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Coffee and Caffeine: Cause for Caution or Celebration?
Each year, coffee drinkers around the world — one billion strong — get a chance to celebrate their favorite beverage on National Espresso Day. But what is it about coffee that people really love most? Is it the actual shot of espresso, or the shot of caffeine-packed energy they get from drinking it? Perhaps both, but if it’s the caffeine they love more, is that a good thing or not? We decided to find out.
The Controversy Over Caffeine: The World’s Favorite Drug
The public, media and medical establishment seem to have a love/hate relationship with caffeine. And there seems to be confusion about whether it’s good, bad, or neutral. From “It’ll stunt your growth” to findings that caffeine may provide protection against various serious diseases — Alzheimer’s, liver cancer, type 2 diabetes and more — there’s a lot of buzz surrounding coffee and its most famous constituent, caffeine.
According to scientists writing in Frontiers in Psychiatry, “caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive drug in the world” with people drinking more than 2 billion cups every day. While some say caffeine is a drug that taxes health, others consider it a welcome natural compound that helps keep people alert when their energy is waning.
However, this stimulant — while extremely well-loved — has a reputation for causing the jitters, insomnia, or worse if taken in too-high doses. And what about questions around caffeine’s effects on the heart and cardiovascular system? Does it raise blood pressure and cause hypertension?
Caffeine and High Blood Pressure: What’s the Real Story?
While some assume that caffeine consumption is associated with higher blood pressure and potentially greater risks of heart disease, research does not bear this out. In fact, a study published in Mayo Clinic News Network showed that caffeine consumption — whether coffee was involved or not — is associated with a significant reduction in the risk of all-cause mortality.
Drilling down into the data, we discover that caffeine’s effects on the cardiovascular system are essentially neutral — and in many newfound respects, positive. And the benefits of caffeine accumulate further because of its protection against a host of other diseases, such as certain types of cancer.
While unaccustomed caffeine drinkers may experience brief elevations in heart rate or blood pressure after consumption, these effects are short-lived and reversible. In terms of overall cardiovascular health, according to a ScienceDirect report: “…typical moderate caffeine intake is not associated with increased risks of total cardiovascular disease [including] arrhythmia; heart failure; blood pressure changes among regular coffee drinkers; or hypertension in baseline populations.”
Coffee and Caffeine Benefits Worth Celebrating
In fact, with more studies being done on coffee and caffeine, further positive benefits are being discovered about this holy grail of the beverage world. For instance, for people with low blood pressure — a common ailment that can be dangerous — caffeine can function as a natural vasoconstrictor, tightening the blood vessels and thus raising the blood pressure out of the hypotension state.
And that’s just the tip of the whipped cream on your café latte! According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, there are many positive ways the right amount of coffee and caffeine can benefit your health:
- You could live longer.
- Your body may process glucose (or sugar) better.
- You’re less likely to develop heart failure.
- You are less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.
- Your liver will thank you.
- Your DNA will be stronger.
- Your odds of getting colon cancer will go way down.
- You may decrease your risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease.
- You’re not as likely to suffer a stroke.
Also, research suggests that dietary consumption of chlorogenic acid (CGA) found in coffee beans could produce a wide range of health benefits and physiological effects. There is evidence that CGA supplementation could also protect against neurological degeneration and the resulting diseases associated with oxidative stress in the brain.
Whether you choose decaf or regular, research shows that coffee is nothing short of a superfood health drink — due in large part to the caffeine its best known for. Far from causing health problems, its regular consumption is linked to reduced risks of developing a host of diseases and conditions. So, feel free to enjoy National Expresso Day, or any day, with your favorite cup of joe! Or better yet, brighten someone else’s day with one. As the saying goes, “Friends bring happiness into your life. Best friends bring coffee.” — Anonymous