The consumption of coffee goes all the way back to the 13th century when it was first discovered by a goat herder in Ethiopia. From there the popularity of the little beans slowly spread all over the world and the amount of coffee that we now imbibe is equal to around a third of the amount of tap water that we consume, so it has become a pretty staple part of the human diet as well as a hugely valuable commodity for producers around the world.
The effects of coffee, and whether or not it is good or bad for you, have long been up for debate, with some convinced coffee is overstimulating and a risk factor in illnesses such as hypertension and coronary heart disease, whilst others insist that it’s just a healthy pep and may even have positive health effects in avoiding problems like liver disease and Type II Diabetes. Wherever you stand in the coffee debate, here are a few facts for you to mull over with your daily latte:
Preventing disease – over the years, various studies have shown that there are a number of ways in which coffee can contribute to preventing disease. Some research has found that drinking coffee can help to reduce the chances of developing Type II Diabetes by up to 50% – a significant figure, particularly given that this type of diabetes has been predicted to be “a new epidemic” in the western world in the near future. Coffee may also have a positive effect on avoiding colorectal cancer and liver diseases like Cirrhosis, and there is also some evidence that drinking coffee reduces the instance of Parkinson’s disease in men, although the results were not the same in women.
General health benefits of coffee – as well as giving you the energy to get through those early mornings without falling asleep at your desk, coffee is also useful in improving a range of general health conditions. Externally, coffee can be used to treat acne and is a highly effective exfoliant for dull or dry skin. It is also thought to be able to stimulate hair growth and caffeine has been added to a number of shampoos directed at those with thinning hair. Some studies indicate that the more coffee you drink, the less likely you are to be depressed, and in one particular piece of research, suicides were found to be less among coffee drinkers. However, bear in mind that too much coffee might have quite a negative effect in terms of anxiety and hypertension (see below).
Causing disease – an increased risk of coronary disease has always been one of the most highly publicised negative effects of drinking coffee. Most research has shown that drinking coffee only has a minor negative effect on coronary heart disease, although anyone with an existing heart condition should avoid drinking too much (or seek medical advice if you’re not sure). For those who are not used to drinking coffee – and for those with existing high blood pressure – drinking it can be a risk factor in increased blood pressure and hypertension. If you drink too much you might also find that you become anxious – as you would if you consumed too much of any stimulant. Some studies have shown that caffeine may also have a negative effect on pregnant women and can trigger a spontaneous abortion, which is why it is often recommended that pregnant women avoid coffee.
General ill health – coffee can elevate blood cholesterol, which tends to be an issue for many people. If you drink too much coffee then you might end up having problems sleeping, especially if you drink it in the afternoon or the evening and the caffeine doesn’t have time to leave your system before you go to bed (this usually takes around six to eight hours). It can also give you issues with heartburn and dehydration, so it’s important to drink plenty of water with your coffee. Finally there is also some research that indicates that people can get ‘addicted’ to coffee, mainly because of the pleasant ‘high’ from the caffeine stimulation in the hour or so after you drink it.
Cost – of course your coffee habit can affect you in more ways than just your healt. With a cup of your favourite brew costing up to £3/ cup at franchise coffee outlets a cup a day can seriously impact your pocket. The cheaper solution is of course to invest in a home coffee machine made by a company like Russell Hobbs – these may cost £100 or more to buy but will soon pay for themselves if you’re a regular coffee drinker.
Drawing a conclusion on whether coffee is good or bad for you is difficult, as it really depends on who you are and how you drink it. For a healthy adult, who doesn’t drink too much, stays hydrated and avoids consuming it late at night, it should have no negative side effects. However, just like all of life’s little pleasures, the best approach tends to be everything in moderation…