My grandmother used to say that anything too good was either illegal, immoral or fattening. Nowadays, she'd probably add "unhealthy." Around here, we think coffee is very good, but is it good for us? Many of our customers have asked the same thing, especially now that a California judge has ruled that larger coffee chains in California must post warnings about the alleged cancer risk of drinking coffee. We turned to our roaster and asked, "What's up with coffee and our health?" Here's his answer:
Studies show that drinking coffee is good for most people. Coffee drinkers tend to live longer and suffer lower rates of heart disease, dementia and even some cancers. Even the federal government agrees. The judge in California is concerned about acrylamide, a chemical that is produced when coffee is roasted. Acrylamide in very high doses has been shown to cause cancer in rats, but no studies have indicated that the amount of acrylamide produced when coffee is roasted causes any increased health risk. Acrylamide is produced whenever food is cooked in dry heat. If you've eaten roast, fried, grilled, baked or broiled food that was exposed to heat over 250 degrees F, you've eaten acrylamide. If you consider the amount of food vs the amount of coffee you've consumed in your life, it's clear that if there is a problem, it's not the coffee.
There are cases where a person should be careful with coffee. Some pregnant women suffer very sensitive stomachs and for them, even high quality Arabica coffee may cause stomach upset. Holding off on coffee until the baby is born makes sense. People with high blood pressure or heart arrhythmia may need to switch to decaffeinated coffee. For some, caffeine aggravates those conditions. For others, it's fine. If you're concerned about high blood pressure or arrhythmia, check with your doctor. Yours may be like mine and feel that the risks of moderate coffee drinking are small compared to the benefits.
Sleep is another area where caffeine can be a problem. Some people drink caffeinated coffee all evening and never have trouble falling to sleep. Others need to switch to decaf by noon if they want to get to sleep at all. Luckily, if caffeine affects your sleep, or makes you nervous, you don't have to give up your daily coffee. Look for high quality coffee beans that have been decaffeinated using a water process. That way, you can have your coffee and sleep, too.
Athletes are another group that debate the benefits vs risks of drinking coffee. Some feel coffee improves performance and recovery. Other's worry about dehydration. Studies have shown that as long as an athlete continues to drink enough water, coffee will not cause any dehydration. Drinking coffee can actually help an athlete stay hydrated, though not to the extent plain water does.
If you're interested in doing your own research on coffee and your health, here are some links to get you started:
Coffee and cancer
Coffee and your heart
Coffee when you're pregnant
Coffee and Dementia
Coffee, Exercise and Dehydration
For most of us, enjoying coffee actually helps us stay healthy. If you have any concerns, about coffee hurting your health, please check with your doctor. Otherwise, keep on drinking!
~ Carrie, Paul and the rest of us at Coffee by the Roast