A new study suggests drinking coffee reduces your mortality rate – A nutritionist’s perspective
Coffee drinkers will be cheering after the recent release of a Harvard study. It suggests that one cup of regular or decaffeinated coffee a day will lower your risk for premature death from type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and neurological disease. If you drink 3-5 cups, your risk goes down further.
There are so many myths and studies around coffee, and they seem to crop up all the time: one study tells you to go ahead bottoms-up on that morning java, another study says wait a second. My parents refused to give me coffee because they said it would “stunt my growth.” Have you heard that one too?
What might be good about coffee?
Let’s take a closer look at the study: the conclusion is a result of a 30-year review of 207,000 people who participated in the Nurses Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study by periodically filling out food questionnaires. During the 3-decade period, 32,000 participants died. The coffee drinkers had a 15% lower chance of mortality than those who didn’t drink any coffee. This effect was found for both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee drinkers, leading researchers to believe there is something in the coffee beans that are producing an antioxidant effect to reduce inflammation.
What’s wrong with coffee?
Other studies have cautioned against the effects of caffeinated coffee: addiction to caffeine is a worry because the body comes to rely on supplied caffeine as an energy source, rather than the body’s own mechanisms for fuelling your needs. It can mask and create sleep problems, and for those who suffer from problems with stress (let’s face it, most of us), coffee can negatively impact the adrenal glands by continuing to stimulate their fight-or-flight response (which is to release hormones that activate the body to respond to stress-inducing stimuli). Heightened stress responses can be taxing on our adrenal glands, causing their impaired functioning, which impacts our energy levels (creating such a wonderful cycle of more and more dependency).
Another concern I have with coffee is the way it is consumed in our “super-size me” world. Most studies define a cup of coffee as 8-ounces. A large cup of coffee at most retailers is 16-ounces. So while you may be drinking “5 cups” a day and thinking you are well within that wonderful comfort zone the study highlights, your cup size might mean you are actually consuming double what is recommended.
We also need to be aware of what we are putting in our coffee. Fancy coffee drinks that include cream, whole milk and whipped cream, even chocolate and other flavourings, can account for more than 500 calories! Add two of these to your day and you are already halfway to your entire calorie count for the day!
If you are going to drink coffee, I have a few suggestions:
- Gain the beneficial antioxidants suggested from this study, without the other negative effects, by switching to decaffeinated coffee;
- Limit caffeine consumption to before noon so as not to disturb your sleep;
- Because coffee is dehydrating, consume one glass of water for every 8-ounce cup of coffee;
- Avoid giving caffeine to children. It is too hard on their delicate bodies and they have plenty of natural energy.
Choose your morning cup of comfort wisely; it should be a beverage you enjoy drinking but that also sets you up for a positively healthful day. If you enjoy caffeinated coffee, be sure to limit your consumption to around 3 8-ounce cups per day. And as always, it’s about living a life of balance: a cup of coffee can be a part of an overall healthy life if you eat well, exercise often and practice good self-care principles that include sleeping often and resting well.