Thursday, October 15, 2009

Coffee - Healthy or Harmful?

Coffee - Healthy

Caffeinated coffee has had a bad rap. I have to defend it. Everywhere I go, people are startled and disappointed that I order coffee, and don’t drink “decaffeinated.” I enjoy my coffee and intend to continue doing so, guilt-free. I will tell you why and then discuss situations where caffeine should be limited.

Here are the reasons I enjoy my caffeinated coffee.

Caffeinated drinks are not diuretics

Caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and tea, are fluids, not diuretics. Some people believe that if you drink 12 ounces of coffee, you lose 12 ounces of water. That is not so. Coffee can replace water when you’re thirsty, because it is 99% water. A recent study showed that if you drink 12 ounces of weak coffee containing 31 mg caffeine (usual caffeine content would be 120 mg caffeine), you would lose one more ounce of urine than normal. That sounds good enough for me. Of course, the more fluids you drink, caffeinated or not, the more you will “have to go.” Test yourself with decaf coffee, you may find you “have to go” just as often.

I should explain how you can know if you’re dehydrated; you may be surprised at how easy it is to find out.

You are dehydrated if your urine is:
➢ Odorous (and you haven’t eaten asparagus or vegetables that cause a strong odor)
➢ Dark (and you aren’t taking supplements, such as riboflavin, that causes a dark color),
➢ The first elimination in the morning is more concentrated than the rest of the day’s output
Check yourself for a few days. If you still think you’re dehydrated, drink more fluids. Nice subject, hey?

Why is Caffeine healthful?

Caffeine is a stimulant:
➢ Can help you stay alert when you work or study
➢ Is absorbed in the stomach and small intestine. That is why you can feel its effects as soon as 15 minutes after you drink coffee
➢ Increases dopamine levels, a neurotransmitter in the brain that activates the pleasure center

Fewer suicides - Coffee may be good for life. A major study has found fewer suicides among coffee drinkers than those who abstained from the hot black brew.
Coffee can reduce the risk of heart disease, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's says a study by Norwegian researchers. However, the positive effects of coffee are negated with excessive consumption of more than five cups a day.

Caffeine does not build up in the body like some drugs; it is excreted within a few hours of consuming.

Caffeine consumption is not an addiction; it’s a habit. You may think you’ve become “addicted” to coffee, in the same way you’re “addicted” to running or watching your favorite television show.

How much caffeine/coffee?

Moderate caffeine consumption is considered to be 300 milligrams (mg) per day, which is equal to four cups of coffee. You can calculate for yourself:

Item Milligrams of Caffeine

Coffee (8 oz):
Brewed, instant 60 – 120
Decaffeinated 2 – 4
Espresso (1 oz) 40
Tea (8 oz): Hot 30 – 60
Iced 10 – 40
Soda (8 oz) 20 – 30
Chocolate milk (8 oz) 2 – 6
Chocolate (1 oz) 5 – 25

You can have some caffeine, even every day. Calculate your caffeine intake and be sure not to overdo it.

Coffee - Harmful

Is there possible harm to consuming too much caffeine-containing coffee? Of course! Like all beverages and foods, too much of anything can cause harm. The most common effect is that of a stimulant. If you drink coffee at night, it could affect your sleep. As coffee is the main source of caffeine in the diet, I will discuss both.


I don’t recommend caffeine-type beverages for kids; as it could make them jittery and interfere with their sleep. I would prefer they drank milk. Research shows no difference in the way children and adults handle caffeine and caffeine-containing foods and beverages. Low caffeine intake doesn’t have an effect on hyperactivity.

Pregnant women

➢ Some studies have shown a reduced chance of becoming pregnant with a high caffeine intake, others not.
➢ Caffeine intake may increase the risk of early spontaneous abortion in some pregnant women. In a Swedish study, women who had a caffeine intake of more than 500mg/day had twice as many spontaneous abortions compared to those with a caffeine intake of less than 100 mg/day.
➢ The recommendation is that pregnant women should avoid or lower caffeine intake – max one cup of coffee a day. When I was pregnant, current research wasn’t available, but coffee tasted bitter so I couldn’t drink it.
Caffeine and disease
➢ Fibrocystic breast disease - caffeine may aggravate the condition. With breast cancer, no relationship has been found, not even when women have lumps in their breasts.
➢ Osteoporosis - way down in the list as a risk factor for decreasing your calcium levels. Be sure to add plenty of milk to your coffee, or even better, drink a skinny latte.
➢ Heart disease or high blood pressure - limit or avoid caffeine intake until you speak to your physician. Although a Finnish study found that coffee drinking does not appear to increase risk of coronary heart disease or death.

Why the headache with caffeine withdrawal?

Many of my clients have reported irritability, nervousness, sleepiness, depression and extreme headaches within a day of their last dose of caffeine. These symptoms can last three days. They want to know why?

This is the reason:
➢ Caffeine belongs to the same chemical group as adenosine, a nerve carrier in the brain.
➢ When you consume caffeine, the nerve cell thinks it is adenosine. Caffeine therefore binds to the adenosine receptor.
➢ Suddenly reducing caffeine intake makes the body oversensitive to adenosine.
➢ Blood vessels in the brain dilate.
➢ This causes an excess of blood in the head
➢ The result is a quick drop in blood pressure
➢ And the famous headache.

You may notice caffeine is often present in migraine medicines as it is an adenosine antagonist.

How to stop the headache?

I have had clients who drink more than 10 cups of coffee a day. I have insisted they cut down right away. To prevent the resulting headache my suggestions are:
➢ Reduce caffeine intake at the rate of half a cup of coffee a day, known as Caffeine Fading.
➢ If you develop an unbearable headache, take an analgesic such as aspirin. Several analgesics contain caffeine in small amounts.
➢ Keep going until you are down to two to three cups a day

The moderation message moderation, yet again! Don’t fear coffee. Enjoy caffeine containing foods and beverages but don’t abuse it.