WORDS ABRAHAM MATHEW SAJI
Coffee, one of the most widely consumed drinks in the world, is derived from the beans of Coffea canephora (best known as robusta) and C. arabica. Coffee is unique in terms of its perceived and actual effects on the body and is also loved for its distinct aroma and taste. Our general perception about coffee is that it can keep us awake. However, its benefits go beyond the “wake-me-up” action and it can be categorized as a health drink.
What makes up coffee?
The various bioactive compounds of coffee include caffeine, chlorogenic acid, polyphenols, diterpenes and other phenolics. These compounds work either alone or synergistically to provide us with much needed micronutrients and improvement of diseased conditions. Some of the most common and prominent health benefits are:
Coffee As An Antioxidant
Several studies have shown that coffee has antioxidant activity, which has been proven to be higher than cocoa and tea. Its antioxidant quantity and quality are boosted after the beans are roasted. Antioxidants work by functioning as scavengers of free radicals that are produced in our body during routine metabolic processes and stress. Many of the antioxidants in coffee possess anti-inflammatory properties and one of the antioxidants, namely chlorogenic acid, promotes cardiovascular health.
Coffee For Cognitive Health
By virtue of its ability to boost brain activity, coffee has been known to prevent cognitive decline. Thus, coffee contributes to prevention or delay in the onset of disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. The caffeine in coffee prevents a build-up of the beta-amyloid plaque, which is the main cause of impaired cognitive function. Beta-amyloid is a protein fragment present in a healthy brain. As we age and due to the various bodily metabolic functions, these fragments get further broken down and tend to accumulate and form a sticky plaque. These plaques are firmly stuck between the nerve cells, disrupting cell function and cognitive health.
Coffee As A Short-Term Memory Booster
The caffeine in coffee has been extensively researched for its effect on the areas of the brain that are responsible for concentration, memory and alertness. As the duration for the activity of these boosters vary within individuals, researchers found significant surge in brain activity in the group which drank coffee. This surge can be an effective memory booster, as long as it lasts.
Coffee Can Keep Diabetes At Bay
Coffee is strongly associated with the reduced risk of diabetes and its related complications. Coffee assists our body in using insulin and also protects the insulin-producing cells allowing for the effective control of sugar levels. Coffee’s anti-inflammatory effect helps to prevent tissue damage, which is one of the main risk factors of type 2 diabetes. Caffeic acid—one of the many antioxidants present in coffee—also prevents the formation of amyloid fibrils, which are toxic to insulin-producing cells. Since coffee can reduce the risk of diabetes, it aids in the improvement of cognitive health.
“Several studies have shown that coffee has antioxidant activity, which has been proven to be higher than cocoa and tea.”
Coffee Is Healthy For The Heart
Your regular cup of coffee can also be a boon to your heart and other cardiovascular functions. By keeping diabetes at bay, coffee helps to avoid diabetes-induced hypertension.By virtue of its anti-inflammatory antioxidants, it protects the chambers of the heart and blood vessels. Coffee also helps to regulate blood pressure, especially in those with hypotension. These properties can promote cardiac health by controlling blood pressure and thrombosis, which otherwise can cause heart failure.
Coffee Can Enhance Exercise Performance
Coffee, as a cognitive health enhancer that can improve alertness and concentration, ensures adequate focus and performance during exercise. In addition to mental health, it also helps to reduce physical fatigue and thereby increasing and improving endurance levels. By strengthening muscle contraction, caffeine increases the fatty acid levels in the blood which can result in higher endurance and reduction in pain levels.
Coffee Is Healthy For The Liver
Based on a research conducted in Turkey, regular consumption of coffee had positive results in lowering the levels of liver enzymes in the bloodstream. Higher liver enzymes are usually linked to liver dysfunction or damage. Another study also proved an inverse relationship between the quantity of coffee consumed with the risk of liver cirrhosis; there was a 20% reduction in risk with every cup of coffee consumed.
Coffee Can Curb Cancers
The risk of endometrial cancer in women who drink coffee regularly was about 25% lower than those who did not. Among the cancers that could be curbed by consuming coffee were prostate, breast, colon, rectal and liver cancers. The anti-carcinogenic effect of the polyphenols contained in caffeine is believed to be responsible for its ability to curb cancers. Additionally, the protective effect of coffee against liver cancer could be attributed to its ability to lower liver enzymes and control cirrhosis.
Coffee Helps Overcome Depression
Upon consumption of coffee, the caffeine present in it is absorbed and transported to the brain, where it blocks the inhibitory neurotransmitter, adenosine. In the absence of adenosine, there is a surge of other mood-enhancing neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Hence consumption of coffee helps to inject these “feel- good” hormones into the bloodstream, thus enhancing mood and overcoming depression.
Coffee Prevents Gout
The antioxidant phytoconstituents of coffee are responsible for reducing unhealthy levels of uric acid, which is one of the precursors to being afflicted by gout.
Coffee Can Help In Weight Loss
The magnesium and potassium present in coffee helps to regulate the utilization of insulin by the body and reduce cravings for sweet treats or snacks. The caffeine in coffee boosts metabolism and stimulates thermogenesis which break down fat cells and use fat as fuel during endurance exercises and training.
Coffee Lowers The Risk Of Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s disease, the second most common neurodegenerative condition after Alzheimer’s disease is caused by the death of dopamine-producing nerve cells in the brain. Certain scientific studies have shown that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, with a risk reduction of 32% to 60%.
“A cup of coffee a day boosts your health in many ways.”
How Much Coffee Is Good?
In hindsight, all the benefits of coffee may sound exciting and tempting, but it does not mean that more is better. Experts recommend that we drink moderate amounts of coffee based on the signs our body shows, as each individual responds differently to coffee.
Fret not, coffee lovers! Coffee isn’t bad for your health. It is no longer featured in the WHO list of possible carcinogens (cancer-causing substances). Rather, it is listed as a health drink in US FDA’s 2015 Dietary Guidelines. The guidelines recommend having 3 to 5 cups of coffee a day. However, the guidelines mention that addition of sugar, cream or flavoured creamers negate the beneficial effects. So, black is best!
As further research and ongoing studies reveal more benefits of coffee, it may not be long before we come across a phrase, “A cup of coffee a day boosts your health in many ways.” HT
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