Coffee and Your Body; Debunking Coffee Myths

I remember my nine-year-old self arguing with a classmate about how coffee does not stunt your growth.

"I'm not short because I drink coffee! I am just short!"

My nine-year-old-self made very compelling, sound arguments.

You may be thinking, what is a little girl doing drinking coffee anyway? So, I'm Mexican and cafe con leche was made often in the kitchen.  And it's not the kind that you would order at a coffee shop.  It was more like milk with a splash of coffee and way too much sugar.  It would be stirred stove-top style and  then a dash of cinnamon and perhaps a splash of vanilla and - voilà! A coffee flavored sweet milk.

But back to my heated argument....

"Coffee does not stunt your growth! My parents are doctors and they say it's false!"  (How subtle and non-obnoxious of me....)

Anyway, many adults today may still believe that coffee stunts your growth along with other negative affects.

And you know, it is kind of crazy that there are so many plant-based diets with the funkiest ingredients and yet people are scared of a tiny little bean.

But with today's research I think people are beginning to understand how coffee is rising dramatically among the ranks as a health beverage.

Once Upon a Time

The debate on coffee and health date way back - I'm talking 1652 back.

The very first known coffee advertisement in the West dates back to 1652.  The advertisement was plastered along London walls and it did not describe the taste to coffee as we come to know and love, but only boasted health benefits to what would soon be, a world's controversial beverage.

"[Coffee] closes the Orfice of the Stomack, and fortifies the heat within.... Coffee is good very good to help digestion...[it] quickens the Spirits, and makes the Heart Lightsome.  It is good against sore Eyes.... It suppresseth Fumes exceedingly, and therefore good against the Head-ache....It will prevent Drowsiness, and make one fit for business."

And the advertisement finally noted:

"It is observed in Turkey, where this is generally drunk, that they are not trobled with the Stone, Gout, Dropsie, or Scurvey, and that their Skins are exceeding clear and white."

So, a couple things.

Great Britain was still making up its mind on how to spell words.

Secondly, a majority of that original  advertisement was scientifically accurate (even though they had no idea at the time.) And thirdly, I found that last note really interesting.

According to the book, Coffee: a Comprehensive Guide to the Bean, the Beverage, and the Industry, that last note on the advertisement was out of respect for Christian Europe's grave enemy.

At the time the Turks were considered a fierce and worthy opponent, therefore their favorite drink commanded respect in 1652.

But soon after there was an opposing wave to coffee.  Coffee was suddenly being compared to habits of alcohol and that it "undid men." Women began a petition in 1674 damning the "evil" drink.  Suddenly coffee became the blame for their husbands to "run a Whoreing"..."trifle away their time"...become "meer Cock-sparrows" and the "decay of that Old English Valor; our Gallants being every way so Frenchified." (Ah, a public diss to the French)

Can we start calling men "cock-sparrows" again?

Anyway... coffee clearly was not phased and continues to dominate the world market.

The Facts

Listed below are just a few things I stumbled across in my research.  I tried to categorize and bullet point just for brevity's sake:

New England Journal of Medicine

  • Over 40,000 Americans 1995-2008
  • people who drink coffee significantly less likely to suffer from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and infectons
  • less accidents because they are more alert
  • even though coffee drinkers eat more red meat, exercise less, and use more alcohol than nondrinkers, the coffee crowd lives longer
  • men who drank 4-5cups/day in 2008 registered 88% of the mortality of non-users.  For women, drinking four or five cups reduced mortality to 84% percent of the nondrinkers' figure. ***No difference appeared between those who drank decaf vs. regular
  • people who never smoked or had stopped smoking and drank coffee had the lowest mortality rate of all
  • a cup of coffee has more than 1,000 chemical compounds - who knows what is at work

Hair and Coffee

  • Brunettes - instead of paying extra to color your hair between visits, "rinse with 2 cups of cool black coffee over damp hair in the shower; leave on for 10 minutes, then shampoo."
  • keeps highlights from fading until next visit
  • *Bobbi Brown in Health (Jan-Feb 2012)

Decaf is not really decaf

  • US federal regulations state that for any coffee to be labeled decaf, 97% of the caffeine must be removed

Caffeine - How much is too much

  • Caffeine in dry, powdered form - highly powerful, toxic and for medical use
  • Mayo Clinic recommends 200-300mg/day for average, healthy adult
  • lethal dose is 10g - equivalent to 100 cups of coffee
  • depends on body weight, health issues, etc.

Coffee drinkers:

  • at less risk for neurodegenerative disease (dementias, parkinson's disease)
  • may be therapeutic against Alzheimer's disease by reducing deposits of toxic beta amyloid polypeptides
  • 3-5 times less risk for Parkinson's
  • mild to severe headaches can be reduced
  • depression and depression related suicide risk in the U.S. is 50 percent less in moderate coffee drinkers than in non-coffee drinkers
  • a study in Holland 17,000 Dutch men & women found 50 percent less risk of type II diabetes in heavy coffee drinkers compared to light, moderate (similar studies in Finland, Sweden and US)
  • patient's with hepatitis B or C who had at least one cup a day lowered risk of liver cancer by 48%
  • Palpitation (or awareness of perceived heart rhythm irregulations and be caused by excess caffeine) or flutter (significant arrhythmias) have not been found to be associated with caffeine
  • heart attacks significantly lower (3-4cups a day)
  • decrease osteoporosis (3-4 cups/day)
  • increase sexual behavior
  • pregnancy:
    • few studies suggest limiting 3-4c/day
    • coffee does not cause preterm or birth defects
    • caffeine is present in mother's milk in coffee drinkers

Caffeine and children

  • a drink more than 3mg caffeine/kilogram may cause nervousness
  • in Canada, caffeine limited for children 2/5mg/kilo day - about 1/2c for a six year old

Organic Coffee

  • no toxic levels of herbicides or pesticides survive the roasting process
  • increase in specialty coffee demands

So now, I have better explanations to coffee than "just because."

Should you find yourself among an anti-coffee drinker (ew) and there is a heated discussion about the beverage just remember: they can say they don't like the way it tastes (and then you can dump them as a friend) and they can say they'd rather drink tea (which is just boring so... repeat step above) but they can never say coffee is bad for you.

In fact they are bad for you so again, repeat the first step (dump the weirdo).

Mugs Up,

The Coffee Nomad