Thursday, January 24, 2013

Contentious Coffee

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There seems to be an ongoing controversy around coffee. One day the news is telling me its killing me and the next day it’s supposedly protecting me against deadly cancer. Which is it?! There is an overwhelming amount of information out there on coffee, with seemingly good arguments both for and against it. For every cleanse or detox I have ever tried or read about, coffee is always on the list of things to give up completely. I spent a weekend at a well-known yoga and wellness center in western Massachusetts and was told by one of the instructors that drinking my regular store-bought coffee was tantamount to drinking poison! Really? Aren’t we maybe being a tad bit dramatic?

I will grant you, not all coffees are created equal and I do now buy higher quality beans, which I grind myself, but what about all the studies that tout all the benefits of drinking coffee? (Assume you know I am talking about plain coffee minus the milk and sugar - none of those grande mocha frappucinos with whipped cream!) A number of research studies have shown evidence that coffee can protect us from deadly diseases like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer's. Coffee is chock full of antioxidants, which considering how much we Americans LOVE our coffee, it is one of the greatest sources of antioxidants in the American diet!1 Coffee also contains chlorogenic acid, which has been shown to reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes.2
3Dr. Oz highlighted drinking coffee as a way to reduce your risk of several types of cancers:  
- 2 cups of coffee / day reduces the risk of Colon Cancer & Uterine Cancer

- 3 cups of coffee / day reduces the risk of Breast Cancer

- 4 cups of coffee / day reduces the risk of Head & Neck Cancer by 39%

- 5 cups of coffee / day reduces the risk of Brain Cancer by 40%

- 6 cups of coffee / day reduces the risk of Prostate Cancer by 60%

Now these may seem like excessive amounts to some and he cautioned that these are not meant to be recommendations, but rather to show that there are documented benefits to that daily cup of Joe. He also noted that the same effects are not seen with decaffeinated versions and that one reason may be that studies have shown that the caffeine may stimulate the suicide of cancer cells.
Clearly some people with certain medical conditions or taking certain types of medications should avoid coffee. Additionally, some people are just very sensitive to caffeine in general. I have plenty of friends who get very jittery or have interrupted sleep when they have too much caffeine and once they give up the Joe they report less headaches, feeling less fuzzy and not as agitated. I think it really depends on the person.
I for one am not quite ready to give up my coffee. I can’t say I have ever really noticed an issue with it or caffeine in general, for that matter. I am super proud of myself for giving up my diet coke addiction many years ago. I have given up coffee at different points and I certainly could survive without it. I really only drink it in the morning…I have been never been that person who drinks it all day or makes that regular afternoon Starbucks run. For me it’s just the whole experience; I love the smell of waking up to a freshly brewed pot of coffee and it is one of the joys of my weekend morning routine. I sit and enjoy my coffee while watching morning TV or reading (sometimes back in bed) and it just feels like a treat, especially those cold winter mornings here in NYC!
Although more and more studies are showing the positive benefits for coffee, concerns still remain. I recently read about a new kind of coffee that supposedly boosts immunity called NutriCafe. It is fair trade, organic coffee that is lower in caffeine and less acidic than most coffees, which can cause digestive issues for some people. Additionally it contains an immune-supporting mushroom blend.4 I have been drinking it and must say it’s pretty yummy!
1 Vinson JA. The potential health benefits of antioxidants. Presented at the 230th meeting of the American Chemical Society. August 28, 2005. Washington, DC.
2 Zhang Y, Lee ET, Cowan LD, Fabsitz RR, Howard BV. Coffee consumption and the incidence of type 2 diabetes in men and women with normal glucose tolerance: The Strong Heart Study. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2011 Jun;21(6):418-23.
3 Featured on Dr. Oz’s show: “Dr. Oz Cancer Proof Your Life”
4 Natural News: The best-tasting organic gourmet coffee ever? Nutricafe delivers immune mushroom blend with low-caffeine 'health coffee'

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