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Coffee – most people drink it, but it’s gotten some bad press over the years. How can something natural be bad? Well, it might not be bad in every situation in the most natural forms. In fact, new research shows that this beverage can even ward off certain types of cancer. For you coffee drinkers out there who are thinking this is the best news since man walked the moon, keep reading: coffee is still linked with negative health consequences and its consumption requires a heaping dose of moderation!
Liver protection is one of the most recent health benefits attributed to coffee. Several recently published studies,, confirm the same result: drinking this beloved beverage lowers one’s risk of developing liver cancer. Coffee’s protective effect was evident even in those dealing with active liver damage, such as that caused by hepatitis or alcoholism, both of which raise the risk of liver cancer.
This liver research offers a nice segue into the topic of individuality. For example, while you may toss and turn all night after one cup of coffee, your friend, who drank two cups, sleeps like a baby. This is because caffeine’s effects are different for each person.29 In fact, for some people, the effects of caffeine can last up to 20 hours.29 Jacob Schor, a naturopathic doctor in Denver, explains the liver cancer angle like this:
“People who aren’t able to tolerate coffee have slow Phase I liver detoxification pathways. Having a lower capacity to break down toxic chemicals may put these people at greater risk to develop cancer. On the other hand, coffee induces Phase I liver pathways and over time increase one’s capacity to break down these toxic chemicals and provides protection. Thus, non-coffee drinkers may have an aversion to coffee due to genetic factors making them less able to tolerate it. Regular drinkers receive protection from coffee both by having liver function stimulated and from innate anti-cancer effects of chemicals in the coffee.”
Two known anti-cancer nutrients found in coffee include cafestol and kahweol. Besides liver protection, a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in 2005 found decaffeinated coffee reduced the risk of rectal cancer.
An additional action behind coffee’s positive effects comes from its antioxidant nutrients, which protect the body from oxidative damage, believed to be the underlying cause of everything from cancer to aging. Clinical investigation has found coffee to have as much or even more antioxidant activity than green tea. Chlorogenic acids (CGAs) are the most abundant types of antioxidants in coffee and have been shown to support healthy blood pressure and blood sugar levels as well.,,,
Even the caffeine in coffee appears to have benefits. A reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease has been linked with coffee and other caffeinated beverages. The researchers are not sure the mode of action but suggest that caffeine may protect the brain and nervous system. Other studies suggest that caffeine may protect against neurodegeneration in such conditions as Alzheimer’s disease, and dementias. Caffeine has also been shown to improve lung function in asthmatics for at least four hours.
The final benefit we’ll discuss is well understood in the java-drinking community – heightened brain function. When dragging their heels, not able to think clearly or needing to stay awake, many people turn to coffee. The jolt of energy from the caffeine gives a jump-start to the nervous system, perking up the senses, sparking memory, and revving the stress hormone engines.
As desirable as some of these benefits are, coffee drinking does raise some concerns.
Caffeine has a stimulatory effect on the nervous system., The body senses the increased nerve activity and releases the stress hormone adrenaline to put out the fire. Adrenaline is produced by the adrenal glands, which are two, small, often overworked glands that respond and deal with any stress we encounter – whether it is from a cold, running late to work, or the loss of a pet. Adrenaline speeds the heart rate, tightens muscles, and causes the release of sugar into the bloodstream for extra energy and the short-lived “lift”– basically getting ready to “fight or flee.” This agitating effect is why caffeine is discouraged for those already dealing with higher levels of anxiety, since it can exacerbate symptoms.
Once the coffee rush wears off, those with too much wear and tear on their adrenals tend to feel lousy, which may prompt them to drink more coffee! And the whole cycle starts all over again. This can contribute to what is called adrenal burnout, which can lead to symptoms of difficulty getting up in the morning, general fatigue, PMS, memory issues, mood swings, headaches, insomnia, and allergies., Caffeine also functions as a diuretic and accelerates mineral loss. This stimulant also appears to worsen PMS symptoms.,
Blanket statements about how much caffeine is acceptable or damaging to health are hard to make since each person’s response is different.29 Variables to consider are gender, weight, age, stress level, general health, metabolic rate, genetic factors, and medications. Depending on the amount of coffee, the variety of coffee, the roast, and how it is made, a cup of coffee can impart anywhere from 30 to 300 mg of caffeine. The best way to determine the effects of caffeine is through personal evaluation.
There is a difference between wanting coffee and needing coffee (caffeine). The latter is a sign of addiction. Ask yourself these questions:
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, there is a good chance you are a coffeeholic! Look at it this way: the stressful yo-yo effect of caffeine often blinds one to the real, underlying problem. For instance, if you need an energy boost, it’s likely due to nutrient insufficiencies, allergic reactions, or a lack of sleep – not a caffeine deficiency! Covering up the problem with the stimulation of caffeine complicates and compounds the problem.
Coffee often contains an abundance of pesticide residues, nitrosamines, solvents, and other possibly carcinogenic compounds. In fact, it has been suggested that coffee is the most heavily pesticide-laden food or beverage., Fortunately, conscientious growers are producing organic varieties without the use of these harsh chemicals. Another source of undesirable contaminants, such as ethyl acetate, methylene chloride, and trichloroethylene, is the solvent-based decaffeination process. But, decaffeination can also be accomplished with the Swiss Water process, which is 100% chemical-free.
When all is said and done, you still can enjoy your java, but there are some guidelines to consuming this beverage in the most healthful way possible.
As with most aspects of nutrition, individuality is paramount and coffee consumption is no different. In excess, caffeine can cause problems, but an excess to one person may not be excessive to another. Coffee clearly has some healthful properties, but its use should be intentional, rather than addiction driven. Evaluate your response, monitor your intake, and reverse any level of addiction. When you sit back with your deliberately chosen cup of joe, you can do it with a peace of mind and confidence that you are nourishing yourself.
Fair Trade Certified™ – This certification aims to achieve greater social equality by setting standards that protect the prices paid to farmers, prohibits child and forced labor, prohibits discrimination, and supports community development. It does offer some limits on the use of agrochemicals and GMOs, although not as extensively as organic.
Rainforest Alliance Certified™ – More specifically focused on the environmental impact of growing coffee, this certifies that growers are taking measures to improve the soil, reduce chemical use, maintain or improve tree cover and protect wildlife, provide workers with a decent wage and respect the rights of the local peoples and community.
USDA Organic – Use of this label requires that no synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers have been used and requires a buffer between the organic coffee plants and any other crops not grown organically.
Shade-Grown – This term indicates that the coffee plants were grown under a canopy of trees, which is how coffee plants traditionally grow, instead of on modern coffee plantations. Shade-grown coffee produces higher yields and a reduced dependence on synthetic chemicals. Using this traditional growing method helps to preserves forest and forest-like habitats–especially important to protect migratory and local birds, which is why this growing method is sometimes referred to as “bird friendly”. Contact companies using this claim to verify the percentage of shade grown; 70-100% is considered ideal.
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