If you're a coffee-lover, you know that drinking coffee is a nuanced experience — the rich aroma and the lovely ritual of sitting down with a fresh hot (or iced!) cup.
With so much conflicting information, it can be confusing to know whether coffee is good or bad for you. We have good news! The most recent studies of the health effects of coffee have been brewed, and they are positive.
In a 2021 study research showed that moderate coffee consumption might even offer more benefits than harm! Coffee has been linked to a reduced risk of many ailments, including Parkinson's disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, cirrhosis, liver cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer.
Coffee beans contain polyphenols, which are a type of antioxidant. Antioxidants protect the body against free radicals, which are produced in response to processes that act as toxins in the body. Free radicals contribute to inflammation, which has been linked to various aspects of metabolic syndrome, including type 2 diabetes and obesity. Scientists have found links between inflammation and multiple aspects of metabolic syndrome, including type 2 diabetes and obesity.
Like everything in the world of nutrition, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Coffee might be healthy for some and less so for others, so it's essential to understand where your body's needs fall on the spectrum.
How caffeine affects each of us depends on: 1) our unique genetic makeup, 2) our current state of health and medical history, 3) the amount of caffeine we consume, and 4) how we time and use caffeine around other things like workouts and sleep.
May I pour you a cuppa genetics?
One crucial factor to consider when determining whether or not coffee is your friend is genetics.
The gene CYP1A2, which controls an enzyme called CYP1A2, determines how quickly our bodies break down caffeine. CYP1A2 is the key liver enzyme responsible for metabolizing caffeine. Variations in the CYP1A2 gene significantly impact how caffeine affects our bodies. You may be a fast or slow caffeine metabolizer based on your genetics.
Slow Coffee Metabolizers
For those slower to metabolize caffeine, java hangs around in their system longer and may have longer-lasting stimulant effects. Slow metabolizers may be more sensitive to caffeine's adverse side effects such as insomnia, anxiety, and upset stomach.
There is also evidence linking slow metabolizers with an increased risk of having a nonfatal heart attack or high blood pressure with a higher coffee intake. Based on their body's response, slow metabolizers may need to limit or avoid caffeine to reduce the risk of potentially serious health complications. In addition, they are less likely to benefit from caffeine when it comes to exercise; it may even reduce their athletic performance.
Fast Coffee Metabolizers
These folks metabolize caffeine at a quicker rate, and hence, caffeine might not have as big of a jolt or as long-lasting of an effect. For fast metabolizers, coffee alone will not increase the risk of heart attack and hypertension. Fast metabolizers clear caffeine from their systems rapidly, allowing the beneficial antioxidants, polyphenols, and coffee's other healthful compounds to kick in without caffeine's side effects. If you are a fast caffeine metabolizer, you are less likely to get nervous or anxious after drinking coffee. You are also more likely to benefit from caffeine as an athletic performance booster.
How Do I Know if Coffee is Good of Not so Good For Me?
This doesn't imply that every java lover needs to have their CYP1A2 genes analyzed ASAP. Other genetic and environmental factors contribute to caffeine metabolism differences, and genetic tests do not capture those. It's just one more exciting piece of the biochemistry puzzle.
The gold standard of finding out whether coffee is not your friend is to eliminate it for a few weeks and then gradually add it back in and see how you feel.
The most common ill effect associated with caffeinated coffee is sleep disturbance. Caffeine affects adrenaline secretion and therefore acts as a stimulant. Some find that coffee negatively affects their stress hormone cortisol or raises blood sugar if not taken with food. Some feel better sipping green tea. Some of us are never giving up our beloved one cup of joe.
Who Should Not Drink Coffee?
If you fall into one of the following categories, you might want to think twice before brewing that morning cup a joe:
How many cups of coffee are safe to drink per day?
The right amount or maximum amount of caffeine differs for everyone. The Mayo Clinic says up to 400 milligrams of caffeine is considered safe for most healthy adults, translating into about three cups of coffee.
Decaffeinated coffee is a good option if one is sensitive to caffeine, and according to the research, it offers similar health benefits as caffeinated coffee.
Other Factors Influencing How Healthy Your Coffee Might Be
Of great importance is what you add to your coffee. The extra calories, sugar, and unhealthy fats in a coffee beverage loaded with whipped cream and flavored syrup will offset any health benefits offered by black coffee. Instead of loading up on flavored cream and sugar, try adding up to two tablespoons of organic, unflavored cream or a non-dairy collagen cream. Cinnamon is another excellent way to add some natural sweetness.
Coffee: The Bottom Line
Current evidence may not warrant recommending coffee or caffeine to prevent disease, but many people can enjoy coffee in moderation as part of a healthy lifestyle. If you struggle with anxiousness, insomnia, jitteriness, or other unpleasant symptoms, try cutting coffee out for a few weeks and see how you feel.