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BEACON Senior News

Please pour the coffee

Sep 12, 2016 12:03PM ● By Scott Rollins

Legend has it that around 1,200 years ago an Ethiopian goat herd- er observed his animals energetically dancing around after eating the bright red berries of a local plant. Following the goats’ lead the young man and soon those of his region began eating the berries for energy. It wasn’t until a few hundred years later in Arabia that roasted beans were brewed and imbibed as the drink we know as coffee.

Coffee growing and drinking first spread to Africa and India, then Europe, Latin America, and finally Brazil, where massive production and shipping changed coffee from an elite ritual to a drink for the masses. Our global love affair with that dark elixir of energy was born. America now consumes the most coffee in total but lags behind many northern European countries and even Canada in consumption per capita.

The unroasted coffee bean has all the macronutrients, acids and caf- feine but none of the flavor of it’s roasted cousin. It takes heat to turn carbohydrates and fats into aromat- ic oils, dry out the moisture, alter the acids, and unleash the smell and flavor of coffee.

Despite it’s popularity, coffee has gotten a bad rap. Sometimes referred to as an addicting drug, there have been many permutations in the medical community as to whether coffee is good or bad for your health. More recently, research suggests that not only is coffee okay for your health, it may actually be beneficial.

Although they stopped short of actually recommending coffee for disease prevention, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee stated that moderate coffee consumption, up to about five cups or 400 mg of caffeine, is not associated with any long-term health risks. Better yet, they also noted observational data that showed coffee intake was associated with a lower risk of disease.

People who drink coffee live longer. A 2012 study from the New England Journal of Medicine, and a 2014 study from the American Journal of Epidemiology both show a significant reduction in all cause mortality for people who drink three to four cups of coffee per day.

Coffee is good for your heart. Research shows that people who drink a few cups of coffee daily have less heart disease and heart failure, and that it won’t increase the risk of abnormal heart rhythms. Perhaps the rich antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in coffee help prevent cholesterol oxidation, which is a necessary step in the formation of artery plaque. Along the same line, coffee drinkers have as much as 25 percent less risk of having a stroke.

Regular coffee drinkers have less diabetes, cancer, depression and dementia. Studies show that coffee exerts strong antioxidant, anti-mutagenic and protective effects from chemical or radiation-induced cancer stressors. The interaction with “feel good” brain chemicals, such as serotonin and dopamine, may explain the improved mood, while the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory properties may be responsible for preventing depression.

All this is not to say that coffee is risk free. Some people are sensitive to caffeine and don’t tolerate coffee. Chugging down copious amounts of the black stuff can lead to high blood pressure, anxiety, tremors and insomnia. Withdrawal from caf- feine can be an unpleasant process. And when studies point to three to five cups as being healthy, they are 6 to 8 ounce cups, not the super size 32-ounce mug!

I’m not suggesting you pick up a Starbucks habit to prevent disease. I’m talking about black coffee here, not the Caramel Macchiato doused with vanilla-flavored syrup, milk and caramel sauce.

So with hands wrapped around the warm cup, inhaling the steam- ing aroma and sipping that beloved potion, bottom’s up!