Tag Archives: coffee

Coffee and Health

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I live in a world fueled by coffee. As a non-coffee drinker, this can make me feel left out at times. Then again, I’ve always thrived off of being the outsider. The ritual of coffee drinking seems so foreign to me at times that I feel like an alien visiting another planet.

As much as I don’t care for coffee or caffeine, there’s no denying that there are some possible benefits to it that go beyond being a chemical stimulant. These other potential benefits of course aren’t the main reason countless people drink coffee the first thing in the morning. After all, when was the last time you heard an earthling say “I just have to drink coffee every morning to prevent liver disease!”? Here are some more possible benefits of coffee and/or caffeine: What are the health benefits of coffee?

That’s an impressive list, though it must be stressed that the evidence for the benefits of coffee is still mostly preliminary. Sometimes things get confusing when coffee and caffeine are conflated, though they are two different things. Some studies show coffee but not caffeine has health benefits, and vice versa.

For all its supposed miraculous benefits, there’s also the downside to caffeine, which is not surprising since it is, in essence, a stimulant drug. Sure, this extremely popular alkaloid is not in the same class as nicotine, or cocaine, but it can be problematic for many people, even if not consumed in excess. Here’s a great info-graphic from Healthline: The Effects of Caffeine on the Body

The negative effects aren’t that scary, but a lot of people could benefit from kicking their caffeine habits, or at least cutting down.

Caffeine free living

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Caffeine-free living isn’t very common in the western world, so a lot of people are surprised to learn I never drink coffee or any caffeinated beverages. Some people claim they can’t function without it – the very definition of addiction. In fact, caffeine addiction is the only socially approved chemical addiction throughout the world, with the exception of nicotine in increasingly fewer places. Several cups of coffee throughout the day is considered de rigueur at many jobs.

One of the reasons I don’t consume caffeine is because I do not like the idea of becoming addicted to any chemicals, even if caffeine isn’t all that dangerous at normal doses. Another reason is that instead of relying on caffeine to help stimulate me in the morning, I’d rather make sure I get enough sleep. Caffeine may help you overcome morning grogginess, but it can’t undo the damage caused by lack of sleep.

Instead of caffeine, I put a lot of red pepper on my breakfast, or I take it by the spoon. And/or I do some quick exercises while listening to music. Red pepper can be very stimulating, but unlike caffeine it isn’t addictive and doesn’t lead to withdrawal. Simply drinking water to rehydrate after so many hours of sleep also helps. Eating healthy, regular exercise, and getting enough sleep are all you need for optimal energy.

As much as I don’t like caffeine, I won’t deny that it appears to be beneficial for some forms of exercise. According to the Laboratory of Pharmacology, Faculty of medicine, University of Sfax, Tunisia that did a study on the Effects of morning caffeine’ ingestion on mood States, simple reaction time, and short-term maximal performance on elite judoists.:

In conclusion, the results of this study suggest that morning caffeine ingestion has ergogenic properties with the potential to benefit performance, increase anxiety and vigor, and decrease the simple reaction time.

I still wouldn’t want to use it after reading this. There are many other studies out there showing how caffeine is beneficial for exercise.

One of the biggest negatives of caffeine consumption is that it appears to promote fibrocystic breasts in women. The J Natl Cancer Inst., in the study, Caffeine consumption and fibrocystic breast disease: a case-control epidemiologic study.:

In a hospital-based case-control study that included 634 women with fibrocystic breast disease and 1,066 comparison women in Connecticut, the occurrence of fibrocystic breast disease was positively associated with average daily consumption of caffeine. Women who consumed 31-250 mg of caffeine/day had a 1.5-fold increase in the odds of disease, whereas women who drank over 500 mg/day had a 2.3-fold increase in the odds. The association with caffeine consumption was especially high among women with atypical lobular hyperplasia and with sclerosing adenosis with concomitant papillomatosis or papillary hyperplasia, both of which have been associated with an increased breast cancer risk. The association was specific to fibrocystic breast disease in that there was no association of caffeine consumption with fibroadenoma or other forms of benign breast disease.

According to the Mayo Clinic, fibrocysts in the breasts don’t increase the risk of cancer, but they do make it harder to detect cancer.

I posted the above studies on caffeine just to see what the science says about caffeine use. They are not a recommendation to take up coffee drinking or caffeine use if you are not already doing it. While it does improve athletic performance in many people, this doesn’t mean you absolutely must use it to become a better athlete. Even amphetamines improve athletic performance, but would you want to run the risk of amphetamine addiction, or suffer side effects, just so you can run a little faster or longer?

So while I am aware of the science of caffeine and its potential benefits, I choose not to use it. I am not being “ridiculous” or “foolish” for abstaining from caffeine. And for the record, I am not a Mormon or a member of a religious sect that forbids coffee or caffeine consumption.

Caffeine may not be a hard drug, but it isn’t harmless either.