There is something enticing about the aroma of coffee beans, no doubt, and coffee shops have capitalized on the addictive qualities of java, creating catchy names and flavors that are almost too hard to resist. Coffee can be traced as far back to the 9th century, where it was thought to be first cultivated by Arabs, and soon exported out to the rest of the coffee-naive world. Millions of people around the globe today drink coffee, whether it is because of its taste, caffeine, or social connotations.
So, is coffee healthy or not? It seem that — much like eggs or milk — one day a new study says it is, then the next day a different study says it's not. Touted for its many health benefits such as preventing cancer, lowering diabetes risk, stalling the development of dementia — it seems there is a new positive health finding every day. However, there is a lot of conflicting and inconclusive data on what benefits coffee does actually offer.
A lot of scientific data exists that shows the coffee bean may not be as innocent and healthful as it seems. Some deleterious effects of coffee are as follows:
Coffee is a diuretic (which means it makes you pee a lot) thus leading to dehydration if you are not cognizant of drinking water. When you get dehydrated, that means there is not enough water content in the body, which can lead to a lot of unpleasant issues. Urinary incontinence has also been linked to coffee consumption, because of its diuretic effects and stress on the bladder.
Coffee places stress on the adrenals, which are small glands that sit upon the kidneys. The adrenals are responsible for production of many important hormones including aldosterone and cortisol and DHEA as well as epinephrine (aka adrenaline) and norepinephrine, which are involved in "fight or flight" response. Coffee stimulates the adrenals to release adrenaline, which is why coffee gives a burst of energy. However, overindulgence of coffee leads to a constant output of adrenaline, placing stress on the adrenals and wearing them out. When this occurs, people "crash," and are left feeling tired. Recently, we have been hearing a lot about a condition known as adrenal fatigue.
Coffee can even stain your pearly whites, and yellow teeth are in no way attractive. If you add sweeteners to your coffee, then don't forget about dental decay, cavities, and halitosis. Coffee can really upset the balance of oral hygiene and bacterial flora. We all probably know what coffee breath smells like, and it ain't pretty.
Daily consumption of coffee disturbs the body's functions, even altering natural circadian rhythm. Coffee has been associated with irritability, concentration difficulties, sleep disturbance, insomnia, fatigue, disorganization, lack of coordination and balance, and forgetfulness. Caffeine inhibits GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid), which is an important neurotransmitter in the brain, from functioning optimally, which can lead to anxiety and panic. GABA helps with creating a tranquil disposition and coffee messes with that.
Caffeine is noted to cause bone loss and osteoporosis over time, as shown in a study published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. This has especially been shown in women, in whom calcium may be pulled from the bones and excreted in the urine, leading to a calcium deficit. In addition to caffeine, the oils and acids in coffee may irritate the gastric lining which in turn increases production of acid leading to heartburn and ulcers. It has been shown that drinking even one to two cups of coffee daily over time causes gastric inflammation, pain, bloating and constipation.
Since caffeine can cross the placenta and enter the baby's body, which is not ready to metabolize the caffeine, it may impose harmful effects to the developing fetus. There have been some preliminary studies showing that caffeine intake may be related to stillbirths and miscarriages and even fetal cardiac defects, but this has not been completely proven. It is still a cause of enough concern for pregnant women to at least give up coffee during pregnancy.
Coffee may lead to nutritional deficits because it may block certain nutrients from being absorbed, like iron, which can lead to anemia. Also, coffee is a powerful appetite suppressant, and drinking that cup of joe in lieu of eating a well-balanced meal leads to a deficiency in macro and micronutrient intake. Don't be fooled by the appetite-suppressing effect of coffee for weight loss, because in the long run, your metabolism will slow down, making it harder to lose weight. Unfiltered coffee may actually increase cholesterol, especially LDL, which is the bad cholesterol. This is because unfiltered coffee contains kahweol and cafestol which are known to raise cholesterol, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. They also say that homocysteine levels may be increased by coffee consumption, though the risk is still unclear. Elevated homocysteine is implicated in cardiovascular disease, such as strokes and heart attacks.
Caffeine exacerbates premenstrual breast tenderness. It can cause gout, allergies, migraines, and tremors. It may impair glucose metabolism, which can be linked to diabetes. Though there may be a lack of evidence showing that coffee causes cancers, it does contain carcinogens, whether it is caffeinated or not. By stimulating the release of adrenaline, unpleasant side effects manifest such as palpitations, increased heart rate, forceful heart contractions and a rise in blood pressure. A Mayo Clinic study recently showed that men who drank more than four cups of coffee (8 oz servings) had a 21% mortality increase.
Remember, coffee beans are crops, so they are sprayed with pesticides, and that is just one more negative aspect to worry about. If you are relying on coffee daily to increase your alertness or energy, then you probably need to reexamine other areas in your life, such as whether you are getting enough sleep or exercise, or if you are consuming a healthy diet.
The cons outweigh the pros when it comes to drinking coffee. There are healthier alternatives to increasing energy without sacrificing your health.
Check out the slideshow above to learn why coffee might not be so good for you.