Coffee: Medicine or Poison?

espresso, coffee, pros and cons of coffee, heart health and coffee

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

September 26, 2016

  • Is coffee really good for your heart?
  • Why some people should drink more coffee… and others shouldn’t
  • What to do if you’re a java-junkie

These days, most of the news about coffee is great. Some of the touted health benefits may even make coffee teetotalers want to turn into coffee connoisseurs.

One day you’ll read an article proclaiming coffee’s ability to cut your risk of diabetes, protect your heart or slash your chances of getting cancer. The next you’ll hear that it helps ward off dementia, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.

If you’re a coffee drinker, this news makes you feel great… until one of those negative headlines come out saying that coffee consumption is linked to heart attacks, reduces insulin sensitivity and makes your bones weak.

These inconsistencies can leave your head spinning.

So what’s the truth? Is Coffee Medicine or Poison?

I believe there is plenty of truth behind the health benefits of drinking coffee. After all, it’s packed full of antioxidant polyphenols and other wholesome compounds.

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However, that doesn’t mean it’s for everyone.

Some folks are able to rapidly metabolize a cup of coffee. These are the ones who get the most benefit from the antioxidants found in a cup of Joe. Two, three, even four cups or more a day can actually slash their risk of a heart attack. They’re also the friends at dinner who can have a double expresso and not be concerned about getting to sleep a few hours later.

Other individuals are slow metabolizers. If you fall into this category, just a single cup of java a day can actually boost your risk of a heart attack.

Here’s how the numbers stack up among people who are younger than 59 years old:

Heart Attack Risk Heart Attack Risk
Caffeine Intake Slow Metabolizer Fast Metabolizer
1 cup Increases risk 24% Decreases risk 52%
2-3 cups Increases risk 67% Decreases risk 43%
4 cups or more More than doubles risk Decreases risk 17%

Slow coffee metabolizers also have a greater chance of developing glucose and insulin problems. When they drink coffee, it tends to increase blood sugar while decreasing insulin production.

This may be why the news is so conflicting on this front.

What to do if you’re a Java-Junkie

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Coffee isn’t the only beverage that contains caffeine. Energy drinks, tea and sodas do, too. If you’re a slow metabolizer and gulping down large quantities of these caffeinated beverages each day, you may be exposing yourself to serious health risks.

Now, if this worries you, you can get a caffeine sensitivity test. They run about $99 and you can find them online. All you have to do is send in a cheek swab and you’ll get a report back several weeks later.

If you’d like to get the benefits of coffee without the negative health effects, you can always switch to decaf. It contains all of the phenols and antioxidants found in regular coffee, without the dangers associated with being a slow metabolizer.

In particular, both regular and decaf – whether hot or cold brewed – are high in something called chlorogenic acid (CHA). This is a powerful antioxidant that may be responsible for many of the healthy benefits associated with coffee.

This compound helps block the absorption of sugar and suppress the production of glucose after meals. This means it’s great at controlling blood sugar swings and insulin spikes.

CHA is also great for your heart. It increases the amount of nitric oxide in your blood vessels. This, in turn, relaxes your arteries and lowers blood pressure. Additionally, it can help prevent cholesterol from becoming oxidized, which helps decrease the chance of plague build-up and clogged arteries.

However, if you try going cold-turkey on the caffeine, you might experience withdrawal symptoms. It can leave you feeling headachy, fuzzy, lethargic and irritable.

To make the transition a little easier, try switching to half-caf for a few weeks. If you’re a heavy coffee drinker, start limiting the number of cups you drink each day, too. For example, if you drink four cups a day, cut back to two or three cups of half-caf.

Then, as you start entering your second week, start replacing those half-cafs with decaf.

Regardless of whether you choose caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee, always make sure you select a blend made from organic coffee beans to avoid heavy pesticide residue.

And if you do decide to switch to decaf, be aware that even if it’s labeled organic, the caffeine may have been removed using solvents… which will end up in your coffee cup.

The only processing method that doesn’t use solvents is called the “Swiss Water Process”, or SWP. You can find organic SWP decaf at your local health food store, specialty coffee shops and online.

SOURCES:

Cornelis MC, et al. Coffee, CYP1A2 genotype, and risk of myocardial infarction. JAMA. 2006 Mar 8;295(10):1135-41.

Palatini P, et al. Association of coffee consumption and CYP1A2 polymorphism with risk of impaired fasting glucose in hypertensive patients. Eur J Epidemiol. 2015 Mar;30(3):209-17.

Whitehead N, et al. Systematic review of randomised controlled trials of the effects of caffeine or caffeinated drinks on blood glucose concentrations and insulin sensitivity in people with diabetes mellitus. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2013 Apr;26(2):111-25

Meng S, et al. Roles of chlorogenic Acid on regulating glucose and lipids metabolism: a review. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:801457.

Thom E. The effect of chlorogenic acid enriched coffee on glucose absorption in healthy volunteers and its effect on body mass when used long-term in overweight and obese people. J Int Med Res. 2007 Nov-Dec;35(6):900-8.

Zhao Y, et al. Antihypertensive effects and mechanisms of chlorogenic acids. Hypertens Res. 2012 Apr;35(4):370-4.

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