Monthly Archives: September 2007

coffee

 

We sip it, slurp it, demand it, flavor it, all while debating its benefits. Drink in these health answers from the caffeine experts.

 

Have you heard the latest news about coffee? It can be hard to keep straight on whether coffee is A, good for you; B, not so good; or C, it depends on who’s drinking it; D, all of the above; or E, none of the above.

It’s enough to make you run out and order a double-shot espresso.

In the interest of coffee drinkers everywhere, here are the latest thoughts from leading researchers about coffee and whether it can enhance—or not—our health. We are “spilling the beans” on who should and shouldn’t be drinking coffee, especially if you suffer from certain conditions.

Coffee and the Dehydration Myth

Scientists define coffee as a “mild diuretic.” Drink it, they say, and you will increase your urine output and likely multiply your number of daily bathroom runs. Scientists also generally agreed that drinking coffee causes dehydration. This seems logical: By urinating more often and in greater volume, you’re draining the body of precious fluids, right?

Wrong, according to Lawrence Armstrong, a professor of exercise and environmental physiology at the University of Connecticut. His study’s results, published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, suggest that drinking moderate amounts of caffeine does not lead to dehydration. “Caffeine creates a diuretic effect in the body, this is true. But a diuretic effect is not the same thing as whole body dehydration. What caffeine does is cause a brief increase in urine output followed by a decline.”

Coffee’s Disturbance at Night and Naptime

Caffeinated coffee is a stimulant, and when consumed late in the day it can result in a very restless night of sleep. It also can increase the number of times a person wakes throughout the night. Still, many people choose to drink coffee after dark in hopes of warding off fatigue during late nights out and overnight study sessions. However, the scientific world recently discovered that the effects of caffeine disturb daytime sleep more than nocturnal sleep. Scientists liken this scenario to a biological one-two punch. Caffeine consumption shallows a person’s sleep, thereby making it increasingly difficult to ignore nature’s circadian alarm clock. The end result, it seems, is a relatively uneasy session of recovery sleep.

Reflux Reaction: Coffee Wrongly Blacklisted?

For years, doctors have asked clients suffering from gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) to avoid a variety of foods—namely anything spicy, acidic, fatty or fried—in hopes of easing their symptoms. Coffee is on this list because of the belief that it relaxes the trap door to the stomach, thereby allowing acid to travel where it shouldn’t. Recently, however, a few studies have suggested that java’s long-standing blacklist might be unfair.

In 2005, Swedish researchers published the results of a study involving more than 3,000 individuals that aimed to evaluate the impact of various lifestyle factors on heartburn. The scientists found that smoking and sodium-rich diets strongly increase a person’s risk for GERD, but consuming coffee, tea and alcohol do not. What the evidence does support, according to the physicians, is that only two lifestyle changes result in a reduced risk for GERD—losing weight and elevating your head during sleep. In general and until more studies prove otherwise, the blacklist remains in place. Many doctors advise that if coffee worsens your GERD—and you all know who you are—avoid it, no matter what the latest survey says.

The Dangers of Decaf for Your Cholesterol

Decaffeinated coffee may be short on caffeine, but it’s got plenty of diptenes—and that may be bad news for your health. The results of a study, which Dr. Superko presented to the American Heart Association in 2005, suggest that drinking decaffeinated coffee leads to a rise in bad cholesterol whereas drinking regular coffee does not.  Explanation: “Decaf is usually made out of the robusta bean and regular coffee out of the arabica bean.” Unlike the arabica bean, robustas have a relatively high concentration of fats called diptenes, and these fats contribute to the increase in blood cholesterol.

Monitoring Blood Pressure: Decaf, OK; Regular, Be Wary

In the same experiment about cholesterol explained in the above section, Dr. Superko and his colleagues also investigated the link between coffee drinking and hypertension. The scientists measured blood pressure values four times every hour for all individuals involved in their study. This time, decaffeinated coffee came out on top.

“In the decaffeinated coffee group, blood pressures did not change,” Dr. Superko says. “But in the group drinking caffeinated coffee, their blood pressures went up significantly between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. “It’s not the end of the world. If you don’t have high blood pressure, drinking one or two cups of coffee a day isn’t going to do anything,” says Dr. Superko. “But if you have high blood pressure, it’s important.”

Breakfast Drink of Champions? Coffee and Your Workout

According to the University of Connecticut’s  Armstrong, coffee can be a superb pre-race snack. “Caffeine stimulates your central nervous system; it enhances the force of muscle contractions and improves your power output,” says Armstrong. “It also impacts you psychologically; it makes you feel more alert …. it improves your mood.”

But to reap coffee’s edge, you must drink by the rules. Here, we review the latest who, what and when of java-juiced athletic performance.

First, the who: “Caffeine benefits the endurance athlete,” Armstrong says. “It’s for the weekend warriors, the rowers, cyclists, swimmers and runners who cover long distances. It is not for sprinters,” he says. “It seems to have no effect on events that are less than 90 seconds long.”

Next, the what: To be clear, what we are discussing here, right now, is a straight-up black caffeinated brew. And to get the perfect performance kick, the average 150-pound athlete should drink anywhere from two to three mugs of brewed coffee in one sitting, according to Armstrong. This averages out to about 300 to 500 milligrams of caffeine, he says.

But, when? “If you are going to use coffee to help you with exercise, drink it one hour before your workout,” says Armstrong,  because caffeine needs about 60 to 90 minutes to work its way into your bloodstream.

Coffee Dos and Don’ts for Diabetics: Science suggests that coffee can be both good and bad for your health, depending on who you are.

Who shouldn’t: “Typically, in people with Type 2 diabetes, there is a large and persistent rise in glucose after eating a meal,” says Lane. “This spike in glucose is even larger and longer-lasting if caffeine is present. So, it’s reasonable to say that caffeine and coffee seem to make diabetes symptoms worse.” So what, then, is a Type 2 diabetic to do? Omit the soda and coffee, according to Lane. “In my opinion, people with diabetes should try quitting caffeine and see if this helps with their blood glucose control,” he says. “I suspect it will.”

Who can: Other researchers are investigating the relationship between drinking coffee and the likelihood of developing new cases of Type 2 diabetes. A significant body of evidence—more than a dozen separate studies—has found that coffee drinking is inversely related to the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Otherwise put, the more coffee you drink, the lower your chances are of ever getting the disease.

Moderation and Miscarriages

The harmful potential of drinking coffee during pregnancy lies in drinking upward of 300 milligrams of caffeine—or about three cups of coffee—per day. A pregnancy epidemiologist at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development recommends that expectant mothers limit their coffee consumption to one or two cups a day or, even better, that they quit the java completely.

Brewing up protection against Parkinson’s disease

Oh, how far the little coffee bean has come… not 30 years ago, doctors blasted the caffeinated bean as possibly toxic and marginally safe. The good news, coffee drinkers, is that the medical community has since changed its tune. In fact, the latest science suggests that your morning cup of coffee just might help protect against Parkinson’s disease.

“The data is pretty strong,” says Alberto Ascherio, a professor of nutrition at Harvard University and one of the nation’s leading scientists in the study of caffeine’s effect on Parkinson’s. “So far, the research has consistently shown a link between a lower risk of getting [the disease] and a moderate consumption of caffeine.”

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