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Coffee And Your Health

Coffee is a brewed drink prepared from roasted coffee beans, which are the seeds of berries from the Coffee plant. Tropical areas like Africa, are very conducive for the growth and cultivation of coffee. There are several types  of coffee, but  the two  most  commonly  grown types  are the Arabica  and  Robusta. 

The major difference between the two types is that, robusta bean has higher caffeine content than the Arabica bean.  Again, Arabica bean contains about 60% more lipids and twice the concentration of sugar than Robusta. 

Globally, coffee is the second most consumed beverage to water, and it is the leading contributor of caffeine to the average person’s diet. The sensory experience when consuming a “cup” of coffee is a key aspect of the beverage,providing   unique   aromas,   tastes   and   flavours.  The   type   of   coffee,   level   of   roasting   and preparation method all impact on the overall sensory experience of coffee. It is worth noting that a standard coffee cup or serving, (170 ml – approximately one-third of the regular pure water sachet) contains 10 g of coffee, which is equal to two leveled teaspoons. Coffee beans have been shown to be nutritious and beneficial for health maintenance.

The beans are very high in antioxidants; substances that fight against free radicals in the body. There is still a lot of disagreement about whether or not coffee is more beneficial than harmful. Some research findings show that drinking 3 to 5 cups of coffee a day has no negative and adverse effects on health. However, there are reports of potential risks and health concerns associated with drinking coffee in certain individuals, which  suggest individual  variation to coffee intolerance. While coffee can make one feel more alert and productive, for some people, it has the opposite effect,leaving them feeling anxious and unable to focus.The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in 2015 recommended that adult caffeine in takes from all sources can be up to 400 mg per day and further stated that   single doses of 200mg presents no safety concerns for adults in the general population.

However,  excessive intake of caffeine has   been implicated as  a cause   of spontaneous   abortion or  impaired foetal  growth. According to the Federal Department of Health, Ontario, Canada, caffeine intake should not exceed 300 mg per day for women who plan to become pregnant and women who are in their gestation (period between pregnancy and birth). The caffeine content of various coffee beverages 7 of which 10 grams of coffee is used are as follows; raw coffee – 4 mg, decaffeinated – 0.1 mg,chicory – 2.1 mg, instant French coffee – 24.6 mg, mocha – 36 mg. Due to these variations in caffeine contents, it is important for consumers to read labels of various coffee beverage brands before consumption.

Recent studies show that coffee drinkers have a much lower risk of some diseases including diabetes mellitus, heart disease and cancer and neuro-generative diseases. Coffee and Diabetes Mellitus Diabetes mellitus (DM), commonly referred to as diabetes, is a group of metabolic diseases in which   there  are high   blood   sugar levels   over   a   prolonged   period. The   three   main   types   of diabetes conditions include Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes and Gestational diabetes.

Several studies show that coffee drinkers have a much lower risk of getting type 2 diabetes.  Despite the argument   around caffeine’s contribution  to  insulin resistance  (condition in   which  cells  don’t use insulin effectively) and diabetes, other recent studies have found that once coffee intake is well controlled, caffeine intake was no longer associated with risk of diabetes.  Studies show that people who drink coffee frequently have a 23-50% lower risk of getting diabetes.  A research involving   over   1   million   study   participants   from   Europe,  Asia   and   U.S.A  populations   was conducted in   2014 to   find the   association  between  coffee  consumption and  risk of   diabetes mellitus, type 2.

When non-coffee consumers were compared to people who consume up to 6cups   of   coffee   (caffeinated   and   decaffeinated)   a   day,   the   latter   had   a   33%   lower   risk   of developing type 2 diabetes. According to a massive review that looked at data from 18 studies with a total of 457,922 individuals, each daily cup of coffee was associated with a 7% reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.Coffee and Heart Disease.

It is true that coffee can increase blood pressure but research shows that the effect is small and usually goes away with regular drinking of coffee. It must be noted that for some people with high blood pressure this effect may not go away. It has been proven however, that drinking coffee does not put a person at risk of heart disease.On the other hand, some studies comparing coffee drinkers and non -coffee drinkers found that coffee drinkers rather have a slightly lower risk of stroke. Coffee and Cancer Cancer is a disease caused by an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in a part of the body.

Findings from some studies show that coffee may be protective against some forms of cancers due to its unique chemical properties and rich antioxidants.  Various researches have documented a 12% to 50% reduction in the risk of breast cancer among menopausal women. One study among 489, 706 individuals in the US found that people who drank 4 – 5 cups of coffee a day had a 15% reduction in the risk of developing cancer of the colon. Other studies have also shown a 51% reduction in the risk of death from liver cancer.Coffee and Neuro Degenerative Diseases Neuro degenerative disease is an umbrella term for a range of conditions which affect the neurons in the human brain. Neurons are the building blocks of the nervous system which includes the brain and spinal cord. Neurons normally don’t reproduce or replace themselves, so when they become damaged or die they cannot be replaced by the body.

Examples of neuro degenerative diseases include Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and Huntington’s disease. Some researches infer that,coffee  has  a   preventative  effect   on  neuro degenerative   diseases  such  as   Parkinson’s  disease,Alzheimer  disease  and  dementia. This  is  associated  with the  defensive  role  of  caffeine  and antioxidants in coffee.  Caffeine is known to stimulate human cognitive function, with positive effects   on   alertness,   concentration,   learning,   memory   and   mood.   Hence,   consumers   of decaffeinated coffee are exempted from this health benefit.

Despite all the health benefits reported from these studies there are some nutrition concerns about coffee consumption. Although coffee contains no significant levels of macro nutrients, and virtually no calories the method of preparation will cause an increase in the calorie content of the beverage. When sugar and sugar substitutes, cream and cream substitutes, whole or reduced-fat milk are added to the drink the energy and nutritional components change.

For instance certain varieties like mocha, cappuccino and espresso vary in nutritional content.  A research in the US showed that 69% of coffee drinkers consumed their drinks with sugar and milk to improve the flavour.  Compared with those who took their coffee black, coffee drinkers who used sugar and milk drank 69 more calories each day. Even though these calories may seem small they can add up extra kilos when consumption of the beverage is very frequent.

Conclusion Coffee is beneficial to our health however personal tolerance to caffeine is always a factor to consider when consuming it. Some individuals may be more sensitive to caffeine than others and may experience adverse reactions including increased anxiety, nervousness and sleep problems,heart problems and palpitations.

People should therefore consider their personal intolerance towards coffee and particularly to the serving portions per day. Moderation is very crucial in the consumption of all forms of beverages.



Joseph B. Danquah & Dr. Matilda Asante

(Department of Nutrition & Dietetics)

University of Ghana


Mobile: 0247061306|Ghana

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