Understanding the perks – and side effects - of coffee

Understanding the perks – and side effects – of coffee

Understanding the perks – and side effects - of coffee
Photo by Christina Rumpf on Unsplash.com.

New Wave Nightingale(Aug. 15, 2023) — Last month, I discussed the unfortunate reality of alcohol consumption – it just isn’t safe. As a result, I am certain I lost friends or at least potential drinking buddies.

As promised for this month, I’d like to explore the risks and benefits of coffee. Unlike with alcohol, there are likely benefits to coffee consumption.

“There aren’t a lot of downsides to drinking moderate amounts of coffee – and, in fact, it can have positive effects on your health,” notes registered dietitian Devon Peart of the Cleveland Clinic. “Coffee contains about a thousand different botanical compounds.”

The best known and most popular is, of course, caffeine, without which society would quickly collapse. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends a maximum intake of 400 mg a day – no more than two to three cups of coffee. I recommend stopping at one cup, or two under desperate circumstances.

Caffeine at this dose may promote cognitive function, lift mood and facilitate weight loss. It is not to be taken in pregnancy and may also negatively impact fertility. It must also be avoided by those with uncontrolled diabetes or heart disease (without clearance from a cardiologist and then only in strict moderation).

Not just caffeine

Aside from caffeine, the venerable bean is also a source of B vitamins, potassium and riboflavin. In recent years, coffee has been found to contain antioxidants and phenolic compounds.

These compounds, also known as phenols, are found in plants and play a pivotal role in protecting against oxidative stress and inflammation. Research indicates that the phenolic components in coffee may provide health-promoting effects not dissimilar to those in vegetables or fruit, albeit at a reduced level.

Recently, moderate coffee consumption has been linked to decreased long-term risk of developing liver disease, Parkinson’s, colon, oral, endometrial and prostate cancers, as well as Alzheimer’s, dementia, diabetes and congestive heart failure.

Before you rush to Starbucks, it is important to remember that with every pleasant buzz there may be an unpleasant sting. Coffee can interfere with calcium absorption, increase blood pressure, promote arrhythmia in susceptible individuals, cause anxiety and insomnia and encourage the stomach to produce excess acid leading to reflux disease.

In a fair risk/benefit analysis for a relatively healthy person with no cardiac history, it may be not just safe but salutary – but only if filtered. Unfiltered coffee may increase cholesterol levels.

So go ahead and enjoy that cup o’ joe.

But remember, coffee is maximally beneficial if consumed without creamers or sweeteners – much like this column.

Please send comments and ­question to Nathalie at newwavenightingale@gmail.com.

Read more New Wave Nightingale columns here.

Nathalie Montijo
Nathalie Montijo
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Nathalie Raven Archangel-Montijo holds a rather interesting array of degrees and certifications, including master’s in nursing and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). She has post-master certification as an adult geriatric primary care nurse practitioner (AGPCNP) and a license to practice acupuncture in California (L.Ac). To round all that out, she is certified in infection prevention and control (CIC) and as an advanced certified Hospice and palliative care nurse (ACHPN).

She also performs in the outlaw country band, Nineteen Hand Horse.

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