Coffee – Not All That Bad?
I am afraid to write this particular column. As a naturopathic physician, people think I know something they don't about health and tend to take me seriously. When I wrote about the health benefits of chocolate a few issues ago, all my fellow chocoholics thanked me. Many said that they had upped their daily intake in their quests for radiant health. Not what I had intended. When I was living in Japan, the American modus operandi of "if a little is good for you, a lot must be great," was a very curious concept to Japanese people. Please consider this article as providing interesting and hopefully useful information, not as an excuse to start drinking coffee or to up your coffee intake.
About 180 million Americans begin their days with a cup of coffee. That's a lot of Java. Coffee harvesting is labor intensive, requiring over 3,000 hand picked and hand sorted beans for every pound of coffee. My guesstimate is that in those 180 million first cups of coffee, we drink 4,500,000 pounds of coffee, or about 13,500,000,000 beans. That's a lot of picking and sorting. Coffee is one of the most researched beverages we drink with more than 19,000 scientific studies conducted to date. The US Food and Drug Administration still considers coffee and caffeine to be "Generally Recognized as Safe." The good news (for most of us) is that coffee is a relatively benign substance with some well-researched positive effects. Let's take a look at a few of the studies which conclude in favor of coffee.
In the past 30 years, nine studies have shown that regular coffee consumption over time may reduce the risk of Parkinson’s Disease, an incurable and debilitating disease affecting 1 million Americans, who develop tremors and have difficulty in moving their arms and legs. Although it is not known why, the coffee element that appears most likely to produce this beneficial effect is caffeine. My guess is that coffee's profound stimulation the nervous system has something to do with it.
Everyone is familiar with the kick-start a cup of coffee provides in the morning. In fact, coffee also increases the speed of rapid information processing by 10 percent! A number of European studies have determined that moderate does of coffee contribute to increased alertness and energy. The findings also revealed that a cup of coffee might help in the performance of tasks requiring sustained attention and concentration, even during low alertness situations such as after lunch and at night.
Other studies have found that coffee helps to improve performance independently of its raising of fatigue-related concentration, and improves the performance of participants undergoing standard vigilance and reaction time tests, resulting in increased self-reported vigor, alertness and efficiency, and a decline in levels of depression and anxiety.