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Coffee: the good, the bad and the cranky

I must admit there are some mornings that the only thing that drags me out of bed is the thought of a good cup of coffee. Made by my husband we share breakfast amongst the chaos and savour our home barista style flat whites. I have often said that I would be more stressed if the espresso machine died than the washing machine. I must have said that too loudly, our trusty espresso machine has outlived two washing machines.

Coffee for many people is either an obsession or an addiction. I personally cannot go without my one cup a day, and I must admit I get a little cranky if it doesn’t appear before a certain time in the morning. As a nutritionist am I supposed to demonise all stimulants and prefer a dandelion latte instead? My answer is I feel that coffee in moderation is good, and like most things in life there is a benefit and a side effect to many of the foods we enjoy.

For some light humour about coffee these Will Ferrell highlights from the movie Kicking and Screaming perfectly highlight our addiction to coffee. He is a great comedian, enjoy.

The metabolic benefits of coffee:

The health benefits of coffee consumption are linked to its presence of a polyphenol called Cholergenic Acid (CGA). Cholergenic acid has been proven to improve glucose metabolism. Studies showed that 3-4 cups of decaffeinated coffee reduced the risk of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus by 30%. CGA’s in coffee improve insulin signalling, and reduces post prandial hypoglycaemia. Clinical trials have also testified that CGA is able to lower the glycaemic impact of foods and chronically lower background blood glucose levels of T2DM. In practice it may be beneficial to enjoy a cup of coffee with your breakfast. Especially if you are consuming simple carbohydrates such as toast and cereal.

Using coffee to control weight is common practice, people will often forgo breakfast or lunch with a coffee hoping to resist the need to eat. I am not positive this is effective as the CGA’s in coffee need to bind to food in order to speed up metabolism.

Regular coffee consumption has also shown a positive interaction with cholesterol metabolism. Studies suggest that the CGA’s in coffee reduce the oxidation of lipids therefore reducing LDL profiles. CGA’s also support liver function which may improve the liver clearance of lipids.

Does coffee prevent Alzheimer’s Disease?

Coffee’s ability to stimulate the nervous system and improve concentration has encouraged the study of coffee having a possible role in protecting the brain against Alzheimer’s Disease. Rats that were fed coffee were shown to have less Amyloid -Beta Protein, this is the marker for AD. This is most likely due to the polyphenolic activity of the CGA’s in coffee. They act as a neurological anti-inflammatory. Using coffee for therapeutic treatment for AD is still a long way off, as there needs to be more long term studies conducted to show more convincing results.

Coffee and anxiety:

Many people will admit that they have to curb their coffee consumption as it adds to their symptoms of anxiety. If you are prone to anxiety reducing your caffeine consumption is advised. This includes tea, chocolate and energy drinks. Caffeine overstimulates the amygdala region of the brain which can keep it in a fight or flight state. Caffeine’s ability to increase our cortisol levels inhibits the brains production of GABA (Gamma-amino butyric acid), the neurotransmitter that keeps our nervous system in the rest and digest mode rather than I am been chased by a lion. Individuals who have anxiety symptoms associated with caffeine consumption will find that it inhibits the brains production of melatonin causing insomnia.

Coffee raises blood pressure:

As caffeine acts as a vasodilator the notion that it increases blood pressure has been postulated by researchers for decades. One cup of coffee can raise systolic blood pressure slightly, but the adaptive nature of the cardiovascular system adjusts and is not considered significant. Even excessive consumption isn’t shown to cause an increase in risk in hypertension. However, if you were struggling with symptoms of hypertension including tachycardia I would recommend switching to a decaf and assess if there is a reduction in symptoms.

Coffee aggravates irritable bowel syndrome:

Coffee has an acidic PH which increases gastric secretions, causing rapid bowel motions. As a diuretic coffee causes dehydration which can aggravate symptoms of constipation. The combination of increasing gastric secretions and dehydrating the gut explains the confused urge of running to the bathroom but then feeling constipated. Interestingly decaffeinated coffee increases symptoms of IBS more than regular coffee. For suffers of IBS and other inflammatory bowel conditions reducing coffee intake is strongly recommended.

Bullet coffee and cold drip coffee. Why the hype?

You may have seen little bottles of cold brewed coffee in your local hip food emporium. The rise in popularity of cold drip coffee is due to its alkaline PH. Regular brewed coffee is naturally acidic, which irritates the bowel and possibly causes other inflammatory symptoms. Cold brew coffee alkaline nature may be better tolerated for some people.

The bullet coffee trend does elude me somewhat. I am fascinated by people’s obsession with it. The logic that adding some butter and MCT oil in your coffee will miraculously make your metabolism enter a state of ketosis burning fat faster and solving your metabolic woes. I am sure there are a league of cross fitters and elite paleo aficionados that can endorse its benefits but for many I don’t think they can follow the complete program to benefit from adding butter and oil to their coffee.

For further information and consultation on your diet, nutrition and how to make the perfect coffee make an appointment with Holy Mackerel Health today.


Coffee Intake and Risk of Hypertension The Johns Hopkins Precursors Study Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH; Nae-Yuh Wang, PhD; Lucy A. Meoni, ScM; et al

Caffeine and coffee as therapeutics against Alzheimer's disease. Arendash GW1, Cao C

Roles of Chlorogenic Acid on Regulating Glucose and Lipids Metabolism: A Review

Shengxi Meng,1 Jianmei Cao,1,2 Qin Feng,1 Jinghua Peng,1 and Yiyang Hu1,3

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