Coffee & Its Effects on Health: Should You Chug It or Chuck It?

A steaming cup of coffee. Just the morning motivation you need, and you are good to go.

Or so you thought. Until the barrage of articles telling you that no, coffee isn’t your morning soulmate, it actually increases insomnia! Or causes hypertension! Or dehydration! Well, there goes that.

Until... another barrage refuting the first, telling you it deters diabetes, or is the perfect hangover cure!

What’s an eternally exhausted human being of the world to do?

The array of contrasting opinions, studies and myths can leave one thoroughly confused leading to an existential question – should I chug that cup of coffee, or chuck it?

Here is busting a few myths about coffee, shedding light on the health benefits of coffee and more:

1. Coffee Deters Type II Diabetes

Research suggests that drinking coffee regularly can keep the risk of diabetes away. Representational Image. (Photo: iStock)

One of the most resounding arguments favouring the consumption of coffee is its effectiveness in keeping type II diabetes at bay. There have been several studies that testify this health benefit of coffee. If findings from a study done by The American Chemical Society are to be believed, “people who drink four or more cups of coffee daily have a 50 percent lower risk of Type 2 diabetes. And every additional cup of coffee brings another decrease in risk of almost 7 percent.”

Another study done by the Harvard Chan School in 2014 claimed that increasing coffee consumption to more than a cup a day over a period of four years can reduce one’s chances of developing type II diabetes by 11 percent.

Most of the studies we went through established that coffee deters diabetes – but nevertheless there was an article that cautioned people with diabetes from consuming it.

(Photo Courtesy: Healthline)

The verdict appears to be in on this one: Coffee can deter Type II diabetes.

2. Coffee Can Keep Parkinson’s Disease at Bay

Several studies have claimed that caffeinated beverages can prevent Parkinson’s disease. A study conducted by the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre in Canada suggested that it could even ameliorate conditions such as movement difficulties and tremors in patients who are already suffering from Parkinson’s.

The lead author of the study Dr Ronald Postuma also said that, “Caffeine should be explored as a treatment option for Parkinson's disease. It may be useful as a supplement to medication and could therefore help reduce patient dosages,” reported Medical News Today.

Most of the studies we perused had similar findings vis-à-vis Parkinson’s, so on this count, chug away, it seems.

3. Coffee Helps Fight Depression

In a time when depression is emerging as a common ailment affecting a large number of people, finding a cure in coffee seems to be a too-easy quick fix. But does coffee actually help fight depression? Apparently it does, according to some studies.

The findings of a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health reveal that caffeine stimulates the central nervous system by acting as a mild anti-depressant. It boosts the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline, which in turn fight depression.

However, not all research is in agreement. According to an article (based on a study), high dosage of coffee could actually worsen depression in some patients. Another article (this one not substantiated by a study) claims that coffee leads to heightened anxiety, especially in people who have a propensity towards panic attacks.

The jury might be out here, until further notice.

4. Coffee Helps You Lose Weight

Can coffee help lose excess weight? Representational Image. (Photo: iStock)

When I first started working out, my trainer instructed me to drink a cup of black coffee an hour prior to the workout. But does coffee actually help in losing weight? While several studies claim that it does, there are few that can prove it with high certainty.

However, the fact that it energises the body and helps improve the metabolism explains why people vouch for it aiding in weight loss. Besides, it is common knowledge that black coffee is an appetite suppressant, which can help keep food cravings in control. This attribute of coffee actually helps you stick to your dietary goals and could explain the chatter around coffee’s effectiveness in losing weight!

5. Is Coffee the Answer to Longevity?

Another age-old question that keeps surfacing every now and then is the one that links coffee to longevity. What is the truth of the matter?

According to a study published in the journal Circulation, people who consumed one to four cups of coffee regularly lowered their risk of dying from a number of ailments such as diabetes, heart diseases and inflammation. But the study only establishes a link between long-term coffee consumption and risk of mortality – correlation, not causation.

While we can’t be sure, they show no harmful effects of a regular dose of coffee. It will only add some antioxidants to our diet.

6. Coffee Leads to Insomnia

While several people vouch for coffee and its effectiveness in helping them stay awake while completing demanding deadlines, several others claim it leads to insomnia. Consuming too many cups of coffee can not only get one addicted but can also trigger a flight response, causing the heartbeat to race, eventually leading to insomnia.

According to Dr Pooja Sharma, a Mumbai-based nutritionist:

Coffee does lead to insomnia because of the presence of caffeine but only if consumed in exceptionally large quantities. 

She also suggested that blood pressure patients limit their coffee intake, as it could cause them serious discomfort.

What's the Bottom Line?

Just like anything else, moderation is the key to drinking coffee and availing its health benefits. Limiting the daily consumption to 2-4 cups can actually help you retain the health benefits while avoiding the risks.

Having said that, it is crucial to note that what works for one person might not work for another. This particularly applies to pregnant women, people with caffeine sensitivity, or heart problems. Such people might consider shifting to decaf coffee.

According to Dr Sharma, decaf coffee is more suited to such patients because it removes approximately 70% of caffeine content. She also advises all the coffee lovers not to go overboard with their coffee consumption. Too much of anything is bad, as they say.

(With inputs from Harvard Gazette and Harvard Gazette, Health Guidance)

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