Although coffee is a drink loved and enjoyed globally, its effect on people’s health has been a controversial issue.
People have never doubted its delicious taste and aroma, but over the years questions have arisen about its implications and the effects it can have on well-being and the body.
At first, it was thought that it had more negative effects on people’s health than positive and that it contributed to various diseases. This was because the prior health conditions of the person to be examined were not taken into account.
So, what effects does coffee have on our health? We have all heard the saying “We are what we eat”, so this time we will show you the effects it has on our body and in which cases they are positive and in which others are negative.
Table of Contents
How was coffee originally used?
As they say out there, to understand the present we must look several times at the past, and it is no different with coffee.
In ancient times, the research process was empirical and based on a constant cycle of trial and error. In the case of food, the only way to know if something was edible and if it tasted good was by tasting it or by observing nature, that is, the animals and their reaction.
According to what we know about the history of coffee, its seed was discovered thanks to a goat that ate the fruit and began to have strange behaviors, such as being overexcited.
The first thing known about coffee was that it gave an invigorating feeling. At first, the seed was not usually roasted, but used in infusions along with the leaves. Even some nomadic tribes in Africa would combine it with some spices to make something like “energy bars” that would help them maintain energy on their long journeys.
With the expansion of its discovery, it was even used in monasteries to help monks stay awake during night prayers.
As we can see, originally the effects of coffee were positive because it gave energy to people, however, nobody knew why or its exact components.
Over time, its use as a drink was evolving so that the green beans were not taken as an infusion, but they were roasted, ground, and brewed with very hot water. Its energizing effect was important, but it became a secondary feature due to the prominence and popularity of its flavor.
The exact chemical and natural composition of coffee depend on the state of the seed, that is, whether it is green, roasted, ground, or even its variety.
In general, we can find very varied compounds. The main ones are antioxidants, diterpenes and, perhaps the best known, caffeine. Let’s find out a little about each!
They are synthesized chemical compounds that serve as protectors against free radicals, which are very reactive or harmful substances that in excessive amounts produce oxidation of cells. These changes accelerate the aging of the body and even have repercussions on DNA and the occurrence of diseases such as cancer.
We can find 2 types of antioxidants, non-enzymatic and enzymatic. The first ones refer to those that the body can’t produce on its own, so they are substances that must be acquired externally. On the contrary, the latter can be produced by the body and also act as protectors against the negative effect of free radicals.
The best-known example of non-enzymatic antioxidants is vitamins, especially of groups C and E.
Vitamin C is one of the best known and important, it is even considered an essential nutrient for the body. In our body, it is crucial to allow the birth and repair of body tissues.
Also, it acts as a protective structure of proteins, lipids, among others, and prevents oxidative damage to DNA and RNA. They are also critical for the body to be able to synthesize collagen and elastin.
Vitamin E, acting as an antioxidant in the body, mainly protects cells from the negative effects of excess free radicals.
It is also very important for the body because it helps to stimulate the immune system and prevent blood clots from forming by contributing to the dilation of blood vessels.
Antioxidants in coffee
In a cup of coffee we can find an important amount and variety of antioxidants, both vitamins C and E, as B and A, all being fundamental for the proper functioning of the body.
The consumption of this drink significantly provides the body with the right amount of antioxidants. According to the degree of roasting and variety, the antioxidant activity can change. It has been found that, in the case of the arabica variety, the more it is roasted, the more antioxidants it has compared with the robusta.
In addition, coffee also has polyphenols, a substance found in plants and characterized by having more than one phenol group per molecule.
These compounds not only help saturate and neutralize free radicals but are also known for their chelating properties (removal of toxic substances via the kidney or digestive route), as well as their antioxidant, antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, among other properties. An example of a polyphenol present in coffee is chlorogenic acid.
It is a group of plant components that are characterized by having a structure of 20 carbons. Those that can be found in the coffee are cafestol and kahweol. Both are lipid substances and have to do with the concentration levels of cholesterol in the blood.
These substances are present in the oil of beans and their concentration depends on the type of coffee. They can be found in both Arabica and robusta-type beans, but in the latter, there is more cafestol than kahweol.
Its effect on the body can be considered negative since it raises cholesterol levels in the blood. However, it can be counteracted with the brewing method of coffee. In more traditional preparations such as Turkish coffee, Scandinavian boiled coffee, pot-brewed coffee, etc., higher levels of these substances are found due to a lack of filtering.
On the contrary, when the coffee has gone through a filtering process, preferably with a paper filter, it has been found that the cafestol and kahweol are retained by more than 50%. So the resulting drink has much lower concentrations of those substances.
It is a solid, white, bitter-tasting alkaloid that acts as a stimulant of the central nervous system. It produces a temporary effect of energy restoration and elimination of sleep, therefore it is considered a psychoactive substance.
Despite this, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration determined that coffee could be considered as a “food substance Generally Recognized as Safe used for multiple purposes.”
It is found naturally in coffee beans, tea, cocoa tree, guarana, among others. But it is also artificially added to different preparations such as cola drinks, sweets, cakes, and even ice cream. Besides, it is very often found in energy drinks.
Caffeine has various effects on the body, both positive and negative, depending on the concentration and frequency at which it is consumed.
As for the positive, the following stand out:
- Stimulation of the central nervous system, which makes you feel more awake, with more energy and less sleep.
- It contributes to the improvement of physical performance thanks to the secretion of adrenaline and the release of fatty acids from tissues.
- It helps burn body fat.
- It has diuretic effects that help the body to remove excess water and salt in the body.
The negative effects of caffeine have to do mainly with the amount consumed and even with the state of health of the person.
According to the European Food Safety Authority, in general, the daily intake of up to 400mg of caffeine consumed over a day has no negative or harmful health effects in adults, except for pregnant women. This equates to about 3 to 4 cups of coffee.
Caffeine, when consumed in excess, can cause negative effects on the body. Above all, in people with previous diseases such as heart problems, stress, psychological disorders, among others. These can be:
- Abnormal increase in heart rhythm
Finally, it is important to note that, being a psychoactive substance, consuming it in higher than normal amounts can cause dependence and even addiction.
Nutritional content of coffee
On average, an 8-ounce (237g) cup of coffee may contain the following nutritional components:
- Protein: 1% of DV (Daily Value)
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine): 2% of DV
- Vitamin B2 (riboflavin): 11% of DV
- Vitamin B3 (niacin): 2% of DV
- Vitamin B9 (folic acid): 1% of DV
- Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): 6% of DV
- Magnesium: 2% of DV
- Phosphorus: 1% of DV
- Potassium: 3% of DV
- Caffeine: 94.8 mg
Is it good or bad to drink coffee?
In general, coffee as a drink can bring to the body different beneficial components for the organism.
A few years ago, coffee began to have a bad reputation, as several studies began to find negative effects on people’s bodies.
However, many of these studies didn’t take into account the previous health status of the participants. The people tested were not only constant drinkers of coffee and other drinks such as alcohol but also smokers. From this perspective, it was to be expected that the results showed a person in poor health, but it couldn’t be attributed to coffee consumption alone.
Today thanks to various studies, it has been possible to discover that, in fact, coffee seems to have more positive effects on the body than negative. Even many of these findings relate coffee as a positive factor against various diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, among others.
Despite this, we cannot say either that it can’t present negative effects. However, these have to do with the amount of coffee we consume.
Everything in excess is bad, and coffee is no exception. As delicious as it is and as much we want to drink it several times a day, it is important to measure how much coffee you drink, because exceeding the recommended “dose” can be harmful.
More than saying if it is good or bad, and to help you better understand the effect it has on the body, we will show you in more detail both the positive and negative effects of coffee on the body.
Positive effects of coffee on health
As we could see from the components of coffee, both in beans and the drink, it has more beneficial than harmful substances for the body.
Over the past few years, various research has been done on the relationship that coffee can have with physical health, and many have given positive results. Let’s see what they are!
- In the right amounts, it can help lessen severe headaches and migraines. In fact, many drugs contain caffeine due to this effect.
- It increases heart rate, blood pressure, and blood supply. So for people suffering from constant low blood pressure, it can be beneficial.
- It can reduce the risk and possibility of heart attacks.
- A study found that coffee consumption can act as a protector against postmenopausal breast cancer.
- According to a study conducted by the research group for the development and evaluation of cancer prevention strategies in Japan, coffee consumption was associated with a lower risk of developing colon cancer in women.
- One research found that the main components of coffee, caffeine, caffeic acid, and chlorogenic acid have inhibitory effects on the formation of substances responsible for Type 2 diabetes. People who drink on average 4 cups of coffee a day have less risk of developing this type of diabetes.
- It is an important source of antioxidants.
- According to one study, high coffee consumption was found to reduce the risk of developing liver cancer.
- Several studies conducted on the relationship of coffee consumption with neurodegenerative diseases have found that people who drink coffee are less likely to develop them and have a cognitive decline.
- Various studies have found that consuming coffee in the right amounts can help decrease the risk of depression in people, and even some concluded that it could also help decrease the risk of suicide.
Negative effects of coffee on health
Although coffee has many benefits for the body, it can also contribute to or increase the risk of various diseases. These negative effects are mainly given when the recommended daily consumption is exceeded, and are often attributed to caffeine.
- It can have the opposite effect to reducing headache, and instead, generate stronger migraines.
- A lot of caffeine can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, so it isn’t beneficial for people with hypertension or who suffer from arrhythmia.
- It can cause sleep problems or insomnia.
- It generates anxiety, restlessness, and tremors.
- Caffeine can lead to dependence and/or addiction.
- It is a drink contraindicated for people suffering from gastritis or ulcer because it increases the production of acid in the stomach and generates irritation.
- As we mentioned, one of its components is diterpenes, so consuming a lot of coffee can increase cholesterol levels.
It can also have negative effects on people with previous illnesses or with poor health conditions. Many times coffee is even a contraindication or is prohibited for pregnant or lactating women, people suffering from anxiety, cardiovascular diseases, kidneys, among others.
Thanks to various research, we can say today that coffee is not only a delicious drink and that it is part of our culture, but it can also bring us more benefits than we imagine.
It is an important source of antioxidants, helps us reduce the risk of many diseases such as Type 2 diabetes or cancer, and also gives us the energy we need to have a great day.
But, remember that it should be drunk in moderation. Depending on how our state of health is and what foods we consume, if we take more than the recommended amount, it can have negative effects.
In the same way, this doesn’t mean that you can’t calmly enjoy a delicious cup of coffee, as long as you do not exceed the recommended daily amount.