Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in North America, with the majority of adults being coffee drinkers. Along with tap water, coffee is the most consumed beverage in both Canada and the United States!
With all that coffee being consumed, it’s natural to wonder about coffee’s impact on our health.
Coffee has a reputation as being “bad for us” – this may be related to previous association of coffee with heart problems, and/or the association with dependency on caffeine. But is coffee really bad for us? Like anything, there are pros and cons!
Caffeine consumption is generally associated with reduced incidence of developing chronic health conditions.
- Reduced risk of breast and prostate cancers
- Reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes, as well as being associated with improved glucose tolerance in mice
- Reduced risk and incidence of heart disease: A review article found that coffee consumption is associated with reduced risk of several markers of heart disease, including lower cholesterol and reduced cardiac arrhythmias, a-fibrilation, congestive heart failure, and stroke. The article also suggested a u-shaped relationship where moderate caffeine intake is not harmful and possibly protective, while excess intake
Additionally, coffee is not associated with increased blood pressure over the long term (although it may increase briefly right after your morning cup!)
Regular caffeine consumption can affect sleep quality, stress and anxiety levels, and create dependence on caffeine.
- Caffeine in general has been known to disrupt sleep patterns. One study found that caffeine impacts onset, total time, and quality of sleep with higher intakes having a greater impact. Another study also showed reduced sleep quality as well as melatonin production associated with caffeine intake.
- Excess coffee and caffeine intake can also increase overall anxiety levels. For the average population, this would take a lot of caffeine – however, some people might more sensitive, particularly those who already have increased general anxiety levels
- Dependence can also develop in habitual coffee drinkers – the most common symptom of withdrawal is physiological (we’ve all experienced that caffeine headache!)
- Additionally, it’s important to consider the calories consumed with coffee. With regular coffee, there’s cream and sugar to think about, and with specialty drinks there’s milk (regular or whole), often even more sugar, and sometimes even whipped cream.
If you enjoy coffee, it’s probably okay and may even be beneficial for long-term health. Watch for warning signs like feeling over-anxious or extra stressed that might be associated with lots of caffeine intake on a regular basis. Finally, keep it simple! Enjoy your coffee with a touch of milk, cream or sweetness – just make sure you can still taste your coffee! If you’re a latte (or other espresso-based drink) lover, go for skim milk and minimal toppings.
What’s your favourite way to enjoy coffee?