Pre work-out kick coffee? Social catch up Coffee? Mid-afternoon pick me up coffee? After dinner taster coffee? The list is endless and lets face it, we are one obsessed country.
Even with the rise of coffee alternatives and the excitement of the matcha-meets-tumeric-meets-beetroot latte (See our post on alternatives to coffee and our favourite London hotspots here) coffee is still a force to be reckoned with.But is coffee actually unhealthy? One day we see studies talking about how bad it is for you, the next we see its benefits.
WHAT EXACLTY IS CAFFEINE?
The active ingredient in coffee is of course Caffeine, which is a stimulant and the most commonly consumed psychoactive substance (chemical that changes brain function) in the world. Here, I delve into the good, the bad and why a little bit of something good, doesn’t mean that alot is necessarily better, or even safe at all. But first, what exactly is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a natural stimulant most commonly found in tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate and coffee. It works by stimulating the brain and central nervous system helping you to stay alert.
Once consumed, Caffeine is quickly absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream. It then travels to the liver and is broken down into compounds that can affect the function of various organs. However, the brain is most affected by Caffeine.
Caffeine is naturally found in the seeds, nuts or leaves of certain plants such as cocoa. Natural sources are processed to produce caffeinated foods and drinks.
WHY COFFEE CAN BE CONSIDERED HEALTHY?
Many are advocates of coffee and some studies do show its positives. Below are some of the reasons why
COFFEE CAN ENHANCE BRAIN FUNCTION
In a typical day levels of a neurotransmitter called Adenosine build up resulting in tiredness and eventually sleep. Caffeine is such an effective awakener because it’s first move in the brain is to block the effects of Adenosine.Caffeine exerts its effects quickly, it can take as little as 20 minutes to reach the bloodstream and less than one hour to reach full effectiveness.. As a result, many studies demonstrate that Caffeine can improve mood, memory and general cognitive function in a short space of time
COFFEE CAN BOOST METABOLISM
Caffeine has been seen to boost metabolism (calories burned) by 3-11% and even increase exercise performance by 11-12%. However, these effects are short-term and drinking coffee every day will build a tolerance to it with any metabolic effects minimised over time.
COFFEE MAY HELP PROTECT YOUR BRAIN
Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease which is caused by the death of dopamine-generating neurons in the brain. Coffee drinkers have a 32-60% lower risk of Parkinson’s disease.
WHY COFFEE CAN BE CONSIDERED NOT SO HEALTHY?
Whilst there are studies showing the positives of coffee many will argue the negatives far outway those mentioned above.
CAFFEINE CAN DISRUPT SLEEP
Coffee is proven to disrupt your sleep due to its diuretic effects (increased production of urine). Coffee consumed late in the evening effectively resets the body clock by delaying a rise in the level of melatonin, our sleep hormone. If coffee reduces the quality of your sleep, try avoiding it later in the day such as after lunchtime.
CAFFEINE CAN CAUSE ANXIETY
Consuming too much Caffeine can lead to anxiety, heart palpitations and may even exacerbate panic attacks in some cases. If you are even remotely sensitive to Caffeine and tend to become over stimulated, then please stop drinking it to avoid any unnecessary heart health risk.
CAFFEINE CAN ENCOURAGE WEIGHT GAIN
Caffeine increases cortisol secretion in people both resting and undergoing mental stress. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands and it’s known as a stress hormone because it’s normally released when your body senses stress. Elevated levels of cortisol can lead to overeating and weight gain. Over time, increased cortisol secretion can significantly impact your health. Women who carry excess weight around the middle respond to stress with a greater increase in cortisol. Those on restrictive diets will also see an increase cortisol even without Caffeine, another reason why no restrictive diet proves a sustainable weight management solution.
CAFFEINE IS ADDICTIVE & CAN LEAD TO WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS
Caffeine is an addictive substance and drinking coffee regularly will see you become tolerant to it. Its either stops working as it used to, or a larger dose is needed to get the same stimulant effects. Excessive Caffeine intake will more than likely result in dependence or addiction which is dangerous. When people abstain from Caffeine, withdrawal symptoms like headache, tiredness and irritability will be seen and can last for a few days.
Some people should definitely avoid coffee altogether. These include pregnant women and those with anxiety issues, high blood pressure or insomnia. If you don’t drink coffee at the moment, any supposed health benefits are not compelling enough reasons to start drinking it. Ultimately, it’s hard to know for sure whether coffee causes any beneficial effects at all. Given it is the awakening experience that is why so many indulge in coffee every day, there are quite simply superior options available. However, if you do drink coffee, enjoy it, but I wouldn’t recommend taking it up if you don’t.