Coffee is a legal stimulant that many people can’t do without. Once you acquire a taste for its caffeine ingredient, usually in your early twenties, many are hooked for life. Health benefits were never associated with coffee, especially when it was considered unusual not to light up a cigarette on coffee breaks.
In fact coffee was placed on the World Health Organization’s list of possible carcinogens in 1991, and caffeine was a banned substance for athletes until 2003 by the World Anti Doping Agency. Happily, after reviewing hundreds of studies, the WHO removed coffee from its carcinogen list just last year. (One remaining constraint is that drinking very hot beverages has a link, though limited, to throat cancers.)
And now a new study (Scientific Reports, March 7, 2017) suggests that a certain compound in caffeine can help protect against the development of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimers, Parkinsons’s and ALS. Caffeine was identified as very effective at increasing a particular brain enzyme which then binds to the tau proteins and inhibits their damaging accumulation in the brain.
Not only has coffee been removed for the carcinogen list, another recent study (Journal of Clinical Oncology, August 17, 2015) claims that four daily cups of coffee reduced the chance of colon cancer recurrence by 52 percent. A meta-analysis stated coffee consumption dropped the risk of cancer anywhere from three to 31 percent depending on the type.
Coffee is being claimed today as a health elixir – research shows that coffee is a potent antioxidant, and is especially high in an antioxidant compound called flavonoids. In various studies, flavonoids are claimed to have great anti-oxidative, anti-viral, anti-infammatory, anti-allergic and anti-tumour benefits (all great for me since I need all of these benefits!). As an added benefit, coffee also enhances mental activity.
Here comes the usual “but”: don’t use coffee as your major source of anti-oxidant. It is important to eat fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants (one study showed that Americans are getting most of their antioxidants from coffee, which really is akin to saying that the average American isn’t eating enough fruits and vegetables). So eat foods such as wild blueberries, cranberries and red cherries. Even the cleanest coffees out there contain caffeine, a stimulant that causes an adrenal response in the body by raising cortisol. This additional cortisol, day in and day out, could add to adrenal stress. According to Dr. Mercola, coffee should be consumed black without sugar, artificial sweeteners and creamers. For me, I take my coffee bulletproof style – which means adding organic ghee or butter and MCT oil to the coffee and blending it up so that it has the consistency of a latte.
Three 8 oz cups (681ml) of coffee per day appears to be the optimal amount, (according to the AARP) but with serving sizes can range from 8 to 20 ounces, the standard Starbucks offerings can have anywhere from 150 to 475 mg of caffeine. A Tim Hortons ‘extra large’ can have 330 mg. The consensus appears to be that a max of 400 mg of caffeine per day is best, although that goes against the four cups protects against colon cancer evidence. If caffeine’s wide ranging protective health benefits become clearer over time, maybe that’s when coffee becomes no longer exempt from the Food Nutrition Labelling that’s required for most foods. It would be nice to know caffeine amounts in your home brewed coffee, just like the fat, sodium, carbs and omega-3 and 6 information you are provided with many foods.
Like any drug, people react differently to coffee’s effects. Most people know their limits before jitteriness or insomnia becomes a problem. Switching to decaf is a handy option, and some sources say you keep the purported protective benefits against cancer and neurodegenerative disease with decaf, though that’s not a unanimous opinion. If you have your genetic information, your CYP1A2 gene determines how fast caffeine is metabolized. If you metabolize caffeine slowly, it increases risk of high blood pressure and heart attack. I am a quick coffee – metabolizer, so I can drink 2-3 cups of coffee per day without adverse consequences. I use two brands of coffee, with both being delicious – Dave Asprey’s brand, Bulletproof, and David Wolfe’s brand, Longevity. Both coffees claim to be:
- Certified organic (this is important – coffee is one of the most heavily pesticides-sprayed crops)
- Jitter free and crash free
- Digestive-upset free
- Optimal growing conditions
- Mycotoxin free (both the washing process and the roasting process ensures all toxins are removed from the coffee beans)
One added benefit of David Wolfe’s coffee is that this coffee is considered to have low chlorogenic acid (CA). CA can cause side effects of coffee such as heartburn, digestive upset and acid reflux. According tio David Wolfe, Longevity Coffees claim to have an extraordinarily lower CA than all other coffees (an average cup of conventional coffee has 5-6 mg/ml of CA whereas with David Wolfe’s coffee, they claim it to be 0.017mg/ml of CA per cup). I do notice that with David Wolfe’s coffee, I can add a third to my morning coffee intake (not often but sometimes I feel like it) and I get no digestive upset at all. That is important for me due to the fact that several mornings per week I am intermittent fasting, which means I am not eating any food at all until 12 or 1pm. So given that the coffee I am consuming is on an empty stomach, the fact that it is smooth, jittery-free and low CA is of huge importance for me.
If you don’t know your genetic profile, it’s wise to limit coffee to under 250 mL per day. Fast metabolizers are linked to decreased risk of heart issues. (See Toronto Star article by Jonathan Forani, April 20, 2017)