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Coffee - it's rise from sinner to saint

3 min read

Us Brits are known as a nation of tea drinkers however information provided by the British Coffee Assocation has revealed that our coffee consumption is now approaching that of Italy! In fact it's estimated that we drink over 55 million cups of it each day in the UK and the number of coffee shops is set to overtake the number of pubs by 2030!

So is all this coffee drinking good or bad for our health?

For a long time, coffee has been considered bad for us, associated with heartburn and sleepless nights however recent studies are now crediting it with a reduced risk of conditions such as diabetes, liver disease and even tinnitus.

A study published in July of this year, in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, found that those who drank the most coffee (up to 3 cups a day) had a reduced risk of premature death from any cause - the results were based on the habits and health of more than half a million people across Europe, including the UK, over a period of 16 years.

Professor Wasim Hanif of University Hospital, Birmingham recommends it to some patients at risk of type 2 diabetes. He says:

"That's because drinking coffee does appear to make a significant difference — it reduces the risk of type 2 by around 25 per cent in those who drink three to four cups a day."

A study by Harvard University in 2014 found that increasing coffee consumption by more than one cup a day over four years reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 11%. The study, published in the journal Diabetologia, found that people who reduced their coffee intake by on average two cups a day over the same period had a 17% increased risk of developing the condition.

Coffee contains a combination of caffeine, antioxidants and oil-based compounds, called diturpines. It is not clear as to whether the caffeine is key to lowering diabetes risk, however one theory is that the anti-oxidants in coffee may help make the body more sensitive to the effects of the hormone insulin. Type 2 diabetes begins when the body becomes resistant to insulin which normally helps move glucose (sugar) out of the blood and into cells.

Could be a slimming aid!

Research from Hanover Medical School in Germany in 2015 found that drinking 2 to 4 coffees a day can help keep the waistline trim once you've lost weight. This is possibly down to the metabolism boosting effects of caffeine.

Helps you focus

Caffeine is also great for providing a boost to your brain power. Whether it is an important meeting or just a task that demands a bit more of your attention, coffee can be a good way to improve your short-term memory, aid your concentration and help you stay focused for longer. However, note that it's important not to rely on coffee to do these sorts of things! The amount of caffeine in coffee varies from around 75mg in a cup of instant to 120mg in a filter coffee and 130mg in a single espresso. Studies show 100mg of caffeine increases alertness but 250mg (or a double espresso) can significantly increase your blood pressure.

Provides a mood lift

Whether it is a morning coffee break or time spent catching up with friends over a coffee, coffee is a great way to improve your mood and make your day just that little bit brighter. There is actually some science behind this mood enhancement, too - coffee contains many antioxidants and naturally-occurring nutrients and micronutrients, perfect for giving your mood a boost.

So should we drink coffee for good health?

Graham MacGregor, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Wolfson Institute of Preventative Medicine says:

"Just because a study finds that coffee drinking is associated with a longer life, it does not mean to say there is a causal effect. Coffee drinkers may in fact do other things that make them healthier. They might have better diets, more money or more fun."

So, should we drink coffee or not? The current view is strongly in favour of coffee - but as with any other food or drink, it is vital that we consume coffee in moderation only. While a few cups a day, for example, has the potential to be beneficial to you, too much caffeine could have negative consequences just as quickly. There should be no reason why you can’t continue to enjoy your daily cups of coffee, just don't over do it.

A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.