Coffee: A Booster or Buster of Health?


(photo credit: Pinterest)

          Coffee. That wonderfully caffeinated drink that instantly wakes you up the second its full-bodied aroma diffuses into the air and calls your senses to attention. Dramatic description? Maybe for some. However, I cannot start my morning without drinking at least three cups of coffee. As you walk through the HUB, you’re more than likely to see me standing in the never-ending line that leads to the promise land: the Starbucks counter. I drink it firstly for its taste, but a little caffeine boost can’t hurt (or can it?). There have been numerous experiments conducted studying the effects that drinking coffee can have on our bodies.

        According to an AARP article, caffeine has been said to raise blood pressure, increase anxiety, disrupt sleep patterns, and irritate your stomach (due to its high acidity). It’s also been speculated that coffee is technically a drug because drinkers become dependent/addicted to the caffeine in the drink. Studies conducted at Harvard University dispelled the belief that coffee increases blood pressure. Actually, the experiment proved that caffeine (slightly) improves higher blood pressure. Other studies at Harvard concluded that consuming coffee lowers the risk of prostrate cancer and diabetes. Can the beverage completely prevent cancers or other diseases? No. But it’s comforting to debunk the theories that claim the caffeine in coffee is harmful to the consumer. But even Harvard’s findings can’t be considered the final word on the coffee debate. Assertions of coffee being linked to this disease or that disease have been ongoing for quite some time. Each new finding seems to contradict a previously executed study and experiment. What is behind this clashing of coffee “truths”?

         A recent New York Times article proposed that our genes could be responsible for our reaction to drinking coffee. Dr. El-Sohemy (professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto) conducted a study analyzing how genes and coffee consumption can affect the heart. The study used a group of 4,000 adults (2,000 of which had experienced a heart attack). After testing, the scientists found that drinking 4 or more cups of coffee a day yielded a 36% increased risk of having a heart attack. Analyzing that percentage more closely, Dr. El-Sohemy found that “slow” metabolizers made up the entire 36%, and “fast” metabolizers showed no increased risk of having a heart attack. What does a slow or fast metabolizer mean? Well, each of us possesses a gene called CYP1A2 that controls an enzyme of the same name (CYP1A2). This gene enables our bodies to break down caffeine that we ingest. We inherit this from each of our parents, and there are two variations; dictated as slow and fast. The slow variant takes a longer period of time to break down the caffeine. The fast variant quickly breaks down and absorbs the caffeine. The slow metabolizers have an increased risk in experiencing a heart attack, Dr. El-Sohemy believes, because the caffeine lingers for a considerable amount of time, which can act as an instigator of an attack. The relationship here is that of a confounding correlation. Coffee does not directly cause heart attacks. The amount of coffee consumed is the third variable that plays into this correlation. Conversely, fast metabolizers actually had a reduced risk of experiencing a heart attack if they drank at least 3 cups of joe a day. However, it is interesting to note that both fast and slow metabolizers both had an increased performance in physical tasks with the consumption of coffee. Fast metabolizers excelled in the task more so than slow metabolizers. The reason behind this result was that fast metabolizers can actually absorb the antioxidants and other beneficial compounds found in coffee because they metabolize the caffeine in a timely period. The takeaway is that everyone can reap the benefits of ingesting caffeine, but some people are just predisposed to benefit more than others.

4 thoughts on “Coffee: A Booster or Buster of Health?

  1. Alexis Herrington

    I enjoyed this post because I actually was diagnosed with high blood pressure for some time a few months ago, and one of the things the doctor told me to do was stop drinking caffeine. I found it hard to do because I started craving it and wanting it but knew for the benefit of my health, I had to cut it off (not that that was what caused my high blood pressure, but could have been an added factor). I admit that I still find myself drinking coffee to this day, forgetting about the effects it could contribute to my health in the moment. My dad actually had high blood pressure too and was also a coffee addict. So it is not uncommon for the two to be in correlation of each other, but it also could be hereditary. People don’t realize how easy it is to become addicted to caffeine because it is in fact a drug, which most people are unaware of. I think this was a good post to share to raise awareness because college is an easy way to make coffee drinking an excessive habit.

  2. Hannah Elizabeth Welty

    I have never thought to myself “wow I really need a coffee right now!” however part of me believes that as I slowly make my way through college, my opinion may change. I think coffee definitely has its benefits however, I think the issues may outweigh the benefits. My mother had always talked about coffee as her addiction, which concerned me of course hearing the word “addiction” as a little girl. She also spoke about candy and sugar as her addiction as well, replacing her old smoking habits. I find it horrible to believe that food can be as addicting as a cigarette and that scares me a little to think about the future of our obese nation.

  3. Jillian Nicole Beitter

    I think that is so interesting how your metabolism is really what matters. I have a fast metabolism so I guess that’s good for me! Personally, I’m not a coffee addict but I will occasionally get Starbucks if I’m tired and need a boost! I think that no matter what, the debate of whether coffee is good or bad for you will always continue.

  4. Ahmed Mohamed

    Coffee is probably in the top 5 of most talked about things in coffee. “I need my coffee today.” “I can’t talk to you until I have my coffee.” “I’ve had 5 cups today and that’s not enough.” Personally, I am not a coffee drinker. I had one semester of coffee and then lost the bug shortly after. I am actually curious about the other half of the world that doesn’t drink coffee. For me, it’s not so much about taste but it actually has a negative affect on my. My brain feels too stimulated and I get headaches from it. Is there any research conducted about those kinds of effects?

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