Coffee: Nutritious Beverage with a Note of Caution!

By Zeenat Farooq


A cup of coffee in the morning to “combat” work stress, and to be “more active and alert” for the day has always remained a ritual — more than just a habit in some of the ancient societies of the world.

Although usage of coffee as a common beverage has only recently taken its roots in our valley, while some people may argue that higher intake of coffee leads to adverse health effects like anxiety, depression in severe cases, increased risk of obesity and type-II Diabetes (which is mainly due to the sugar and cream content of the coffee), and increased chances of gastric and duodenal ulceration, researchers from different universities and health institutes throughout the world have come up with research which shows striking health benefits associated with drinking moderate levels of coffee (1-2 servings per day, preferably less in sugar or black and free of cream), from helping prevent diabetes to lowering the risk of liver disease.

No wonder that nowadays with more than 400 billion cups consumed per day, coffee is one of the world’s most popular drinks, with its health benefits making it even more special.

A coffee plantation in Minas Gerais. (KL Image sourced from web)
A coffee plantation in Minas Gerais. (KL Image sourced from web)

Possible Health Benefits of Coffee

The potential health benefits associated with drinking coffee include: protecting against type-II diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, liver disease, liver cancer, and promoting a healthy heart.

1) Coffee and Diabetes

Coffee may be protective against type-II diabetes: Researchers at UCLA identified that drinking coffee increases plasma levels of the protein sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG).

SHBG controls the biological activity of the body’s sex hormones (testosterone and oestrogen), which play a role in the development of type-II diabetes. One of the leading authors of this study has said that according to the statistical analysis of the study, there is an inverse relationship between coffee consumption and risk of developing type-II Diabetes.

2) Coffee and Parkinson’s Disease

Researchers in the US have carried out a study that assessed the link between coffee consumption and Parkinson’s disease risk. The authors of the study concluded that “higher coffee and caffeine intake is associated with a significantly lower incidence of Parkinson’s disease”. In addition, caffeine in coffee may help control movement in people suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

3) Coffee and Liver Cancer

An Italian researchers group have found that coffee consumption lowers the risk of liver cancer by about 40%. In addition, some of the results suggest that if you drink three cups a day, the risks are reduced by more than 50%.

4) Coffee and Liver Disease

Regular consumption of coffee is linked to a reduced risk of Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis (PSC), a rare auto-immune disease of the bile ducts in the liver. In addition, coffee consumption can lower the incidence of Cirrhosis of the liver for alcohol drinkers by 22%, according to a study carried out in USA.

The authors of the study concluded that there is an ingredient in coffee that protects against cirrhosis, especially alcoholic cirrhosis. Another study indicates that drinking decaf (decaffeinated) coffee also lowers liver enzyme levels, suggesting the benefits are not linked to caffeine content.

5) Coffee and Heart Health

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health have found that drinking coffee in moderation protects against heart failure. The results of the study have indicated that people who drank two cups on a daily basis had an 11% lower risk of heart failure, compared to those who did not.

Also, moderate coffee drinking may prevent premature death. Another research points to some more interesting positive health benefits of moderate coffee consumption.

A new study adds to growing evidence that coffee is good for us, finding that consuming two cups daily may reduce the risk of early death, even for those who drink decaf which suggests that the protective benefit is not because of caffeine in the coffee.

A point might be added here that coffee contains a number of natural anti-oxidants which are very essential for maintaining general health but the levels of anti-oxidants are almost same in caffeinated and de-caffeinated coffee.

6) Coffee and Multiple Sclerosis

Drinking more caffeinated coffee may stave off multiple sclerosis. A latest study indicates that caffeine’s Neuro Protective and Anti-Inflammatory properties may lower the risk of developing multiple sclerosis.

7) Coffee and Colorectal Cancer

Daily coffee, even decaf, may protect against colorectal cancer. Researchers from the US have found that drinking coffee every day, even decaffeinated coffee may lower the risk of colorectal cancer.


A Word of Caution!

All the above mentioned health and disease protective benefits of coffee make it undoubtedly an excellent beverage, but as with most of the other food stuffs and beverages which are known to have health benefits, the intake levels should be moderately maintained.
Also, there might be some groups of individuals which may be suffering from some diseases, disorders or ailments in which case, even moderate coffee consumption, far from being helpful might indeed be harmful. Some of the adverse health effects associated with coffee consumption can be summed up in brief as:

Drinking too much coffee can result in some very unpleasant adverse effects.

According to a study, caffeine can cause anxiety symptoms especially in vulnerable patients, like those with pre-existing anxiety disorders. In addition, prolonged caffeine use is also associated with symptoms of depression since caffeine itself is a mood elevator and causes changes in mood

Women who plan on becoming pregnant should be cautious about their intake of coffee.

Researchers from Nevada University’s School Of Medicine have reported that regular coffee may reduce a woman’s chances of becoming pregnant.

Coffee may harm cardiovascular health for young adults with mild hypertension.

A new research suggests that drinking the beverage could increase the risk of cardiovascular problems such as heart attacks in young adults with mild hypertension.

Commercial Coffee may Contain Mycotoxins

A new study confirms the presence of Mycotoxins in commercial coffee samples, leading to concerns about potential public health risks and potential adverse effects on our ecosystem.

(Author is a Research Scholar at Department of Biotechnology, University of Kashmir.)


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