SPECIALIST OFFICE OF INTERNAL MEDICINE

Andrea Džumhur, MD, PhD

Coffee is healthy

Coffee is one of the oldest and most popular beverages in the world. With the globalization of the world and the trends alike over the last twenty years, the popularity of coffee has increased, and it can be assumed that coffee is currently the second most popular beverage in the world right after water. However, the influence of coffee on health was controversial until recently.

In fact, people have long since recognized that coffee is “good for them” but because of bad habits that are more commonly associated with coffee consumers, such as smoking cigarettes, insufficient physical activity and fast food consumption, it was not possible to adequately assess the sole impact of coffee on health.

However, over the past decade, the results of many well-structured scientific studies have shown the benefits of regular coffee consumption, such as reduction of general and cardiovascular mortality and stroke incidence rates, prevention of coronary heart diseases and heart failure, and even prevention of arrhythmia. In addition to protection against cardiovascular diseases, coffee has been shown to improve concentration, reduce depression, and prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, liver cirrhosis, colon cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

The key to potentially beneficial effect of coffee on one’s health is a regular and moderate coffee consumption (up to 600 mg or 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day).

In fact, the negative impact of coffee consumption is primarily associated with a higher daily intake of coffee, which can lead to heartburn, tremors, elevated blood pressure, insomnia and gastric disorders.

Likewise, the consumption of coffee is associated with increased blood pressure, which is scientifically confirmed, but this occurs only at the beginning of the consumption. After a week of regular coffee intake, the effect of coffee on blood pressure disappears. However, it is still recommended that caffeinated coffee be replaced by the decaffeinated kind during periods of unregulated blood pressure.

So, even though coffee has been shown to reduce cardiovascular mortality rate, patients with elevated blood pressure should take proper care. Caution is also advised in patients with elevated blood lipids because a mild misbalance of blood fats (LDL elevation) has been proven connected to coffee consumption. This disorder occurs less with the consumption of filtered coffee, a bit more with espresso coffee and is mostly present with the consumption of Turkish coffee. Therefore, people with blood fat imbalance should try to reduce or stop consuming coffee in order to take a better care of their blood lipids ratio. This effect of coffee on blood lipids is negligible in people who do not have this disorder.

Studies of sudden abstinence of coffee on brain circulation have also been conducted, but they showed no statistically proven effect. However, they did show the existence of a subjective bad feeling, and although there is no evidence of health hazard for now, a sudden stop of coffee consumption is not advisable.

So far, there is not enough evidence of the influence of coffee consumption on pregnant women, but since coffee has an effect on the fetus (it passes through the placental membrane) a reduction of coffee consumption is recommended or should completely be omitted during this period.

It is important to emphasize that the influence of coffee on health should not just be viewed in regard to the caffeine content in coffee, as coffee contains many additional substances (several hundred) that have numerous effects on the body (antioxidant, bronchodilatating, anti-inflammatory and other effects). This has been proven by new studies which have shown that decaffeinated coffee has the same effect on health as caffeinated coffee.

All in all, we can conclude that from the earliest of times, coffee has maintained a significant role in people’s lives, both individually and in the society in general in an unobtrusive and discrete way, and that nowadays coffee is one of the “synonyms” for a good social contact. However, science has only recently discovered the true significance of coffee and made it an important commodity, thus making us understand that it is not here for us just to enjoy it but that it is also beneficial for our health.