Can Coffee be Good for You?

Samar Aryani's picture

Are one or more cups of coffee a day actually bad for you? Or, does is actually help you? There have been many studies on the effects of coffee and while the results previously proved rather negative, recent studies have been proving contrary. This is not to negate the idea that coffee can have harmful effects for certain people but it is important to study and analyze the new findings within the science world concerning this topic.

Some studies have shown that the intake of coffee can be beneficial in various health-related situations. It has been said that coffee, “may chase away the blues; turn you into a better athlete; and protect against diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, gallstones, and some cancers” (6). A good amount of research has been directed towards testing these statements because previous studies done in this field have tried to prove coffee as an instigator of the above mentioned problems. For instance, on the topic of diabetes, the magnesium that is in the coffee along with other substances allows the body to control the sugar metabolism, therefore helping in the prevention of diabetes (1). Another report supports this theory by stating that coffee has been proven to definitely protect against type 2 diabetes because, “a chemical unique to coffee that affects sugar uptake in the liver. Coffee also protects against colon and rectal cancers” (5).

In regards to other diseases, the intake of coffee has also been proven beneficial. For instance with Parkinson’s disease, it has been the result of many tests that coffee reduces the chances of acquiring Parkinson’s, “At Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic, researchers [concluded that]…coffee drinkers had less than half the risk of developing Parkinson’s, compared to nondrinkers” (2). Also, other studies recorded in The Journal of the American Medical Association have concluded that the risk of gallstone disease is lowered by coffee (4), another study at Harvard supported this conclusion as well (2). These are some of the advantages of drinking coffee that have been studied by various scientists. Does this mean that drinking coffee on a regular basis should be encouraged? This depends on one’s interpretation of the data.

Other studies have shown, especially in the past that coffee can have negative effects on one’s health. Elisa Zied, a nutritionist, dietitian, and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association describes the process of how caffeine works in the body by stating that, “When caffeine [trimethylxanthine] enters the body, it stimulates the nervous system by attaching to adenosine receptors in the brain” (3). As a result of this happening, adrenaline is produced and this adrenaline, “raises your blood pressure and makes your liver release sugar into your bloodstream…end result is a boost in your energy” (3). A great deal of research has tried to show that this ‘boost’ will make one dependent on this feeling, therefore causing the problem of an addiction (3). One study states that because on a cellular level caffeine is addictive, this means that one’s blood vessels are as well addicted to the caffeine; this clarifies as to why headaches are associated with withdrawal (5). Another report seems to support this theory to a certain extent by stating that addiction or dependency can occur within a few days and different symptoms of withdrawal come with it, such as headaches (2). Although, this same report also states that another study found when 57 ‘habitual’ coffee drinkers quit by force, the results showed that only around one-third of them reported withdrawal symptoms (2).

More studies presented data for other negative effects of caffeine. For instance, it has been reported that caffeine is inclined to raise one’s blood pressure; this study found this problem among those who drink more than two cups of coffee a day (1). Other negative aspects of coffee have been bone loss, “ACJN [The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition] suggest that caffeine may exacerbate the role of genetics in causing bone loss is elderly women” (4). Michael Traub, the president of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, has a pessimistic view of coffee and believes that it has a great deal of negative effects. His thoughts suggest that coffee “comes with a host of unwanted health problems including sleep disturbances, PMS, decreased immune function, reflux, vitamin and mineral deficiency, and possibly cancer” (4). These reports seem to present a more cautioned use, if not total elimination, of coffee. Although, this is not to negate the fact that some of the researchers for and against the usage of coffee seem to agree on a few points.

A great deal of these scientists seemed to agree on certain groups of people who should minimize or even stop their coffee consumption. One common group identified among these researchers are pregnant women. One study elaborates on the risk of drinking coffee for pregnant women, “there’s concern that more than a couple cups a day may trigger a miscarriage. Too much caffeine can upset some stomach, exacerbate heartburn, and make people too jittery—or sleepless” (6). Other groups that most scientists agree that should lower consumption of coffee are people who drink a great deal of coffee, people who get heartburn, women who have breast lumps, and people who suffer from anxiety disorders (2). This cautionary warning for these groups of people seem to result from the fact that some data has not been fully tested to conclude that the results will either be negative or positive.

As can be seen, the debate over whether or not coffee can be good or bad for a person is still in the process of evolving. As it is said, science is a process of getting ideas wrong and from those wrong ideas producing more advanced ones. The widely-accepted summary of observations that coffee is bad and has negative effects paved the way for new observations, such as the theory that coffee may actually be good for a person. One conclusion that seems the most logical and that connects the two extremes of the debate together is that of Thalia DeWolf’s in that perhaps, moderation may be the best solution for this issue of whether or not coffee has negative or positive effects.








Works Cited

1)Anonymous.” Coffee: How much is too much? " Consumer Reports. Vol 66. May 2001: 64-65.

2)Anonymous. “Coffee or tea? Battle of the brews.” Consumer Reports. Vol 17. Feb 2005: 6. (Referred to as “Consumer Reports[2])

3)Burling, Alexis. "Calling Out Caffeine. " Scholastic Choices. Vol 23. Sep. 2007: 21.

4)DeWolf, Thalia. “Coffee and health: Good to the last drop?” Whole Earth. Issue 108. Summer 2002: 29-30.

5) Howard, Brian C. "Coffee and You: How Healthful is it? " E : the Environmental Magazine. Nov. 2005: 31.

6)McAuliffe, Kathleen. "Enjoy!; You thought coffee was bad for you? Actually, it seems to protect against all sorts of ills, from diabetes to liver cancer. " U.S. News & World Report. Vol. 139 Dec. 2005: 67.

 

Comments

Rachel Tashjian's picture

I wanted to read your paper

I wanted to read your paper because I drink between 1 and 3 cups of coffee per day. I really love coffee, but more than most other foods/beverages, I hear a lot about whether one should or should not drink it. Over the summer, I read this article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/14/health/14ment.html

So I guess there are not only physical/health considerations, but also mental ones. Perhaps every coffee drinker must decide if he or she values mental or physical health more. I also thought it was interesting that those that benefitted from coffee in the study drank 3 or more cups a day, that it only helped women, and that you had to have been drinking it for a long time.

Paul Grobstein's picture

coffee: moderation or diversity?

Moderation is always a safe bet. But maybe the reason why studies keep involving vis a vis coffee is related to controversies about, among other things, vegetarianism? Maybe its different for different people. See my thoughts on Ruth's paper.
Betty's picture

The Truth About Coffee

Coffee puts the system under the strain of metabolizing a deadly acid-forming drug, depositing its insoluble cellulose, which cements the wall of the liver, causing this vital organ to swell to twice its proper size. In addition, coffee is heavily sprayed. (Ninety-two pesticides are applied to its leaves.) Diuretic properties of caffeine cause potassium and other minerals to be flushed from the body.

All this fear went away when I quit, and it was a book that inspired me to do it called The Truth About Caffeine by Marina Kushner. There are five things I liked about this book:

1) It details--thoroughly--the ways in which caffeine may damage your health.

2) It reveals the damage that coffee does to the environment. Specifically, coffee was once grown in the shade, so that trees were left in place. Then sun coffee was introduced, allowing greater yields but contributing to the destruction of rain forests. I haven't seen this mentioned anywhere else.

3) It explains how best to go off coffee. This is important. If you try cold turkey, as most people probably do, the withdrawal symptoms will likely drive you right back to coffee.

4) Helped me find a great resource for the latest studies at CaffeineAwareness.org

5) Also, if you drink decaf you won’t want to miss this special free report on the dangers of decaf available at www.soyfee.com

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