-24 years. This effect appears to be particularly strong in type II diabetics. In one study, diabetics who drank coffee had a 30% lower risk of death during a 20 year study period

Coffee may help against MS (Multiple Sclerosis) 

A recent study shows that consuming multiple cups of coffee a day may reduce an individual’s risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS). This was found by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“Coffee/caffeine intake seems to be protective against Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, leading to a question of whether it might also be important for MS, another central nervous system disorder,” study author Dr. Ellen Mowry, an assistant professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

The research was presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 67th annual meeting in Washington, DC in February 2015.

According to The National MS Society, MS is a disease of the nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and body. The symptoms of MS are unpredictable and vary among patients, but many suffer from fatigue, numbness or tingling, vision, bowel, and bladder problems, walking difficulties and pain. The organization estimates that MS affects over 2.3 million people worldwide.

Researchers compared data from two studies, one Swedish study of 1,629 people with MS and 2,807 healthy people, and a U.S. study of 1,159 people with MS and 1,172 healthy people. The studies characterized coffee consumption among persons with MS years before MS symptoms began and compared it to coffee consumption of people who did not have MS at similar time periods.

The studies found that individuals who did not drink coffee were one and a half times more likely to develop the disease than individuals who consumed four cups of coffee per day in the United States and six cups of coffee per day in Sweden. The U.S. study focused specifically on caffeinated beverages while the Swedish research asked about coffee intake.

Mowry noted that more research is needed to definitely confirm that coffee is truly protective, as the results could be false associations— perhaps people who drink more coffee have behavioral differences such as eating more healthy foods that explain the cause, she said.

“That being said, if the results are true, there are many compounds in coffee, so it's not clear which compound might be the cause. Caffeine is an attractive candidate and can impact the immune system, so perhaps it helps to combat the autoimmune process in some way,” she said.

However, for people who already have MS, the study evidence does not suggest consuming coffee, researchers added.

“Caffeine can irritate the bladder, increasing problems with urination that some people with MS already experience,” Mowry said.

As for whether individuals should drink more coffee as a preventative measure against MS, researchers advise against it, Mowry said, “The results don't provide evidence that people should increase their consumption of coffee. More research is needed in this regard."

And yes, this is all good news for us coffee drinkers!

Tom Correa

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