Studies demonstrating coffee’s beneficial health effects are piling up so fast it’s hard to keep track. According to various experts, coffee:
And it tastes great. The caffeine in coffee is slightly addictive, but it is not a dangerous, life-destroying drug like opiates or meth.
A 2015 study of more than 1.2 million people found that folks who drink 3 to 5 cups of black coffee a day have fewer heart problems than those who drink none. People who drink 5 or more cups don’t have any more problems than anyone else.
Two other studies, meta-analyses that collated data from 11 other research articles, found that drinking 2 to 6 cups a day results in a lower risk of stroke disease. One of those meta-studies included data from more than 500,000 participants.
A third study, another meta-study, found that people who drink moderate amounts of coffee have a lower risk of heart failure.
“A study looking at all cancers suggested that it might be associated with reduced overall cancer incidence and that the more you drank, the more protection was seen,” a New York Times article on all these studies states.
These studies are really great news because caffeine is the most commonly consumed mood-altering substance in the entire world. Ninety percent of Americans regularly take caffeine in one form another. People are nuts about coffee and caffeine in general.
For years people were warned that coffee and caffeine consumption were bad for you. Coffee and other caffeine-containing substances were blamed for heart disease, cancer, stunted growth and psychological problems.
The New York Times, in reporting on these studies in May 2015, wrote:
No one is suggesting you drink more coffee for your health. But drinking moderate amounts of coffee is linked to lower rates of pretty much all cardiovascular disease, contrary to what many might have heard about the dangers of coffee or caffeine. Even consumers on the very high end of the spectrum appear to have minimal, if any, ill effects.
But let’s not cherry-pick. There are outcomes outside of heart health that matter. Many believe that coffee might be associated with an increased risk of cancer. Certainly, individual studies have found that to be the case, and these are sometimes highlighted by the news media. But in the aggregate, most of these negative outcomes disappear.
A meta-analysis published in 2007 found that increasing coffee consumption by two cups a day was associated with a lower relative risk of liver cancer by more than 40 percent. Two more recent studies confirmed these findings. Results from meta-analyses looking at prostate cancer found that in the higher-quality studies, coffee consumption was not associated with negative outcomes.
The Times wrote that lower risk of breast cancer has been found, but that a higher risk of lung cancer was found among those who smoke and drink coffee.
The author of The Times’ article, Aaron E. Carroll, points out that these studies looked at black coffee. That is, they did not consider coffee with cream and sugar and some of the fancy concoctions that pack more calories than a McDonald’s lunch.
Carroll points out that some coffee drinks from popular cafes and restaurants have fat, cholesterol (two enemies of good heart health when consumed in excess) and hundreds or even more than 1,000 calories. This graphic from the University of Maryland gives some popular drinks and their nutritional contents:
Carroll points out a few of the higher-calorie content coffee products and adds: “I won’t even mention the Cold Stone Creamery Gotta-Have-It-Sized Lotta Caramel Latte (1,790 calories, 90 grams of fat, 223 grams of carbs). Regular brewed coffee has 5 or fewer calories and no fat or carbohydrates.”
But what about coffee’s other benefits? It can help combat the severity of migraine headaches, as Viter Life pointed out in this blog.
“Caffeine does seem to treat headaches [and migraines],” neurologist and Professor Mary Quiceno of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center told EverydayHealth.com. “There are lots of different reasons why caffeine is thought to help people.”
Another Viter Life blog pointed out that caffeine can boost athletic stamina and speed so much that the International Olympic Committee once limited how much of it Olympic athletes could take. Caffeine was categorized as a performance-enhancing substance.
And caffeine can enhance memory and concentration, keep you alert, alleviate fatigue and sleep deprivation, and, according to CaffeineInformer, it reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. That CaffeineInformer article has a long list of areas where caffeine benefits people’s health with links to the studies. Other areas where it may help is in boosting the production of semen, preventing erectile dysfunction, reducing suicide risk, reducing or preventing ringing in the ears and reducing risk of kidney stones.
But even when all those studies and urban legends came out years ago about the supposed negative effects of caffeine, people kept right on drinking coffee, tea, soda and eating chocolate – all of which have caffeine in various amounts. “I’ll stop drinking coffee when they take it from my cold, dead hands,” was the sentiment.
Check out the coffee and caffeine memes on Twitter or Facebook. People are nuts about coffee. This one is from @amoristicpillow:
But with all the love of coffee, there is a precaution, as illustrated by @twisteddoodles:
— TwistedDoodles (@twisteddoodles) March 22, 2016
If you take caffeine too late in the day it can keep you awake. And too much caffeine can cause headaches, make one feel lightheaded, cause anxiety attacks and tremulousness.
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Is there a big difference between synthetic and natural caffeine? Apparently, synthetic caffeine is much more powerful than the caffeine found naturally in plants. The question is, is synthetic caffeine harmful?
Some fairly ominous-sounding chemicals are used to process synthetic caffeine. Websites are unclear as to whether the ethyl acetate and methylene chloride (and carbon dioxide) used to process urea to manufacture synthetic caffeine remain in the product. Ethyl acetate is used as a flavoring in some foods, though, so perhaps it is not harmful and may remain in synthetic caffeine.
Why does soda have caffeine in it? Caffeine does add to the complex flavors of the various types of caffeinated soda. In fact, the taste of caffeine is bitter and has to be balanced with sugars or sweeteners and other flavors. Caffeine also adds a boost in energy to the drinkers of soda.
But what reason do the manufacturers give for adding caffeine to soda pop?
Some research has suggested that caffeine may stimulate thermogenesis - a scientific name for the way your body generates heat and energy from the calories in your food; but nutrition experts say that this effect probably isn't enough to produce significant weight-loss. Caffeine may also reduce your desire to eat for a brief time, but again, there's no good evidence over the long-term that this effect leads to weight-loss. To date, no conclusive clinical studies have been done to determine the long-term effect of caffeine on weight loss, and the smaller studies that have been done show a lot of variability in the outcomes.