Is cof­fee ac­tu­ally good for you?

The Borneo Post - Nature and health - - Front Page -

AT JUST just a cou­ple of calo­ries a cup, good old black cof­fee packs quite a punch. It wakes you up, boosts your meta­bolic rate and de­creases the risk of some dis­eases. Not that ha­bit­ual cof­fee drinkers need con­vinc­ing, but ev­i­dence of its health ben­e­fits stacks up quickly:

- It gives you en­ergy and may help you lose weight and sharpen your men­tal fo­cus, thanks to the magic of caf­feine. Stud­ies have shown that caf­feine may im­prove your mood, help your brain work bet­ter and im­prove per­for­mance dur­ing ex­er­cise.

- A reg­u­lar java habit is as­so­ci­ated with a lower risk of Type 2 di­a­betes and Parkin­son’s dis­ease. Ad­di­tion­ally, in one study, caf­feine was linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s dis­ease.

- Cof­fee is an ex­cel­lent source of an­tiox­i­dants, which may help pro­tect cells from dam­age.

- Higher con­sump­tion of cof­fee – caf­feinated and de­caf alike – was as­so­ci­ated with a lower risk of to­tal mor­tal­ity, in­clud­ing deaths at­trib­uted to heart dis­ease, ner­vous sys­tem dis­eases and sui­cide. More specif­i­cally, ha­bit­ual cof­fee drink­ing has been linked to a lower risk of coro­nary heart dis­ease in women. For health-con­scious cof­fee lovers then, the most im­por­tant ques­tion isn’t, “Is it good for you?” but rather, “How do you take it?” If you dress your cof­fee up too much with cream and sugar, you risk negat­ing the health ben­e­fits. “We know that sugar has ad­verse ef­fects,” said Penny Kris-Ether­ton, a nutrition pro­fes­sor at Penn State Univer­sity. “Even if you add sugar and don’t ex­ceed your calo­rie needs, you’re still negat­ing some of the ben­e­fits be­cause sugar is a neg­a­tive food in­gre­di­ent.” That warn­ing goes dou­ble for even fancier cof­fee drinks. The fed­eral di­etary guide­lines say three to five cups of cof­fee per day can be part of a healthy diet, but that only refers to plain black cof­fee. “They’re not talk­ing about th­ese large Frap­puc­ci­nos that have at least 800 calo­ries a bev­er­age,” Kris-Ether­ton said. “Very quickly, calo­ries can add up, and weight gain will cre­ate neg­a­tive ef­fects on car­diac risk.” De­spite its ben­e­fits, caf­feine also can be dan­ger­ous if con­sumed in ex­cess. “We all know how im­por­tant sleep is,” Kris-Ether­ton said. “You don’t want to dis­rupt nor­mal sleep habits and good sleep be­cause you’ve had too much caf­feine, so if you want to in­clude cof­fee in your diet, be sure to think about tim­ing.” Anyone who’s had one cup too many knows that heart-flut­ter­ing feel­ing that comes next; for some peo­ple, those jit­ters may be a warn­ing sign. “Some peo­ple are slow metabolis­ers of caf­feine,” Kris-Ether­ton said. “It’s a ge­netic predisposition. Some peo­ple can ex­pe­ri­ence jit­ters, pal­pi­ta­tion, in­som­nia sort of like those en­ergy drinks that give you a big boost.” Caf­feine also is ad­dic­tive, and cut­ting back too quickly can cause with­drawal symp­toms, es­pe­cially ter­ri­bly harsh headaches. “Those mi­graines are pretty bad,” she said. “If you are drink­ing a lot and then go cold turkey, the ef­fects will be greater than if you have less caf­feine and ta­per off.” It’s worth not­ing that kids shouldn’t drink cof­fee, Kris-Ether­ton said. The Amer­i­can Academy of Pae­di­atrics rec­om­mends that, in gen­eral, kids avoid caf­feinecon­tain­ing bev­er­ages. Kris-Ether­ton also cau­tioned that brew­ing meth­ods can af­fect car­dio­vas­cu­lar risk. For ex­am­ple, she said, pa­per fil­ters re­move a com­pound called cafestol that in­creases LDL choles­terol (the harm­ful type), so un­fil­tered cof­fee could pose a higher health risk. “Most peo­ple drink fil­tered cof­fee,” she said. “But you know, French presses are so pop­u­lar too, and that may not be good for you, es­pe­cially if you drink a lot of cof­fee.”

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