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The definitive guide to coffee and health: Is it good or bad for you?

There seems to be a lot of confusion about drinking coffee: one person will tell you they can’t function without it (I fall into this category) and another will tell you giving it up has changed their lives.

This confusion isn’t just among people, the scientific community has been all over the place about coffee too.

For years doctors suggested people avoid coffee altogether – it may increase the risk of heart disease, it stunts growth, people may become addicted to the energy leading them to crave more and more as tolerance to its effects, it has damaging effects on the digestive tract. No matter what the researchers were measuring, coffee always came out behind.

Then the attitude shifted: coffee wasn’t so bad anymore. More recent studies than the aforementioned found no significant link between caffeine in coffee and heart-related issues (high cholesterol, irregular heartbeats, stroke, heart attack).

Then the attitude shifted yet again: coffee was viewed as actually being good for you. Studies show people who drink coffee have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, they have a lower risk of stroke, it’s high in antioxidants, it reduces inflammation, prevents Alzheimer’s and dementia.

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How do you make sense of all this conflicting information?

I’d like to help you out by telling you about a meta-analysis (a survey where the results of a bunch of different studies are combined and analyzed as if they were one study) about coffee consumption and health that was published in the British Medical Journal just months ago; it will give you all the answers you’ve been looking for about coffee.

Coffee consumption is associated with a lower risk of mortality from all causes of cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease is an all-encompassing term that incorporates a class of diseases that involves the heart or blood vessels – we’re talking conditions such as coronary artery diseases (angina and heart attacks), stroke, heart failure, hypertensive heart disease, rheumatic heart disease, etc.

When you consider all cardiovascular diseases as a whole, three cups of coffee (when compared to people who don’t drink any coffee at all) reduces the risk of getting diagnosed with cardiovascular disease by 19%.

Based on the data they were able to collect in this meta-analysis, they were also able to look more specifically at two particular cardiovascular diseases: coronary heart disease and stroke.

Coronary heart disease is defined as a build up of plaque inside the coronary arteries making blood flow difficult or occluding it altogether. Indulging in three cups of coffee reduces the risk of this condition by 16%.

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted or drastically reduced; this deprives the brain of oxygen and nutrients which can have detrimental effects. According the study, drinking coffee can reduce the risk of stroke by 30%.

At least for these diseases, three cups seemed to be the golden number. The study also showed that drinking more than three cups of coffee in a day wasn’t associated with harm, but the beneficial effects were less pronounced.

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High coffee consumption is associated with a lower incidence of cancer

Drinking a lot of joe is associated with a lower risk of several types of cancer – including prostate cancer, endometrial cancer, melanoma, oral cancer, leukaemia, non-melanoma skin cancer, and liver cancer.

Drinking any coffee at all is good for your liver

Compared to no coffee at all, drinking even one cup lowers the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease by 29%, decreases the risk of liver fibrosis by 27%, lowers the risk of liver cirrhosis by 39%, and decreases the risk of chronic liver disease.

Coffee lowers the risk of metabolic disease like type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome

Drinking a lot of coffee versus just a cup or two lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes; furthermore, the risk continues to decrease with every increased coffee dose between one and six cups.

High coffee consumption reduces the risk of metabolic syndrome by 9% and decreases the risk of renal stones and gout compared to low coffee consumption.

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Coffee doesn’t seem to do much for diseases associated with your kidneys

The authors of the study mentioned a potential decreased risk of urinary incontinence and chronic kidney disease with coffee consumption, but the data didn’t reach statistical significance. So, it’s not proper to say there is any real effect here.

How coffee affects the risk of bone fracture is different for men and women

In terms of bone fractures, coffee is good for men and bad for women: coffee increases the risk of bone fracture for women and decreases the risk of bone fracture in men.

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Coffee is good for your brain

Drinking just one cup (or more) is associated with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, depression, and cognitive disorders (including Alzheimer’s disease).

There may be an association between drinking coffee and endometriosis

Similar to the results noted for coffee and diseases associated with the kidneys, the researchers noticed an association between drinking coffee and a higher risk of endometriosis, but the results weren’t significant.

High coffee consumption should be avoided during pregnancy

Drinking a lot of coffee during pregnancy comes with a higher risk of low birth weights, pregnancy loss, and premature birth.

Drinking any coffee at all, or high amounts of coffee, during pregnancy doesn’t appear to increase the risks of third trimester preterm births, neural tube defects, congenital malformations of the oral cleft, or congenital malformations of the cardiovascular system.

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A meta-analysis is about the best way you can make sense of a whole bunch of studies at one time. Interpreting the huge amount of scientific literature out there on whether or not you should drink coffee with this kind of study tells us that coffee is generally safe within the usual levels of intake (three to four cups per day).

And considering what we know about caffeine’s ability to help us train harder, longer, and help us think clearer with greater concentration, I think it’s safe to recommend a cup of coffee in your regular, daily routine.

If you’d like some recommendations on some great coffee, contact me; I’ve got exactly what you need.

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Stay Healthy!

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