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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Coffee Drinkers Rejoice: "The Healthy Java"

Doesn't it seem everything we love is bad for our health? Well, I have some good news for coffee lovers like me.

The U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations to the Food and Drug Administration and other federal agencies, just released a report that points to the health benefits and minimal risks of drinking three to five cups of coffee a day, including a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

 Here is a brief summary of some findings:

"No previous DGACs have reported on coffee/caffeine consumption and health. Currently, strong evidence shows that consumption of coffee within the moderate range (3 to 5 cups per day or up to 400 mg/d caffeine) is not associated with increased long-term health risks among healthy individuals.

"In fact, consistent evidence indicates that coffee consumption is associated with reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in healthy adults. Moreover, moderate evidence shows a protective association between coffee/caffeine intake and risk of Parkinson’s disease. Therefore, moderate coffee consumption can be incorporated into a healthy dietary pattern, along with other healthful behaviors.

"However, it should be noted that coffee as it is normally consumed can contain added calories from cream, milk, and added sugars. Care should be taken to minimize the amount of calories from added sugars and high-fat dairy or dairy substitutes added to coffee.

"Unfortunately, only limited evidence is currently available to ascertain the safety of high caffeine intake (greater than 400 mg/day for adults and undetermined for children and adolescents), that may occur with rapid consumption of large-sized energy drinks. The limited data suggest adverse health outcomes, such as caffeine toxicity and cardiovascular events. Concern is heightened when caffeine is combined with alcoholic beverages.

"Limited or no consumption of high caffeine drinks, or other products with high amounts of caffeine, is advised for children and adolescents. Energy drinks with high levels of caffeine and alcoholic beverages should not be consumed together, either mixed together or consumed at the same sitting."

("Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee." Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health. Office
of the Secretary. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Office of
Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. February 21, 2015)

I can hardly believe my eyes. One of my life's little pleasures seems to be helping control my type 2 diabetes and my heart concerns. This is cause for celebration! The Mayo Clinic reports coffee also appears to improve cognitive function and decrease the risk of depression.

People used to say drinking coffee stunted your growth and even caused heart disease and cancer. Why the apparent reversal in the thinking about coffee? Earlier studies didn't always take into account that known high-risk behaviors, such as smoking and physical inactivity, tended to be more common among heavy coffee drinkers at that time.

When people think of coffee, they usually think of it just as a vehicle for caffeine. But scientists say it’s actually a very complex beverage with hundreds and hundreds of different compounds in it, many of which are health-promoting antioxidants. Since coffee contains so many different compounds, drinking coffee can lead to very diverse health outcomes.

Coffee can be good for some things and bad for some things, and that statement is not necessarily flip-flopping or inconsistent. Few foods are good for everything, and studies are still being conducted on the health effects of coffee. For example, drinking too much caffeinated coffee may raise blood pressure, and there has been quite a bit of controversy over whether high intake of coffee or caffeine may increase the risk of miscarriage. The jury is still out.

And, for my friends with diabetes who have trouble controlling their blood glucose, it may be beneficial for them to try switching from caffeinated to decaffeinated coffee. Making the switch from caffeinated to decaf may be better than quitting coffee altogether, because some research suggests that decaffeinated coffee actually reduces the glucose response.

But if it's brain power you want, researchers at the University of South Florida. Say skip the decaf and go for straight caffeine coffee. Coffee might help protect against Alzheimer’s disease -- as long as it’s the caffeine-loaded kind. The study found that the regular coffee increased the levels of a brain-boosting hormone -- which reduced symptoms of the disease.

This hormone, granulocyte colony stimulating factor, spurs the production of new neurons and creates connections between existing ones, says Gary Arendash, Ph.D., professor at the Florida Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, and co-author of the study. Alzheimer’s patients are known to have low levels of the hormone.

(Andrew Katz. "The Best Coffee for Your Brain." Men's Health. July 12, 2011)       

Here is another caution: for people who have high cholesterol levels or who want to prevent having high cholesterol levels, it is better to choose paper filtered coffee or instant coffee, since they have much lower levels of cafestol, the oily fraction of coffee, than boiled or French press coffee. Espresso is somewhere in the middle; it has less cafestol than boiled or French press coffee, but more than paper filtered coffee.

(Dr. Rob van Dam. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Cited E. Lopez-Garcia E, R.M. van Dam, et al. "The Relationship of Coffee Consumption with Mortality."
Ann Intern Med. 2008: 148) 

What roast of coffee seems to be preferred for its health benefits? There is evidence that dark roast is better. Coffee roasting is actually a very complex art that requires the beans to be brought to high temperatures very quickly, and then cooled off just as fast when the desired roast is reached.

It's often the case that foods with the darkest pigments also offer the most robust benefits to health, and dark roast coffee, such as French Roast or that used to make espresso or Turkish coffee, may be no exception.

New research in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research found that dark roast coffee restored blood levels of the antioxidants vitamin E and glutathione (an important antioxidant) more effectively than light roast coffee. The dark roast also led to a significant body weight reduction in pre-obese volunteers, whereas the light roast did not.

Separate research also showed that dark roast coffee produces more of a chemical called N-methylpyridinium. This chemical is produced during the roasting process, and the darker the roast, the more N-methylpyridinium it contains. Interestingly, this chemical also appears to prevent your stomach cells from producing excess acid, which means dark roast coffee may be easier on the stomach, whereas lighter roasts might give drinkers the acid-like stomach irritation that coffee drinkers sometimes experience.

(C. Kotyczka, U. Boettler, et al. "Dark roast coffee is more effective than light roast coffee in reducing body weight, and in restoring red blood cell vitamin E and glutathione
concentrations in healthy volunteers." Mol Nutr Food Res. October, 2011:55)

So, java drinker, smile, enjoy, and indulge. But, don't take my word for it -- do some research about coffee yourself. If the benefits of drinking coffee outweigh the risks, you too have finally found something that tastes great and can be a beneficial part of your daily diet. Thank you, Lord.

To close, here is another tip or two for coffee lovers ...

* Cinnamon is a tasty herb that mixes particularly well with the flavor of your coffee. Studies show that cinnamon can lower blood glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides in diabetics.

(Alam Khan, MS. PhD. "Cinnamon improves glucose and lipids of people with type 2 diabetes." American Diabetes Association)

* Cocoa is loaded with antioxidants and associated with all sorts of health benefits, including a reduced risk of heart disease. To add some extra flavor to your coffee, try adding a little organic unsweetened cocoa to your cup.

(Eric L. Ding, et al. "Chocolate and Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease:
A Systematic Review. Nutrition & Metabolism. 2006:3)

* Choose organic. Coffee beans are one of the most heavily sprayed crops with pesticides. So, you should select only coffee beans that are certified organic. Remember, you will obliterate ANY positive effects if you consume coffee that's been doused in pesticides or other chemicals.

* Whole Bean: You'll want to purchase whole bean coffee that smells and tastes fresh, not stale; if your coffee does not have a pleasant aroma, it is likely rancid. Grind it yourself to prevent rancidity as pre-ground coffee may be rancid by the time you get it home.

("Mounting Evidence Suggests Coffee May Actually Have Therapeutic Health Benefits." September 16, 2012)  

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