Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages in the world.  Theres no wonder a search on PubMed will give you almost 9000 research papers on it.  Not only is there a lot of research on coffee, there is a lot of bad research.  It’s actually one of the most misunderstood foods when it comes to deciphering whether it is healthy or un healthy for you.  There is research for and against coffee and tons of experts on one side of the argument or the other.

First lets point out common flaws in much of the research

When researching the effects coffee has on a persons health, there needs to be true controls.  One of the biggest flaws in research is that they fail to prove causation as in one thing causes another.  In the case of coffee, most studies can not show true causation because they have a lack of controls or in other words, they haven’t controlled how people are drinking it or the source of the coffee.

Things that can effect the health impacts of drinking coffee:

  • Is it organic coffee?  Coffee beans are one of the most sprayed crops in the world.  The oily coffee bean is very effective at absorbing and holding on to those toxic pesticides and herbicides all the way to your cup.  By choosing organic coffee you ensure not only a less toxic product, but organic foods contain higher levels of healthy nutrients as well.  Drinking coffee that is full of chemicals that are detrimental to your liver and nervous system would drastically change the outcome of the study.
  • What is the coffee being consumed in?  Drinking just one cup of joe out of a styrofoam cup increases the blood concentration of styrene by 1000 fold.  This increases the toxic load on the body.  Now do that 4-6 times per day and you are definitely going to notice a different effect on your health over time.
  • BPA and plasticizers.  Coffee makers that are made of plastics can leach compounds like BPA and other plasticizers into your coffee which can impact your overall health and increase your risk of diabetes and cancer.
  • Is it filtered or un-filtered.  One of the biggest arguments against coffee is the ability of compounds in the oil called di-terpense to up regulate the production of LDL cholesterol.  The US health system is at war with cholesterol and so this is seen as an inherent health risk.  The impact of this is much greater in unfiltered coffee like a french press, or those using a permanent metal filter.  The paper filters absorb a large portion of the oil from the coffee beans before they make it to your cup, minimizing this effect.
  • Bleached or un-bleached filters?  Coffee filters can contain high amounts of chlorine and other chemicals that will run into your coffee as it is brewed.  Elevated chlorine levels can cause liver problems and deplete your body of antioxidants and detoxifying compounds.
  • What are people putting in the coffee?  Fructose from sugar is the most important thing to control when looking at managing triglycerides.  Low fat creamers and artificial sweeteners can cause other issues with insulin and blood glucose levels as well.
  • When is coffee being consumed?  Having caffeine to late in the day can effect sleep and cortisol rhythm which can then lead to increases in metabolic x and fatigue syndrome.

As you can see, when looking at whether coffee is good for you or not, you really have to take into account what form of coffee you are drinking.  An interesting study in Pharmacological Research actually looks at the major components of coffee and their effects on the body.  To save you some time from reading 9,000 studies on coffee, here are some cliff notes.

What are the Pros of Drinking Coffee

  • Coffee contains antioxidants
  • Coffee contains polyphenols that are heart protective
  • Coffee helps induce phase I and Phase II detoxification to help the body clean itself.
  • Adding organic heavy cream is a healthy source of good saturated fats including CLA which help with optimal metabolism and hormonal function and support a lean body composition.
  • Caffeine can increase mental clarity, focus, athletic performance, strength, and fat burning.

What are the Cons of Drinking Coffee

  • Caffeine can cause elevated heart rate and increased blood pressure.
  • Unfiltered coffee contains chemicals in the oil portion that increase LDL cholesterol.
  • Bleached coffee filters can contain chlorine and other toxic chemicals.
  • Non-Organic coffee is one of the most sprayed crops and contains lots of pesticides and herbicides that are toxic to the liver, nervous system and increase other health risk.
  • Most coffee is made in plastic machines that when heated can release toxic chemicals into the water including BPA and other harmful plasticizers.  Coffee cups and thermoses have the same risk.  Just because a plastic is BPA free does not mean it does not leach other plastics.  Heating plastic of any kind is never a good idea.
  • Most Coffee containing beverages are full of high sugar or artificial sweeteners that increase insulin, and negate any health benefits of coffee.
  • Using low fat dairy products in skinny and fat free coffee products results in an increase in glycemic effect which leads to fat gain and diabetes.  Low fat dairy also is a major component for increasing the risk of colon cancer.

I like most other BioSignature coaches, am pro coffee, but there are a stipulations.  If you want coffee to be healthy, you have to source it, brew it, and drink it properly.  Stay tuned for tomorrows blog “How to make a healthy, BPA free, plastic free, delicious cup of coffee” and see exactly how I do it.