• Amy McGuire

Wake Up & Smell the Coffee

A very common question nutritionists get asked is coffee good for you? Well, if you were unfortunate enough to have lived in the 17th centaury in Turkey under the rule of Sultan Murad IV it would have been very bad for you. In fact, you would have gotten your head chopped off. He used to walk the streets of Istanbul disguised as a commoner with a 100lb sword and anyone he found consuming coffee got decapitated as they sipped from their cups. Luckily, times have changed since then. Coffee is now the second largest commodity traded after crude oil. Last year, there was 168,000,000 60kg bags of coffee consumed!! As a result, anywhere between 500 billion to 700 billion cups are estimated to be consumed each day but I digress.

To answer the question whether coffee is good for you or not I would suggest in general that it is. Coffee consumption is one of the biggest contributors to our polyphenol intake. Polyphenols are compounds that reduce chronic inflammation, keep blood vessels healthy and help manage blood pressure to name but a few. Due to this, some studies have shown that habitual coffee drinkers who drink 1-4 cups of coffee per day have had a significant reduction in cardiovascular mortality.

In addition to this, research has also discovered some interesting results on the positive impacts that coffee consumption can have on neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Habitual long term coffee drinkers who typically consume between 1-4 cups per day have a 20-30% risk reduction of developing Alzheimer’s and it was also found that there was a 30-40% risk reduction of developing Parkinson’s. The reason for this is primarily due to the psychostimulant effect of caffeine and due to the increase of sympathetic activity that it causes in the brain.

At some point in your life many of you would have stayed up late hammering cups of coffee into you to either meet a deadline for a project in work or to pull an all nighter for an exam that you didn’t bother studying for because you were too busy smashing shots of tequila and throwing dodgy shapes on the dance floor for three quarters of your academic semester. So how is it that coffee helps you stay awake? There is a neurotransmitter called Adenosine. Adenosine essentially promotes sleep and suppresses arousal. When you are awake the levels of adenosine rise in your brain by the hour. Caffeine works by inhibiting the adenosine receptors and therefore obstructs the buildup of adenosine.

How long does coffee stay in your system I hear you say? This will be influenced by genetic variance and how quickly individuals are capable of metabolizing it. Generally, the half-life of caffeine is six hours. All this means is that after six hours following the consumption of caffeine there will still be 50% left in your system. If you are pregnant the half-life of caffeine is actually doubled. If you are pregnant it is worth noting that only very minimal amounts of caffeine should be consumed.

To wrap it up, yes, a moderate intake of coffee can indeed have many positive impacts on our health. However, it this does not give you an excuse to fill your coffee full of cream, sugar and syrups or it will be totally counterproductive so remember, everything in moderation! One final thing. The man pictured above is Dave Asprey. Creator of the “Bulletproof Coffee”. He had millions of people drinking coffee loaded with butter, coconut oil and other sources of saturated fats. This is another day’s conversation but if you are still doing this have a word with yourself!!

Written by: Paul Cox


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