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Ahhh, coffee… and it’s good for you, too

By on October 28, 2019 in Columnist with 0 Comments
Jim Brown

By Jim Brown, M.D.

People have been drinking coffee since the 15th Century. 

Coffee is one of the world’s most popular beverages. In fact, the most popular drinks worldwide are water, coffee and tea. It is estimated that 1.6 billion cups of coffee are consumed worldwide every day. 

Howard Schultz sure cashed in on that when he took over Starbucks in 1985. Then there were only 150 Starbucks in the United States. Now it is estimated that there are over 30,000 Starbucks stores in 80 countries worldwide. 

Starbucks annual revenue is $6.3 billion and is increasing by 4.3 percent annually. 

Starbucks entered China in 1995 where the only coffee available then was in Nestle packets. 

Starbucks managed to convince the Chinese, who had always preferred tea, to drink coffee. Now China’s middle class, who outnumber the entire U.S. population, are willing to pay $5 for a cup of coffee. 

Currently Starbucks is opening one new store in China every day, creating 10,000 jobs annually. 

As a coffee lover myself, I began to wonder about what benefits or drawbacks there might be in drinking coffee. 

At one time it was thought that drinking coffee might increase the risk of heart disease and cancer. 

It is quite clear now that the opposite is actually the case. 

Many recent studies show no connection between drinking coffee and heart disease or cancer. In fact, many studies now have shown that coffee drinking has health benefits that include protection against Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, and some liver diseases including liver cancer. 

A British study of over 50,000 people showed that habitual coffee drinkers were less likely to die over a 10-year life span than non-coffee drinkers. 

A Spanish study of 20,000 coffee drinkers over the age of 45 had a 30 percent decrease in the risk of death from heart disease, stroke, diabetes, neurologic diseases and even suicide than non-drinkers. 

A Harvard study of 200,000 doctors and nurses over a period of 30 years showed similar results. 

A Stanford study has suggested that as we age we unfortunately experience more chronic inflammation in our bodies, which might accelerate our aging and the chronic disease that might be a result of it. They concluded that the high caffeine content in coffee might counteract the chemical reactions that trigger inflammation over time. 

Another study suggested that some of the chemical compounds created in the coffee bean roasting process may help stop the build up of toxic proteins in the brain that have been linked to Alzheimers and Parkinson’s disease. 

You might wonder what is the optimal amount of coffee intake on a daily level? 

Caffeine is the active ingredient in coffee that seems to be the primary beneficial ingredient that keeps us drinking it. 

Caffeine is a psychoactive stimulant, and the most commonly used drug in the world. Millions consume it to increase wakefulness, decrease fatigue and improve overall concentration. It has been described as the world’s most popular psychoactive drug that stimulates our central nervous system. 

Despite its benefits, too high a consumption of caffeine may not be so healthful. The FDA recommends a maximum intake of 400 mgm of caffeine per day, which is about two to three cups of coffee. 

Typically, an eight-ounce cup of coffee contains 95-200 mgm of caffeine, a 12-ounce can of cola 35-45 mgm caffeine, an eight-ounce “energy” drink 70-150 and an eight-ounce cup of black tea 14-60 mgm of caffeine. 

In order to be labeled as “decaf,” the FDA requires that 97 percent of the caffeine be removed from coffee. 

Two thirds of the world population drink dark tea. With the exception of green tea, which has no caffeine, both tea and coffee’s antioxidants help your body fight damaging “free radicals” that can lead to illness, inflammation and accelerate aging and cause disease. 

From what I have studied about coffee and black tea, when used within FDA guidelines the benefits are healthful. 

The anti-inflammatory properties help prevent some illnesses and hopefully help us in slowing the aging process. 

Jim Brown, M.D., is a retired gastroenterologist who has practiced for 38 years in the Wenatchee area. He is a former CEO of the Wenatchee Valley Medical Center.

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