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Health Benefits of Coffee

For many of us a strong coffee has become a crucial part of our daily routines. Some may accredit their morning coffee with being a means of relaxation, others as an aid to wake them up and get them going, and some feel that their coffee intake is more of an addiction than a habit. Whilst the coffee bean can be eaten whole or added to foods as an ingredient, the most popular method of consumption is for it to be ground, filtered and drunk hot (1).

Where does coffee come from?

Over 50 countries grow coffee across the globe (for information regarding locations visit). Depending on the variety, it will take approximately 3.5 to 4 years for the newly planted coffee tree to produce fruit. The ripened fruit, named the cherry, is harvested when it turns a deep red colour. Once the cherry is picked, the processing must be quickly undertaken to prevent spoilage and rancidity. The coffee bean – which is actually a seed and is found within the cherry (similar to that of the stone of a fruit cherry) – is removed, washed and dried before being dehulled and sorted. Once processed the coffee bean is ready to be exported for commercial and domestic use. For the complete coffee process visit.

What is in coffee?

Although caffeine has received the most research, coffee contains a potent mixture of antioxidants, naturally occurring caffeine, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, alkaloids and phenolic compounds (2). The composition of coffee varies with the source of coffee bean as well as with the method of preparation (i.e. filtration methods, boiling, steeping or brewing under pressure).

Table 1 – Nutrient content in regular serving size (350ml) black Americano coffee

Nutrient Amount
Energy 2.4 kcal
Carbohydrate
of which sugar
0
0
Fat 0
Protein 0.3g
Riboflavin (vitamin B2) 0.2mg
Niacin (vitamin B3) 0.5mg
Pantothenic acid (vitamin B5) 0.6mg
Potassium 116mg
Manganese 0.1mg
Magnesium 7.1mg

Brief history of coffee

Coffee consumption dates back to the Galla tribe 1000 AD where the stimulatory effect of the coffee bean was identified and the energy-boosting properties led to the first commercial coffee plantation by Arab land-owners. The coffee was known as ‘Qahwa’, meaning ‘preventer of sleep’ (4).

From the 15th century to the present day, the consumption of coffee has continued to grow in popularity across the globe, being the second highest globally-traded commodity after oil (5). Coffee is reportedly the second most commonly consumed beverage after water; it’s estimated that 2.25 billion cups of coffee are drunk on a daily basis across the globe, with 400 million cups in the US and 55 million cups drunk in the UK daily (6). Coffee also accounts for over 80% of all caffeine consumption in those aged 18 and over, followed by tea and caffeinated soft drinks, with the majority consumed prior to or during breakfast (7).

Health attributes of coffee

The main health properties of coffee are due to its high quantity of chlorogenic acids, polyphenols and hydrocinnamic acids, which act as phytonutrients and antioxidants (8) and help prevent cell damage from free radicals, fight disease and are considered to be anti-ageing.

Coffee has been a widely studied topic within pharmaceutical, clinical and nutritional research, to assess coffee’s health attributes and its potential application for reducing the prevalence of common illnesses. Research has credited regular consumption of coffee to reducing several risk factors in diseases such as degenerative brain disease and memory loss (9), central nervous system disorders (10), gallbladder disease (11) and Parkinson's disease (12), as well as improving liver health (13), improving glucose balance and type 2 diabetes control (14), reducing mild depression (15) and improvements in body composition (17). Correlation has also been made to coffee consumption and the reduction of some cancers such as colon, liver, endometrial and pancreatic cancers (18,20). There is also a wealth of research to suggest that coffee consumption also reduces the risk of strokes and heart disease (19,20).

Coffee consumption has been widely researched as a beneficial ergogenic aid (21), with evidence that coffee can support athletes to train harder and for longer. This is mainly due to caffeine stimulating the brain, contributing to enhanced concentration, reduction of actual and perceived muscular fatigue, increasing exercise intensity and duration, and faster reaction times (21) in both endurance and higher intensity exercise. Studies conclude that a moderate caffeine intake via a black coffee can enhance performance by 12% (21,22).

In one study, the metabolic changes in male athletes were assessed derived from their coffee intake. The data presented that fat burning was increased by 29%, which was due to an increased metabolic response and the inhibition of glucose and carbohydrates (23).

Stimulatory effects

Caffeine is classified as a methylated xanthine; this is a purine molecule that a number of other stimulants are also derived from. The stimulatory effects felt from caffeine are due in part to caffeine's ability to cross the blood-brain barrier. Once the caffeine is within the neural membrane it binds to the adenosine receptors (AR) as the structure of caffeine is similar to that of adenosine. Through the day adenosine binds to receptors that calm the body and enhance sleep, yet when caffeine binds to the AR instead, it results in the feeling of alertness and reduces perceived fatigue. This is what caffeine’s psychoactive and stimulatory properties are accredited to and gives it nootropic effects (24).

Keeping coffee standards high

Within the UK, the British Coffee Association (BCA) represents UK coffee in developing and maintaining a favourable environment in all aspects of the coffee industry and culture. The BCA does this by representing coffee industry regulators, politicians, media and the public. This includes representing the industry on technical issues to regulators and governments. For more information on the BCA, click here.

The BCA actively promotes the sustainability of coffee production to minimise environmental impacts, support the farmers and growers and innovate change, such as introducing the use of biodegradable materials to reduce waste and aid recycling.

Intake guidelines

Coffee and caffeine are both certified as safe by the European Union and the US FDA (25,26). However, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) does not recommend adults consume over 400mg of caffeine per day (26). This recommendation is variable with some individuals having a particularly high or low tolerance (25,26). One cup of coffee can raise caffeine levels in the body to 5mg/l, and adverse effects are usually only identified in doses that exceed 180mg/l (25). Whilst moderate coffee consumption has been regarded as safe during pregnancy, it is still advisable not to exceed 300mg per day.

Side effects

Whilst the benefits of coffee consumption are evident, there are potential side effects such as nervousness, insomnia, increased need to urinate and heart palpitations in some individuals who are particularly sensitive to caffeine or those who have ingested large quantities (27). There is also a body of research that has indicated that individuals with heart disease, or those susceptible to heart disease, may want to limit coffee intake due to findings that drinking large quantities (>350ml cups per day) of unfiltered coffee can increase blood levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and homocysteine; both are linked to higher incidence of the disease (28).

The main contributor to the side effects is the caffeine content; this can be decreased by increasing the volume of water to dilute it, by reducing the amount of coffee or using a decaffeinated blend. However, decaf coffee has higher acidity (compared to caffeinated coffee) and can increase heartburn and gastric reflux and exasperate existing bowel conditions (such as Crohn's, colitis and irritable bowel syndrome) and urinary tract infections (28,29). Both caffeinated and decaf coffee, when drunk to excess, can impair the uptake of some minerals including calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc which could potentially increase the risk of anaemia, bone demineralisation and nutrient deficiency in those at risk (29).

Concerns also arise surrounding the addictive nature of caffeine. This is due to the fact that high coffee and caffeine intake may stimulate brain cells to produce more adenosine receptors to compensate for the ones blocked by caffeine (30). As a result, the higher number of receptors require more caffeine to achieve the same effect, increasing caffeine tolerance. If coffee consumption is suddenly cut down or stopped, the brain will have free receptors with nothing to bind to, which can result in withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, headaches and tiredness which can last for a few days (31).

So what about decaf coffee?

Coffee is naturally caffeinated, and therefore in order to be decaf’, it must go through a process of decaffeination. Solvents and water are used to extract the caffeine content. Whilst some of the antioxidant properties will also be lost during the process, antioxidants will still be present along with a small amount of caffeine. Therefore decaffeinated coffee is not entirely caffeine-free (30,31).

How much caffeine is in coffee?

Caffeine is found in a wide variety of foods and beverages. The table below compares the caffeine content in commonly consumed beverages and foods (31,32,33), as well as in Coffee Huel Powder.

Table 2 – Caffeine content (mg) in Coffee Huel Powder compared to commonly available foods and beverages

Food or beverage Amount of caffeine per
100mg or 100ml
Amount (mg) of caffeine
per serving
Americano (fresh ground coffee) 70-120mg/100ml 245-420mg per 350ml
(regular coffee shop-size)
Mocha 25-54mg/100ml 88-189mg per 350ml
(regular coffee shop-size)
Iced coffee 45-50mg/100ml 158-175mg per 350ml
(regular coffee shop-size)
Instant coffee 27-70mg/100ml 88-245mg per 350ml
(regular coffee shop-size)
Energy drinks 32-100mg/100ml 80-220mg per 250ml
(standard can)
Espresso 120-160mg/100ml 67-90mg per 56ml
(standard espresso cup)
Green tea 0.2mg/100ml 7mg per 350ml
(regular coffee shop-size)
Black tea 11-19mg/100ml 26-42 mg per 230ml
(regular tea cup size)
Decaf instant coffee 0.2mg/100ml 7mg per 350ml
(regular coffee shop-size)
Milk chocolate 20mg/100g 9mg
per 50g serving
Dark chocolate 43mg/100g 21mg
per 50g serving
Cola 0.9mg/100ml 32mg per 330ml
(standard cola can)
Diet / sugar-free cola 1.4mg/100ml 47 mg per 330ml
(standard cola can)
Coffee Huel Powder 90mg/100g powder (approx.) 34mg (1 scoop)
68mg (2 scoops)
103mg (3 scoops)
113mg (4 scoops)

Summary

Regular coffee consumption can provide a number of health benefits, improve athletic performance, benefit body composition and provide stimulatory and nootropic effects. Whilst individual tolerances vary, it is not recommended to exceed 400mg of caffeine per day in adults. For those who are highly sensitive, consume coffee with caution.

For more coffee information and facts visit.

References

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  2. Sochim L, et al. Hydroxycinnamic acids as natural antioxidants. 2018; https://www.soc.chim.it/sites/default/files/chimind/pdf/2001_7_201_ca.pdf
  3. Cagliani C, et al. Quantification of Coffea arabica and Coffea canephora var. robusta in roasted and ground coffee blends. Talanta 2013; 106: 169-173.
  4. BCA. The history of coffee. 2018; http://www.britishcoffeeassociation.org/about_coffee/history_of_coffee/
  5. USDA Coffee. World Markets and Trade 2017; https://www.fas.usda.gov/data/coffee-world-markets-and-trade
  6. BCA. The Effect of Coffee Consumption Motivation on the Future Coffee Consumption Intentions. 2018; 8(4): 129-144.
  7. Brezová V, et al. Coffee as a source of antioxidants: An EPR Study - Food Chemistry 2009; 114(3): 859-868.
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  9. Kolahdouzan M, et al. The neuroprotective effects of caffeine in neurodegenerative diseases. 2018; https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/cns.12684
  10. Ruhl C, et al. Association of Coffee Consumption with Gallbladder Disease. 2017; https://academic.oup.com/aje/article/152/11/1034/124241
  11. Parkinson's Society. Coffee's Health Benefits for Parkinson's Disease. 2018; https://parkinsonsnewstoday.com/2016/04/26/weighing-the-health-benefits-of-coffee/
  12. British Liver Trust. Coffee and the Liver. 2018; https://www.britishlivertrust.org.uk/liver-information/diet-and-liver-disease/coffee-and-the-liver/
  13. Van Dam R, et al. Coffee, Caffeine, and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes. 2016; 124(2): 13-17.
  14. School of Public Health. Drinking coffee may decrease depression risk in women. 2018; https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/coffee-depression-women-ascherio-lucas/
  15. Acheson K, et al. Caffeine and coffee: their influence on metabolic rate and substrate utilization in normal weight and obese individuals.1998; 33(5): 989-997.
  16. Budryn G, et al. Correlation Between the Stability of Chlorogenic Acids, Antioxidant Activity and Acrylamide Content in Coffee Beans Roasted in Different Conditions. Int J Food Prop. 2014; 18(2): 290-302.
  17. Godos J, et al. Coffee components and cardiovascular risk. Beneficial and detrimental effects. Int J Food Sci & Nut. 2014; 65(8): 925-936.
  18. BMC. Coffee consumption and risk of cancers. BMC cancer. 2016; 11(1): 96.
  19. Sartipy U, et al. Predicting survival in heart failure: validation of the MAGGIC heart failure risk score in 51,043 patients from the Swedish heart failure registry. Euro J Heart Failure. 2013; 16(2): 173-179.
  20. Spriet L, Nutritional and Environmental Influences on Athlete Health and Performance. 2018; 12(1): 1-3.
  21. Peeling P, et al. Evidence-Based Supplements for the Enhancement of Athletic Performance. Int J Sports Nut & Exercise Metabol. 2018; 20: 1-10.
  22. Astorino T, et al. Efficacy of acute caffeine ingestion for short-term high-intensity exercise performance: a sytematic review. J Strength & Conditioning Res. 2010; 24(1): 257-265.
  23. Bracco D, et al. Effects of caffeine on energy metabolism, heart rate, and methylxanthine metabolism in lean and obese women. 2018; https://www.physiology.org/doi/abs/10.1152/ajpendo.1995.269.4.e671
  24. EFSA. Caffeine-risk assessment. 2018; http://www.efsa.europa.eu/sites/default/files/corporate_publications/files/efsaexplainscaffeine150527.pdf
  25. EFSA. Scientific opinion on the safety of caffeine. EFSA J. 2015; 13(5): 41-62.
  26. Shateri Z, et al. Coffee Consumption and Coronary Heart Diseases: A Mino-Review. J Clin Nutr Diet. 2018. 2.3. doi:10.4172/2472-1921.100010.
  27. Bulluz J. Caffeine overdose. 2017; https://www.vox.com/science- and-health/2017/5/17/15649722/caffeine-overdose-health-risks-coffee-energy-drinks
  28. Day S. Decaffeinated Coffee Is Not Caffeine-free, Experts Say. 2016; https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/10/061012185602.htm
  29. Wolde T. Effects of caffeine on health and nutrition. Food Sci & Qual Manag. 2014; 30.
  30. Juliano R. A critical review of caffeine withdrawal: empirical validation of symptoms and signs, incidence, severity, and associated features. 2012; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15448977
  31. Dietitians of Canada. 2018; https://www.dietitians.ca/Downloads/Factsheets/Food-Sources-of-Caffeine.aspx
  32. Caffeine Informer. The Complete Guide to Caffeine. 2018; https://www.caffeineinformer.com/the-complete-guide-to-caffeine
  33. Carey R. Caffeine Chart. 2018; http://www.cspinet.org/eating-healthy/ingredients-of-concern/caffeine-chart

 

 

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