Is coffee REALLY that bad for me?
Two stats that have nothing to do with each other but are equally surprising to me:
On average, more than 10 people are killed per year by a vending machine
63% of Americans drink at least one cup of coffee per day.(1)
While the former is just weird to think about, the latter is pretty eye-opening. The same study that gave us that factoid tells us that while those 63% are drinking at least one cup per day, on average they’re drinking 2.7 cups daily! That’s a lotta beans! If we’re taking this much of something into our body, it’s definitely worth a look as to whether or not it’s doing us any good--or worse, causing any damage.
For years, we’ve been told that coffee stunts growth, causes ulcers, and causes addiction to caffeine. Study after study gave us hard facts to back that up and doctors spouted them in just about any article you would find about the effects of coffee for the last 50 years. But that hasn’t stopped people from drinking it anyway.
As it turns out, those studies don’t really hold up. They studied the health of coffee drinkers versus non-coffee drinkers and those that didn’t partake in the cups of Joe always seemed to come out on top. But most of the studies didn’t look at any other factors in the the lives of the participants. Smoking, activity level, overall health, family history--they never entered into the data. So, as you can imagine, those are pretty big things to ignore and didn’t give impartial results.
Benefits of Coffee
Time did a really good piece on some of the reasons why it could actually be a good idea to jump on the coffee bandwagon. So let’s take a look at some of the possible benefits to drinking coffee:
Lower risk of developing Type-2 Diabetes due to the way coffee affects our hormones and metabolism. Lower risk of heart disease and stroke: coffee keeps blood vessels flexible and healthy. Antioxidants in coffee can help fight and prevent cancer. Anti-inflammatory: not just needed when you sprain an ankle but reducing your inflammation is something we talk a lot about around here and is hugely beneficial for your overall health
So while I’m not going to go into a full thesis on how the only thing you should ever drink is coffee because of its many, many health benefits, we can probably loosen the reins on the thought that coffee, in and of itself, can be the difference between an early death and living until your 134.
Drawbacks of Coffee
It’s not, however, all rainbows and unicorns when it comes to drinking coffee. The caffeine in coffee (or anything else caffeinated) can cause your heart to race, negatively affects your sleep pattern, and even causes spikes in blood pressure. Truthfully, if you look for it, you can find a whole host of negative side effects that can seem pretty scary: bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer, esophageal cancer...basically cancer in general. But most of the research done linking these to coffee consumption has been debunked and seen as very outdated.
Something to note: that first list of side effects are consistently linked to people that drink more than 6 cups of coffee a day, every day. But, like anything, there is definitely such a thing as too much of a good thing. Are oranges good for you? Yup! Lots of great vitamin C. Should you drink 6 cups of OJ every day for your entire life? No way! That would overload your system and give you one heck of a stomach ache.
My final recommendations…
If you’re not a coffee drinker, I’m not sure the health benefits are SO overwhelming that you should start the habit. If you’re already drinking coffee, pay attention to how it makes you feel. Does it make you jittery? Are you having trouble sleeping if you drink a cup after 5pm? Then play around with it to see if you can cut back. Lastly, WATER WATER WATER WATER. Coffee cannot be your source of hydration (because it will do the opposite) and you should still be drinking enough water daily that your urine is clear to lightly pale yellow.
And, for Heaven’s sake, don’t drink more than 6 cups of coffee in a day.