Saturday, July 26, 2014
Photo credit: Jenny
COFFEE TIME! One of the most important parts of a busy workday. There are thousands of studies published regarding the health benefits/risks of the consumption of the popular beverage. As both a scientist and consumer, it always boggled my mind why many people regard coffee as inherently unhealthy. Sure, if you load your coffee with lots of cream and sugar, then it obviously won’t be as healthy; the same can be said if you were to add lots of cream and sugar to a carrot. Although it’s not for everyone (such as those with anxiety or insomnia), coffee has a variety of incredible health benefits and is virtually calorie-free.
I once had a discussion with a colleague who was convinced that coffee was fattening; her argument was that caffeinated drinks are fattening and used cola as an example. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Sure, excess sugar can lead to weight gain, but caffeine is a chemical that has actually been shown to help reduce weight gain. Coffee is only fattening if you supplement it with fattening additives.
According to the USDA nutrient database, six ounces of brewed coffee contains 2 calories, 0.2 g protein, and virtually no fat (0.04 g). Plain coffee will not make you fat.
Antioxidants and neuroprotective effects
Green tea seems to be known as being rich in antioxidants, but many forget that coffee is too (black tea is also). A growing abundance of studies supports the notion that coffee may help prevent the onset of neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Research initially pointed to caffeine as the potential component responsible for these effects.
However, a study published in 2014 discovered that a component in coffee called eicosanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamide provided protection from Alzheimer’s disease in rats. Dietary consumption of this compound for 6-12 months significantly alleviated the defects associated with their rat model for the disease. This discovery may answer (at least partly) the link between coffee drinking and the decreased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Additionally, studies show that one of the major compounds, chlorogenic acid (which is both an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound), can be protective against the activation of pro-inflammatory factors which can lead to neurodegenerative disorders. Another study demonstrated that antioxidants in coffee (particularly 5-O-caffeoylquinic acid) possessed neuroprotective properties and that medium-roasting allows the greatest effects.
Studies overwhelmingly support the notion that long-term coffee consumption can help decrease the risk of type-2 diabetes by affecting the risk factors associated with its pathology including glucose tolerance, glucose absorption and metabolism, inflammatory biomarkers, insulin secretion, and others. Recent studies continue to support these claims including a study published in June 2014 which showed that coffee consumption impaired weight gain while improving glucose tolerance in a mouse model of type-2 diabetes. However, additional studies are required to determine if coffee should be suggested as a supplement to patients who already have type-2 diabetes.
Coffee and cancer could be its own post since there is so much that can be discussed. For this post, it will be kept brief.
Basal cell carcinoma
A recent study found an inverse association between caffeinated coffee and tea consumption and risk of basal cell carcinoma. The study was relatively small scale (767 Caucasians under the age of 40), but the results suggest that coffee and hot tea consumption can reduce the risk of basal cell carcinoma up to 43%.
Several large scale studies have shown a link between coffee consumption and decreased risk of colon cancer. It is proposed that this is due coffee’s ability to help keep your bowel movements regular. However, a recent large scale study analyzed over 58,000 individuals in Japan and found that coffee consumption was associated with an increase of colon cancer risk but only in Japanese men.
Although caffeine has been shown to have short-term effects on heart rate and blood pressure, a study was recently published declaring that chlorogenic acid consumption may help decrease blood pressure. Therefore, coffee consumption may decrease the risk of developing hypertension.
Risk of bone fracture
A study in Sweden found no association between risk of fracture and consuming coffee daily (even more than 4 cups per day), indicating that drinking coffee may not necessarily increase your risk of bone fracture.
Risk of death
Contrary to some other studies, scientists recently published a study which found no increased risk of death (whether cardiovascular related or not) in response to coffee consumption, even as high as 6 cups per day or higher.
Numerous studies show the antimicrobial effects of coffee specifically for killing oral bacteria and preventing biofilm production. Coffee may stain your teeth, but recent studies suggest it may help prevent cavities by killing the biofilm-causing bacteria in your mouth. 
So the next time your boss gets on your case for taking too many coffee breaks, just tell him/her you are prudently saving yourself from a variety of dangerous diseases.
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