I am a coffee addict. I find it hard to walk around after lunch, without entering a coffee bar. I have tons of coffee bookson my coffee table at home, and I generally just love talking about coffee!
Well the good new is that, studies show that we may actually be benefitting from more than just the energy-boosting caffeine in coffee – we might also be reaping its cancer-preventing and depression-lowering effects as well.
A yet unidentified component of coffee interacts with the beverage’s caffeine, which could be a surprising reason why daily coffee intake protects against Alzheimer’s disease. A new Alzheimer’s mouse study by researchers at the University of South Florida found that this interaction boosts blood levels of a critical growth factor that seems to fight off the Alzheimer’s disease process. Previous observational studies in humans reported that daily coffee/caffeine intake during mid-life and in older age decreases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. The USF researchers’ earlier studies in Alzheimer’s mice indicated that caffeine was likely the ingredient in coffee that provides this protection because it decreases brain production of the abnormal protein beta-amyloid, which is thought to cause the disease. Antioxidants, those healthy compounds most often associated with fruits and vegetables are readily available in coffee. While the amount of antioxidants per serving is indeed much higher in things like berries, beans, and pecans, these foods are consumed less frequently than coffee. Coffee has been shown to help before a migraine attack.
On the others side of the coin, coffee isn’t a quick fix, and may even cause problems in some people. It can worsen existing heart conditions, and caffeine could cause sleeping problems, as well as a racing heartbeat and anxiety. Plus, many coffee drinkers are only adding calories and fat to their diet by mixing in heavy cream and too much sugar. Polyphenols or flavonoids, the type of antioxidants found in coffee, are also found in other foods and drinks, like tea, red wine, and chocolate. All three have been proven to moderately help brain function, a benefit that can’t be chalked up to caffeine alone. Caffeine does affect alertness, but hasn’t been found to offer much in the way of health benefits.
It will take a while before we get concrete evidence as to the benefits of coffee. So far, evidence of coffee’s health benefits is limited. Everything in moderation, I say, and in the meantime, coffee drinkers can keep holding to the belief that their precious brew is good for them!