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Home » Wellbeing

Coffee Might Save Your Life – by Joel Le Blanc

Submitted by on January 9, 2012 – 10:24 pm

It seems that so many things in life increase the risk of illness and disease — especially the foods and beverages that bring the most pleasure and enjoyment to everyday life. However, coffee drinkers and latte lovers will be pleased to know that coffee may be less of a guilty pleasure than is widely assume. Caffeine found in coffee has been linked with a variety of health problems in the past — including anxiety, high blood pressure, cholesterol and sleep disturbances. But caffeine also has protective effects on a person’s health, and works together with other medicinal compounds in coffee to promote health and well-being.

Coffee is a rich source of antioxidants — compounds found in nature that help to protect cell tissues against oxidation, sun damage and chemical damage. Research studies show that regularly  drinking coffee reduces the risk of many chronic illnesses linked with free radical damage, including prostate cancer, oral cancer, oesophageal cancer, endometrial cancer and pharyngeal cancer, type II diabetes, heart disease and dementia. While the antioxidant profile of coffee is becoming more widely known, it is important to note that it is not only the antioxidants which have a medicinal effect on your health — coffee is full of phytochemicals (such as caffeine), oils, protein, B vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which all work together to protect against illness.

In a study published in The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2011, researchers compared the effects of caffeinated coffee, de-caffeinated coffee and pure caffeine in mice. Of all the different groups, it was the mice who were given caffeinated coffee that experienced a reduction in age-related cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. Mice given de-caf coffee or caffeine experienced no such benefit.  Scientists concluded that the caffeine in coffee probably has a synergistic action with other compounds in coffee — chlorogenic acid, for example — that leads to a reduction in beta-amyloid deposition in the brain over time.

Scientists have long known that coffee and caffeine not only improves the cognitive functioning of the brain, but also benefits mood levels in both men and women. The effect of coffee on mood is so pronounced, that research has shown coffee drinking to be an important factor in reducing suicide risk. According to an article published in The Harvard University Gazette by William J. Cromie in 1996, two long-term studies looking at over 200,000 American adults found that drinking coffee significantly reduced the rate of suicide — most likely through the positive effect of caffeine stimulation on the nervous system. More recent studies have linked coffee drinking with balancing hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain as well.

It is interesting to note that these large studies revealed no increased risk of cardiovascular problems from coffee drinking, and people who only drink coffee infrequently were more likely to experience acute anxiety than regular coffee drinkers.

In order to prevent Alzheimer’s, cancer, diabetes and depression, researchers recommend drinking 4 to 5 cups of caffeinated coffee every single day — a slightly larger dose than what the average person drinks. This ensures the amount of the antioxidants and phytochemicals gained from coffee drinking is therapeutically high. If you suffer from high blood pressure, panic attacks or insomnia, talk with your doctor or a clinical nutritionist before increasing the amount of caffeine in your diet. Otherwise, bottoms up!  

Joel Le Blanc is a medical herbalist, NLP practitioner and freelance writer living in Christchurch, New Zealand. His previous writing has featured in various publications, newsletters and websites, and currently Joel is studying towards a BA in English and Creative Writing at the University of Canterbury. When not working on freelance projects or publishing poetry, Joel spends time sitting in and weeding his organic herb and vegetable garden, where he hopes to grow enough produce for the whole winter long.

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