At the onset of TV Doctor Arun Ghosh’s daily appearances on Health: Truth or Scare in May came Coffee Week and there’ll be many of you reading this who can’t do without. But is coffee actually good for you? Dr Ghosh spills the beans…
“The truth is that extensive research has been done on coffee consumption and the conclusion so far is that coffee is actually very beneficial and has a diverse range of health benefits,” he confirmed.
“But like everything else it must be consumed in moderation and not all coffee is created equal.The most active and additive part of coffee is caffeine and though some can be very sensitive to this stimulant for a lot of us it is this ingredient in our coffee that helps improves concentration, memory, mood and overall cognitive function.
“Caffeine releases a chemical called dopamine which is responsible for controlling motivation and alertness. Coffee also stimulates brain cells to work and communicate faster, making it a steadfast “wake me up beverage” without which many of us don’t seem to function as well.
“However for others it is important to note that the effects of drinking coffee vary from person to person. Common symptoms of consuming too much caffeine include:
• increased heart rate and blood pressure
• digestive issues
• trouble sleeping
“If you experience any of these symptoms after drinking coffee, then you may be sensitive to caffeine and you may need to either reduce your consumption of coffee or avoid it altogether.
“Caffeine is also not recommended for people with anxiety or nervous disorders for these reasons and for women who are pregnant, it is not recommended to consume coffee or at least reduce your intake as some reports show a link between excessive caffeine consumption to low birth weight and miscarriages.
“Lots of claims have been made about coffee including weight loss but there is not enough evidence for this I’m afraid and it is very unlikely if you are a latte coffee drinker!
“Claims also exist around coffee and cancer prevention as various studies have linked coffee to decreased risk of liver, breast, prostate, and melanoma skin cancers. There have been other claims about the benefits for heart health and athough some studies show it may aid clogged up arteries, my advice would be if you feel your heart beating fast when you’re drinking coffee, you’re likely to be drinking too much! Ultimately, in both cases concerning cancer and heart health, no claims have been wholly proved.
“Perhaps more surprisingly, a phenomenon known as Breast Shrinking has been associated with research showing too much caffeine can affect hormones, which impacts breast size!”
The good news is coffee contains many important nutrients such as riboflavin (vitamin B2), pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), niacin (vitamin B3), magnesium, manganese and potassium and is one of the biggest sources of antioxidants.
“However do be aware of many brands of mass produced and imported coffee,” says Dr Ghosh. Some contain toxins which are not in the natural coffee bean itself but appear as a result of the way it is grown, processed, stored and distributed.
These toxins include: Acrylamide, due to roasting at high temperatures; Ochratoxin A, a mycotoxin produced by mold found on raw coffee beans.Pesticides, more than 90% of coffees worldwide are treated with pesticides and other chemicals including herbicides, fungicides, fertilisers and insectisides, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), Carcinogenic compounds formed due to high temperature roasting.
“Try to choose coffee that is fresh and grown organically without the use of pesticides and other chemicals. Purchasing from brands that use ethical processing, sourcing and production of coffee beans as well as good storage and transportation practices so that the nutritional value is maintained and toxin accumulation and defects are minimal. This will make a big difference in terms of the levels of mold, insect damage, oxidation, improper harvesting, improper moisture content and low standard testing and checking practices. So choose wisely and ethically to ensure that you are getting the maximum benefit from drinking coffee.”
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