The news that four cups of coffee a day may prevent skin cancer contradicts previous research that we should cut down. Find out if coffee is OK for you or not, plus 12 good reasons not to drink it
Fancy a coffee? If only it were that simple. For that harmless-looking cup of cappuccino or espresso is now the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug.
In other words, it’s a substance that crosses the blood/brain barrier and stimulates our central nervous system. Just a few cups trigger the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter produced by the brain that makes us feel good and self-confident.
It also creates a mild habit-forming euphoria (similar to the effect of cannabis), which leads to 25 per cent of coffee-lovers becoming dependent on the drink.
But while the antioxidant-rich coffee bean contains hundreds of healthy compounds, the roasting and decaffeination processes alter it and create a roulette wheel of different outcomes. And now, a significant study (447,000 people over ten years) has found that four cups of coffee a day or more may reduce the likelihood of skin cancer developing.
Who might benefit from drinking coffee?
1 Recent research by medical experts shows that people who drink four or more cups of a day are 20 per cent less likely than non-coffee drinkers to develop malignant melanoma.
2 Five cups of coffee a day have been shown to help protect men – but not women – from Parkinson’s disease. The gender difference may be because oestrogen uses up the enzymes that caffeine needs to be metabolised.
3 The Australian Institute of Sport discovered that cyclists who drank coffee pedalled a third longer than those who consumed water. Scientists at the University of Illinois found that consuming two or three cups of coffee one hour before a 30-minute bout of high-intensity exercise reduced perceived muscle pain.
4 Studies suggest that coffee consumption can improve memory and help avoid, or delay, the onset of Alzheimer’s by blocking inflammation in the brain, even in people with some form of mild dementia.
5 Drinking four or more cups of decaffeinated coffee a day can significantly lower the risk of developing gout, according to Harvard Medical School scientists.
6 A study last year found that people who drink three or more cups a day, regardless of caffeine content, had lower levels of abnormal liver enzymes which signify damaged cells in the organ.
7 Although shampoo mixed with coffee has, unsurprisingly, NOT been proved to boost hair growth, manufacturers of toothpaste and mouthwash are looking at adding caffeine to their products as studies have shown it can prevent tooth decay. Black coffee has been found to stop the build-up of dental bacteria (but adding milk and sugar undoes any positives).
12 good reasons not to drink coffee
1 The 19th-century French novelist Balzac regularly downed 50 cups of coffee a day. He also inhaled ground beans, believing they gave the strength to complete writing sessions of up to 48 hours. Turbo-charged by caffeine, his health declined and he died at 51.
2 The average daily caffeine consumption in Britain is 300mg per head (that’s around two cups) but if you add a third cup or an energy drink, you’ll be hitting 400mg, which is overdose territory. Too much caffeine stimulates adrenaline production, which can cause jitters and muscle tremors. It also increases the heart rate, causing muscle cramp and anxiety. Powers of speech and thought speed up, too. While this can be useful for concentration, an excess can cause confusion, stuttering, a flushed face, diuresis (having to pee a lot) and cardiac arrhythmia.
3 With 350 calories in a latte, weight gain could be top of the list of coffee’s health negatives. Lab-tests on mice at the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research found that a high coffee intake increases fat retention in cells around the abdomen and in the liver.
4 Any coffee, including decaffeinated, stimulates the hypersecretion of gastric acids that are usually only released to digest food. Coffee also tends to speed up the so-called process of gastric emptying, which may result in highly acidic stomach contents being dumped into the small intestine too soon and then damaging the gut’s tissue.
5 Chronic coffee consumption increases insulin resistance, which means the body cannot effectively deliver glucose into the cells. So, ever-larger amounts of insulin are then released to help. In time, cells become increasingly less sensitive to insulin’s effects, which means more circulating glucose, and, in turn, yet more insulin released. The typical Western diet that’s high in refined carbohydrates, combined with stress and a high caffeine, are the perfect recipe for metabolic meltdown.
6 As our bodies adjust to a regular dose of caffeine, many become hooked into a cycle of dependency and this means we no longer get the pick-me-up buzz. Instead, we feel we must keep drinking coffee just to feel normal. The high, which clocks in after about 20 minutes, makes it harder to avoid that third or fourth cup.
7 Quitting a four-or-more-cups-a-day habit can trigger the newly classified mental condition of ‘caffeine intoxication’, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Withdrawal causes headache and a drop in blood pressure, nausea, fatigue, irritability, anxiety and depression.
8 A couple of cups after 5pm can play havoc with your sleeping pattern as they increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the blood and can reduce your periods of deep restorative sleep. This makes you more likely to wake during the night and leaves you feeling exhausted in the morning.
9 Coffee breath is a social no-no. We all know that a cappuccino can leave a strong taste in the mouth but it’s the dehydrating effect of the caffeine, combined with fermenting milk residue, that causes the characteristic whiff rather than the coffee beans. If you want sweet breath, switch to green tea, which inhibits bad breath bacteria.
10 Making your coffee in a press and letting it stand is not recommended as it intensifies cafestol, a natural compound that increases cholesterol.
11 If you smoke, you’ll need to double the number of cups to get the same coffee ‘hit’. Research has shown that smokers metabolise caffeine twice as fast as non-smokers.
12 But perhaps the biggest pain is to your financial health. If you buy two coffees a day over your working life, you could spend as much as £50,000.
This article was originally appeared in: high50.com