Coffee: The New Superfood?-Intro

Recently coffee drinkers found that their daily habit might not be so bad for them. In fact, the USDA Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, linked moderate consumption to a couple health benefits. What’s moderate? According to the USDA, you’re looking at 3-5 cups a day. This corresponds to approximately 400 mg of caffeine daily. Recent studies have found coffee consumption to a decrease in overall mortality, and incidence of cardviovascular disease, diabetes,

Full Disclosure: I drink about 6 cups of coffee a day. This wasn’t always the case. I used to stay away from coffee, and started drinking it at work a little over a year ago. I am drinking a cup of coffee right now….. my mid morning cup.

Throughout its history, coffee has been blamed unjustly for many of society’s ills. One can only guess as to why this drink was the target of so much speculation. Personally, I think it’s a combination of the propensity of caffeine to cause addiction and the tendency of society to be skeptical of things that make us feel good. According to an article written by Sandee LaMotte for CNN, prohibitions on coffee can be traced back the first coffee houses on the Arabian Peninsula. The mayor of Mecca outlawed coffee houses citing that it was an intoxicant, and therefore drinking it went against Islamic law. Over the next 500 years coffee often played the villain. Impotence, blindness, stunted growth, indigestion, insomnia, bad grades, heart attacks, high blood pressure, spontaneous combustion (ok, I added that last one). These were all at one time or another believed to be caused by our morning Cup o’ Joe.

As we stated earlier, today the scientific community has recognized the positive effects of coffee consumption and these have been highly publicized. The USDA notes a reduced risk of Type II Diabetes and cardiovascular disease as well as compelling evidence of protection from the degenerative effects of Parkinson’s Disease. Additionally, there is other recent literature tying moderate consumption to other health benefits. Research points to the possibility that coffee may lend a hand in reducing incidences of liver cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and depression. So go ahead and have your morning cup or 4-5, it might save your life.

It seems that a major contributor to the health benefits are derived from antioxidants. Antioxidants are important to our health because they control oxidation in the body by reactive oxygen species (ROS) or the less mentioned reactive nitrogen species (RNS). ROS/RNS are mostly unavoidable by products of metabolism. ROS/RNS are highly unstable due to a free electron; they like to be in pairs. In order to complete this pair, they will react with susceptible molecules they come in contact with. When ROS/RNS react with elements of our cells (ie. DNA, proteins, lipids), chain reactions can occur causing damage which leads to disease and dysfunction. This is also known as “oxidative stress”. Antioxidants keep the ROS/RNS in check by donating an electron to ROS/RNS so it doesn’t go around our bodies causing havoc (radical scavenging). Antioxidants can also reduce oxidative stress by preventing ROS/RNS from forming by binding iron molecules that can reduce biological peroxides (ie. H2O2) to form strong oxidizers (chemicals the REALLY want another electron=greater likelihood to do damage). Phenolic compounds found in coffee have been show to contribute to the antioxidant properties and thus it is likely they also take part in many of the observed health benefits.

Over the next couple posts I’ll be reviewing some of the research leading to the science behind these antioxidant effects.

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