Coffee: Potential Benefits and Adverse Effects
Coffee is a brewed beverage prepared from the roasted coffee bean, which is the seed of the coffee plant.
Coffee plants are grown in many countries all over the world, primarily in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia.
The coffee bean itself is actually green and when it is roasted to varying degrees, depending on the desired flavor profile, it will turn to the brown color you know when you think of a coffee bean.
Coffee contains caffeine and numerous other compounds that could potentially contribute to certain health benefits. In this article, we will explore coffee's history, its potential benefits, and if it is safe for everyone to consume.
What is coffee?
Coffee is a brewed drink prepared from roasted coffee beans, which are the seeds of berries from any plants in the Coffea genus.
The genus Coffea plant is native to tropical Africa, Madagascar, Comoros, Mauritius, and Réunion in the Indian Ocean.
To make coffee, coffee beans are roasted and then ground. The coffee grounds are then brewed with hot water to create coffee.
The coffee plant was exported from Africa to countries around the world in the 17th century and is now cultivated primarily in the equatorial regions of the Americas, Southeast Asia, India, and Africa.
The coffee plant, sometimes called a coffee tree, is an evergreen shrub that can grow as tall as 15 feet tall, or 5 meters, and its flowers are white and have a strong fragrance.
The coffee plant berries are green, turning to yellow, and then red when they are ripe which are called coffee cherries.
Coffee beans are actually the pits of coffee berries. There are two main types of coffee plant, Coffea canephora, and Coffea arabica.
The coffee plant was first domesticated in Ethiopia while the first people to drink coffee in a form you would recognize today were from present-day Yemen in the 15th century.
What are the potential benefits of drinking coffee?
Coffee has been shown to have potential health benefits besides its stimulant effects that give you an energy boost, help you concentrate, and stay awake.
Some of these health benefits have been shown time and again to be beneficial in numerous studies while others need more research.
The health benefits of coffee include:
Preventing type 2 diabetes
Studies have repeatedly found that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
One large study found that coffee drinkers had a 35% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes if they drank 6-7 cups per day while those who drank 4-6 cups per day had a 28% lower risk of developing it.
The reason for this is thought to be the coffee’s effect on protecting insulin-producing cells in your pancreas.
Reducing the risk of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease
Coffee has been linked with a reduced risk of Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease in several studies.
The coffee’s effect on these diseases is thought to be due to the coffee’s antioxidants, which can protect your brain cells from damage by removing free radicals from your body.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cells and lead to cancer.
Reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke
Coffee has been linked with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, also called heart disease, and stroke in several studies.
As noted above, it also lowers your risk of type 2 diabetes, which is a risk factor for both heart disease and stroke.
It is possible that drinking coffee could raise your blood pressure or contribute to unhealthy cholesterol levels, but more research is needed to confirm this.
Reducing the risk of certain cancers
Coffee has been linked with a reduced risk of several cancers such as colon cancer; however, its potential ability to protect against liver cancer may be its most promising anticancer property.
Coffee's antioxidants are again thought to be responsible for this cancer-preventing effect. Studies have also shown its ability to strengthen individual DNA strands that if they are left unrepaired can also lead to cancer.
Protects your liver
Besides showing very promising signs of protecting your liver against cancer, in studies, coffee has also shown an ability to protect your liver from other chronic diseases.
These diseases include cirrhosis, also known as scarring of the liver, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
Due to coffee's ability to lower your risk of some of the most common causes of death like heart disease, recent studies have found drinking coffee may actually help you live longer too.
Helping you stay slim
Despite what you may have heard, coffee does not appear to lead to weight gain.
In fact, coffee may actually help with weight management by aiding you to lose weight or preventing you from gaining it in the first place.
Several studies have shown it may have the ability to decrease body fat and help you stay physically active too.
Are there any adverse effects to drinking coffee?
Coffee is safe for most people to consume; however, there are some potential adverse side effects of coffee including:
Anxiety and restlessness
Due to caffeine side effects, coffee may cause anxiety or make it worse if you already have anxiety disorders. It can also lead to restlessness and the inability to focus or concentrate.
If coffee does make you feel anxious, try decaffeinated coffee or coffee with less caffeine.
Because coffee is a stimulant, it can interfere with sleep if you drink it too close to bedtime.
If you have trouble sleeping, avoid drinking coffee after lunchtime.
Nausea and vomiting
Drinking coffee on an empty stomach can cause nausea and vomiting.
If you are prone to these symptoms, try drinking coffee with a meal or snack.
Due to the effects of caffeine, coffee can be addictive. If you find that you cannot go without coffee or that you need more and more coffee to feel the same effect, you may be addicted.
If you think you are addicted to coffee, try cutting back or quitting altogether.
Rapid heart rate and breathing
Coffee can cause a rapid heart rate and breathing. If you have heart or respiratory conditions, coffee may make these conditions worse.
Talk to your doctor before drinking coffee if you have these conditions.
Coffee can cause stomach upset, including heartburn and diarrhea since it is a known laxative.
Coffee can also lead to frequent urination because it is a diuretic. If you have problems with urinary incontinence, coffee may make these problems worse.
As with any drug, caffeine needs to be enjoyed in moderation.
Enjoying caffeinated coffee in moderation and moderating your caffeine intake can provide you with many potential health benefits but drinking too much coffee can lead to the adverse side effects listed above.
If you are experiencing any of the above side effects, try cutting back on your coffee and caffeine consumption.
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Is coffee safe for anyone to drink?
It is generally considered safe to drink moderate amounts of coffee, which is 4 cups of coffee or under per day.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, coffee may be safe to consume although there is conflicting evidence about it and more research needs to be performed.
Do not give coffee to children or adolescents. If you have anxiety or certain mental disorders, the caffeine in coffee may make it worse.
Please talk to your doctor or health care provider before drinking coffee if you have any medical problems, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or take medications.
Coffee is a drink made from the beans of the coffee plant and it has a long history dating back to ancient times.
It has many potential health benefits, including reducing your risk of liver disease, living longer, and helping you stay slim although more research is needed to verify these benefits in most cases.
However, there are some potential adverse effects of coffee consumption to be aware of, such as coffee addiction, anxiety, and insomnia among others.
Moderate coffee consumption is generally considered safe for most people but if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or have certain medical conditions it is best to talk to your doctor before consuming coffee.
If you have any more questions about coffee or caffeine and whether it is safe for you, please consult with your doctor or health care provider.