Coffee: Is It Good or Bad For Your Health?
The Truth May Be In Your Genes
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Are you a coffee drinker? If so, you are certainly not alone. People around the world love coffee. It is second only to oil on the world commodity markets.That popularity is for good reason, because for many of those coffee lovers it can boost mental and physical energy, metabolism, and mood. Additionally, coffee can also aid in weight loss. So, let’s take a look into questions about coffee and health.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, more than half of Americans over the age of eighteen drink coffee every day. And while all of this java consumption has been happening, there has also been a fairly intense scientific debate over many years on whether coffee is good or bad for your health – largely because the science has been contradictory. With this much coffee consumption that would seem to be a very important question to answer. So, The Health Sciences Academy in Great Britain set out to get the truth about coffee and health. In their recent research paper, Nutrigenomics 101: Coffee and Your Genes (A. Ruani), they got answers by looking at the best available scientific evidence. And they certainly found some very interesting answers.
Researchers have found that the effects of coffee and caffeine can be very different from person to person. For instance, while some people may get the positive psychological effects of better mental performance and higher levels of alertness, others may experience nervousness, nausea, or the jitters. Additionally, coffee has been shown to increase glucose metabolism, as well as lower risk for Parkinson’s disease, liver disease and brain stroke. And in what seems like a strange contradiction on the surface, it has also been shown to decrease risk of Type 2 diabetes in some people while increasing the risk of pre-diabetes in others.
Possibly the most interesting paradox regarding coffee and health is that some people reap significant health benefits and others reap none. For instance: most people that regularly drink coffee show less incidence of cancer and tumors, but others show no difference in cancer rates; coffee can cause some people to develop high blood pressure, but others will not; and many people will receive heart protective benefits from coffee and others show no protective benefit.
So, why the great disparities in positive and negative health impacts of coffee? It appears that it really comes down to the way in which our individual body processes coffee – and that appears to be largely driven by genetics.
According to the researchers at The Health Sciences Academy, genetics play a large role in not only the individual health effects of coffee and caffeine, but also how quickly our body may metabolize coffee. And perhaps more interestingly, for some of us, our genes can enable our body to increase the production of serotonin and dopamine in our brains which then generates a “feel-good” response. This then serves to make coffee drinking become a habit because of the chemical “reward” our brains may receive for drinking it.
A large and comprehensive study done by researchers at Harvard looked at the entire genetic code of nearly 130,000 coffee drinkers. What this study revealed was that there are eight specific genes effecting how our bodies process and utilize the molecular components of coffee. The fact that there are so many genetic influencers means that it is a “complex trait.” So, how your body processes coffee is dependent upon the interplay of these eight genes and not just an individual gene.
And it seems a specific gene determines the degree of impact coffee has on you. People who metabolize coffee more quickly feel less of a stimulating effect than people that metabolize coffee more slowly. Conversely, people that are slow metabolizers feel more of a stimulating effect. This explains why some people can sleep directly after drinking it and others can’t sleep for hours afterwards. But, in what may be the most interesting finding in this study, people who feel the most effects from coffee (slow-metabolizers) are at a significantly increased risk of heart attack while people that feel the least effects from coffee (fast-metabolizers) have a decreased risk of heart attack with the same amount of coffee.
Now, if that isn’t enough of a seeming contradiction for you, how about this? It was determined that both caffeinated and caffeine-free coffee help prevent Type 2 Diabetes. So it seems that it is the antioxidants in coffee that have this particular protective benefit, not the caffeine. But that’s not all – there is a caveat to this benefit: People who have hypertension, carry extra body fat, and consume large amounts of caffeine, are at a higher risk of developing pre-diabetes. Decaf coffee is then the better choice for these individuals.
It has been established that coffee can have a lot of health benefits, but there are caveats and limitations you need to be mindful of regarding coffee and health:
• If heart health is a concern, limit coffee to no more than one or two cups per day.
• If you are pre-diabetic and hypertensive, you can drink coffee for its many health benefits, but make sure it is decaf.
• The thermogenic (calorie burning) and appetite suppression effects of caffeine can aid in weight loss and can potentially be part of an effective weight loss program
Additionally, what all of this means to you obviously depends largely upon your genetic make-up and if your genes make you a “slow” or “fast” coffee metabolizer. To find out, you could get genomic testing – which can run from several hundred to many thousands of dollars (If you go this route, you need to take care that the test you are considering will actually test for the genes responsible for determining coffee and caffeine metabolism). Or you could just get a good rule of thumb by observing what the effects of coffee are on you. Remember that fast metabolizers do not feel the effects of coffee and caffeine as intensely as slow metabolizers do. Fast metabolizers therefore may be able to sleep shortly after consuming caffeine or coffee, while slow metabolizers have difficulty sleeping. Which are you?
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Dennis writes on topics that can have positive health benefits for his readers. He has coached hundreds of individuals in health and wellbeing. He has also consulted with hundreds of large and small companies and organizations to help increase the health and wellbeing of their employees. Through his work, he has positively impacted the health and well-being of thousands of individuals. Dennis has a passion for helping people to live happier, healthier, more prosperous and rewarding lives. His articles can be read at: Flourish for Life Blogs