According to the legend, an Ethiopian shepherd one day, while he was taking his goats to pasture, came across some coffee plants. The goats ate the leaves and berries of this plant and at night, instead of sleeping, the goats continued to walk full of energy and vivacity as never before. The shepherd then tried to grind the berries to make an infusion, coffee was born! Coffee is, today, one of the most known, appreciated and consumed drinks in the world. But is this just a tasty habit or can coffee also be beneficial to health? Are there any contraindications? Various scientific studies have been published on the topic, so let's look into them.
Coffee, beneficial properties
Roasted coffee is a mixture of almost 1000 active compounds, including caffeine, caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid and diterpenes such as cafestol and caveol, many of which have antioxidant, anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties (Poole et al, BMJ , 2017). Coffee brings energy, improves attention and cognitive performance, but for this to be observed, coffee should not be decaffeinated (Smith et al, Neuropsychobiology, 1993). Generally, coffee consumption is associated with a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease. But be careful, the association is not linear, that is, there is no more protection if you drink more coffee. In fact, maximum protection is achieved with three cups of coffee per day with a 30% reduction in the risk of mortality from heart attacks and a 19% reduction in mortality linked to cardiovascular diseases. Not only that, drinking coffee seems to protect the liver and reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. But coffee also shows a neuroprotective action. In particular, drinking coffee is associated with a lower risk of developing Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and depression and this effect is reduced to become insignificant in the case of decaffeinated coffee (Poole et al, BMJ, 2017).
Coffee, with or without caffeine
With the exception of the neuroprotective and stimulating action, which in coffee with caffeine is significantly greater, generally also decaffeinated coffee has health properties similar to normal coffee. This indicates that, in addition to caffeine, other health beneficial compounds also act in coffee (Nieber et al, Planta Med, 2017).
Coffee, warnings and contraindications
Coffee, like any drink or food, should be taken in moderation. In fact, although beneficial, the excess does not bring advantage but can cause some problems. In fact, since coffee contains fat, this could lead to an increase in cholesterol with consequences on the health of the cardiovascular system. Caffeine causes irritability in predisposed people and, in any case, drinking coffee should be avoided in the evening hours to avoid insomnia (Sadiq Butt et al, Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr, 2011). Another caveat concerns sugar that is added to coffee. As we have seen, coffee, if taken with moderation, can be good for your health but if you add teaspoons of sugar, perhaps white, to sweeten it, this increases the risk of obesity, diabetes and problems of the cardiovascular system (Stanhope et al, Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci, 2016). Better to drink coffee without sugar or, at most, add a pinch of honey.