Most people just can’t live without coffee. These are the people who look forward to their first cup of coffee as soon as they wake up in the morning. They are the habitués of coffee shops day-in and day-out, those who have made coffee a regular part of their daily routine and lifestyle.
The growing number of coffee “addicts” have prompted hundreds of studies addressing concerns about the effects of coffee on the body and whether or not caffeine causes harm. Some say that it’s good to drink coffee when you have a headache. Others say that it’s bad to drink coffee if you have stomach problems. Learning about the facts and the myths of coffee drinking will help coffee lovers enjoy their next cup even more.
The general effects of coffee fall into the following categories:
- Stimulant effects. Caffeine makes coffee a well-established stimulant as it stimulates the nervous system, including the nerves controlling intestinal activity, blood pressure and airway size which may keep you alert and awake, yet may also impair sleep, cause jitters and anxiety.
- Heartburn. All types of coffee, even decaf, can stimulate secretion of stomach acid, which may lead to heartburn.
- Diuretic features. Caffeine encourages the kidneys to produce urine to rid the body of excess fluid. However, coffee leads to urination so effectively that it may cause mild dehydration.
Coffee may also have other effects on the body, such as yellowed teeth which are common among regular coffee drinkers. Burn injuries from steaming hot coffee are very common. Some mental health professionals even suggest that regular caffeine users, including coffee drinkers, should be considered dependent, addicted or struggling with substance abuse.
Over the past 50 years, studies have raised concern over the health risks of coffee or caffeine users including an association with stomach problems, pancreatic and bladder cancer, fibrocystic breast disease and gallbladder disease, among other conditions. However, when analyzed further, these studies just fall short of implicating even modest coffee consumption as a significant health risk among pregnant women and cardiac patients. A review from April 2007 examined the evidence that coffee consumption might increase the risk of serious medical conditions like stomach cancer or leukemia. And they found out that the data were considered inconclusive and that additional study was necessary.
A study about coffee intake being associated with an increased pancreatic cancer was discredited and is often used as a model to show how a flawed study can mislead research results. It analyzed a number of “exposures” among patients with pancreatic cancer, including coffee intake. The number of factors being examined made it a “fishing expedition” according to most research experts. The danger of examining too many factors at once may produce “association just by chance” results. There is the problem of generating misleading results if a net is cast too wide.
- Premature babies or those who have undergone surgery just after birth may be treated with caffeine to stimulate their breathing.
- Some over-the-counter headache or pain relief medication include caffeine, acetaminophen and aspirin. The effectiveness of these agents may be linked, at least in part, to the treatment of caffeine withdrawal, a common cause of headaches.
- Several studies found modest benefits with caffeine in the treatment of asthma as it gives dilating effects on airways. In fact, some recommend that coffee intake be avoided before breathing tests so as not to diminish the breathing abnormalities which the tests aim to detect.
- During the Experimental Biology 2007, an American Society for Nutrition’s annual conference, research experts reviewed evidence that moderate intake of coffee, say 3 to 5 cups per day, might reduce the risk of diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, kidney stones, gallstones, and depression.
That health risks are minimal and rare bring good news to the coffee lovers vast population. Although those who are considered high risk patients should better avoid the stimulant action of caffeine or the heartburn provoked even by decaffeinated coffee.