In addition to being one of the most widely consumed drinks, coffee is also currently one of the most researched beverages in the world. With new research into the positive health benefits of coffee every day, coffee drinkers today have a better excuse than ever to put on the kettle. However, with so much research currently in the works, are coffee lovers being bombarded with too much conflicting information? How much of it do they actually believe?
A recent survey conducted on the NESCAFÉ Arabia website showed that consumers in the Middle East were surprisingly positive about the health effects of coffee. Of the 724 respondents in the Middle East and Levant, 77 percent were aware of studies showing moderate coffee consumption can actually decrease the chance of getting cardiovascular disease. 86 percent knew that coffee has been shown to reduce the effect of Alzheimer’s disease and 78 percent understood that drinking coffee is linked with the prevention of diabetes. This faith in the health benefits of coffee was clearly reflected in the respondents’ coffee consumption habits with 52 percent averaging 3-4 cups per day and 38 percent enjoying their favourite beverage once or twice a day.
Below is a summary of the latest developments in the world of coffee and health research, encompassing the good, the bad and the ugly.
Coffee and the metabolism
Women who drank at least 4 cups of coffee per day are less than half as likely to develop diabetes as non-coffee drinkers - a study recently conducted by the UCLA School of Public Health (published in the Journal of Diabetes) involving 40,000 women discovered that regular coffee consumption causes an increase in a chemical that regulates hormonal activity, which has long been associated with the development of diabetes.
Drinking 3 to 4 cups of coffee per day is associated with an approximate 25% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to consuming none or less than 2 cups per day- most recently, five more epidemiological studies have been published that confirmed a true association between consumption of coffee and the lower incidence of type 2 diabetes.
“Research has consistently established a strong positive correlation between moderate coffee consumption (3-4 cups per day) and the beneficial effects on the metabolism. Nonetheless, further investigation is needed to better understand the exact mechanisms of action of each of coffee’s many components including caffeine and antioxidants” commented Karine Janho, Corporate Nutritionist, Nestlé Middle East.
Coffee and Cardiovascular health
Consumption of coffee can reduce the risks of strokes, especially for women - a Swedish scientific study carried out by doctors amongst 35,000 women aged between 49 to 83 years old for ten years revealed that women who drink more than one cup of coffee on a daily basis were 22% - 25% less prone to strokes compared to those who drink fewer amounts[iii]
Contrary to popular belief, studies have found regular coffee consumption has no increased risk of cardiovascular disease in diabetic men- in addition, in a Swedish study those patients with the highest coffee consumption at the time of hospitalization after their first heart attack have a lower mortality than those who consume less coffee[v]
“Studies have shown that drinking coffee in moderation, as part of a healthy balanced diet is not associated with the development of any cardiovascular problems. Moderate coffee consumption has also been proved safe for patients with heart disease, as it does not increase the frequency of cardiac arrhythmias,” commented Karine Janho, “There are, however, confounding factors for larger consumptions.”
Coffee and the brain
Drinking 5 cups of coffee a day could reverse the memory problems associated with Alzheimer’s disease - a widely publicized study conducted by the University of South Florida in 2009 showed that mice who consumed about 500mg of caffeine per day performed significantly better in tests measuring memory and thinking skills than those who consumed no caffeine. However the hypothesis has yet to be tested on humans.
Coffee drinking of 3-5 cups per day at midlife was associated with a decreased risk of dementia/AD by about 65% at late-life – in a CAIDE study (Cardiovascular Risk Factors, Aging and Dementia) in Finland, researchers concluded that coffee drinking may be associated with a decreased risk of dementia/Alzheimer’s disease.
“Whilst the current research on the health benefits of coffee is extremely exciting and heartening for coffee lovers, there is still not enough scientific evidence to draw solid conclusions. What we can say is that coffee is a 100 percent natural drink which, when enjoyed in moderation (3-4 cups a day) may actually provide some positive health benefits,” concluded Karine Janho, Corporate Nutritionist, Nestlé Middle East.
“It is a common misconception that coffee is inherently ‘bad’ for your health. As with everything else, moderation is key. Coffee is a 100% natural beverage which has been proven to increase mental alertness and concentration when enjoyed in moderation as part of a healthy balanced diet. For me, it is one of those little pleasures which we can truly enjoy guilt free,” said Dr. Grace Abu Rizk, Head of Family Medicine, St. Joseph’s Hospital.”