Everyone’s favourite morning beverage never fails to stir up controversy. Depending on what headline you read, you might believe that coffee is good for you. But wait a few days, and that news is sure to change.
Coffee research abounds on both sides of the debate. Who can you believe?
If you can’t bear the thought of parting with your beloved caffeine in the morning, there’s plenty of good news for the coffee lovers at the table. A quick Internet search is enough to tell you that coffee has mountains of positive research on its side – and it’s not just a hill of beans.
In 2010, a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry confirmed that drinking coffee could help to prevent diabetes, largely because of the beneficial effects of caffeine as an anti-diabetic compound.1 Drinking decaf or regular coffee each day can improve liver health by lowering abnormal liver enzyme levels, and drinking a morning cuppa may even boost athletic performance.2,3 Daily coffee drinking can also help to improve survival rates in patients with colon cancer.4
But perhaps most exciting of all are the coffee findings that surfaced from the American Heart Association in 2015. Scientists discovered that drinking a moderate amount of decaffeinated or regular coffee each day, less than 5 cups, led to a lower risk of death from type 2 diabetes, neurological diseases, heart disease, and suicide.5 Researchers believe that the natural chemical compounds found in coffee beans may increase longevity.
Despite these highly impressive benefits that come with each cup of Joe, coffee continues to receive its fair share of criticism. Much of this has to do with the fact that health professionals have long advised against drinking coffee, before the latest supporting research was published. This anti-coffee sentiment in the medical community is still hard to shake.
More specifically, coffee has come under scrutiny for its acrylamide content – an odourless, white, crystal compound that is also used in plastic manufacturing and wastewater treatment. Acrylamide overexposure can lead to nervous system damage and may even increase cancer risk.6,7 Acrylamide forms during the coffee bean roasting process, which means there’s no way to avoid acrylamide in your morning drink.
Before you vow to give up your daily coffee habit, it helps to remember an old, wise saying, “There are two sides to every story, and the truth lies somewhere in between.”
While the amount of coffee you drink each day is a personal decision, there’s no evidence to suggest that small amounts of acrylamide in the diet can pose any risk to your health. In fact, before you give up your Java, consider minimising the more dangerous sources of acrylamide first – like first-hand and second-hand cigarette smoke, fried and chargrilled foods, and starchy carbohydrates like potatoes and bread. Fresh, dark-roasted coffee that has been roasted longer has the lowest acrylamide content.
Look at the big picture, and it is easy to see that the many benefits of coffee outweigh one possible risk. If you are already caring for your health with a diet, supplement, and exercise plan, coffee is one of life’s simple pleasures.
1. Yamauchi et al. Coffee and Caffeine Ameliorate Hyperglycemia, Fatty Liver, and Inflammatory Adipocytokine Expression in Spontaneously Diabetic KK-Ay Mice. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2010; 58 (9): 5597 DOI: 10.1021/jf904062c.
2. Qian Xiao, Rashmi Sinha, Barry I. Graubard, Neal D. Freedman. Inverse associations of total and decaffeinated coffee with liver enzyme levels in NHANES 1999-2010. Hepatology, 2014; DOI: 10.1002/hep.27367.
3. Simon Higgins, Chad R. Straight, Richard D. Lewis. The Effects of Pre-Exercise Caffeinated- Coffee Ingestion on Endurance Performance: An Evidence-Based Review. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 2015; DOI: 10.1123/ijsnem.2015-0147.
4. Brendan J. Guercio, Kaori Sato, Donna Niedzwiecki, Xing Ye, Leonard B. Saltz, Robert J. Mayer, Rex B. Mowat, Renaud Whittom, Alexander Hantel, Al Benson, Daniel Atienza, Michael Messino, Hedy Kindler, Alan Venook, Frank B. Hu, Shuji Ogino, Kana Wu, Walter C. Willett, Edward
L. Giovannucci, Jeffrey A. Meyerhardt, and Charles S. Fuchs. Coffee Intake, Recurrence, and Mortality in Stage III Colon Cancer: Results From CALGB 89803 (Alliance). Journal of Clinical Oncology, August 2015 DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2015.61.5062. 5. Ming Ding et al. Association of Coffee Consumption with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality in Three Large Prospective
Cohorts. Circulation, 2015 DOI: 10.1161/ CIRCULATIONAHA.115.017341.
6. Nutr Neurosci. 2014 Feb;17(2):49-57. doi: 10.1179/1476830513Y.0000000065. Epub 2013 Nov 26.
7. Crit Rev Toxicol. 2006 Jul-Aug;36(6-7):481-608