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 Psychological & Emotional Health

May 2010
A Cup of Confusion
Farrah Chinoy
I’m not a coffee addict, but I do enjoy an occasional cup of coffee. The next time I grab a cup of this brew, I want to know if it’s a friend or a foe. There are so many varied and contradictory views on drinking coffee that I find myself trapped amongst them.
Like me, I’m sure there are a lot of you out there who want to know if it’s ok to enjoy a cup of coffee and if it is, then how often should I indulge in this craving? Considering all the past concern about possible health risks from drinking coffee and the newer reports of coffee’s possible protective effects may leave many people confused - I know I am!

Magical Bean
In the light of a friend there are so many benefits of this magical bean. Ladies and gentlemen let me introduce to you ‘Java’ - the good ol’ coffee bean which has been bashed and pounded by food critics and dieticians to a mere addictive power and stood up for itself as a miracle drug which has more to offer than the aroma and mental stimulation. Here are some of its benefits:
  • Laboratory studies suggest that the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant compounds in coffee could help reduce risk of some cancers.
  • Coffee also has a tendency to speed the passage of waste through the digestive tract. Potentially, this may lessen the time that cancer-causing compounds spend in contact with the intestinal tract, which could reduce the risk of colon cancer.
  • Coffee has large amounts of antioxidants such as chlorogenic acid and tocopherols, and minerals such as magnesium. All these components have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism and so coffee is known to reduce the risk of diabetes.
  • The Iowa Women’s Health Study noted that four to five cups of coffee a day were linked with a 19 percent lower risk of heart-related death. However an individual must follow a doctor’s advice.
  • Coffee is said to be able to also lower your risk of Parkinson's disease. In fact, new age Parkinson's drugs are now being developed containing a derivative of caffeine.
  • It is also a commonly known fact that coffee lifts your mood and cures headaches.
  • Caffeine also enhances athletic endurance and performance. It’s so powerful that until recently caffeine in coffee or other forms was deemed a "controlled" substance by the Olympic Games Committee, meaning that it could be consumed only in small, designated amounts by competing athletes.
  • Coffee, as you probably know, makes you more alert, which can boost concentration. But claims that children who drink coffee will improve their academic performance, is exaggerated.
Although the above points show that coffee may offer a variety of health benefits, lets not put this bean on a high pedestal, as it is not all goody two shoes.

Before you drink a whole pot...
Although for the most part coffee is a friend, some medical conditions require the patient to limit or stop drinking coffee entirely.
  • Coffee relaxes the muscle that keeps stomach acids from raising into the throat, so those with heartburn or reflux disease (GERD) are encouraged to avoid or strictly limit coffee.
  • People with trouble sleeping should limit or avoid caffeinated coffee.
  • Its legendary jolt in excess doses -that is, more than whatever your individual body can tolerate - can increase nervousness, hand trembling, and cause rapid heartbeat.
  • Coffee may also raise cholesterol levels in some people and may contribute to artery clogging.
So the bottom line is, that the next time you brew yourself a cup of coffee, don’t feel guilty - unless you are suffering from a health condition. In which case, consult your doctor for personalised advice. Remember that caffeine is addictive, so be wise and limit yourself to three cups of coffee a day- this goes for all of you. If you fancy a change from the home made coffee, treat yourself to anyone from the array of choice a place like Barista gives you. So like the Americans say - Enjoy your cuppa Joe.

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