So the other day I got into a pretty heated argument with my friend about coffee. He told me that caffeine is unnatural and coffee does nothing but harm your body. I am of the opinion that aside from the obvious fact that it’s delicious, coffee actually can help your body as well. I’m writing this blog in hopes that I can show my friend and prove to him once and for all that there are some things about caffeine and coffee that your body can use for good.
An article from Harvard says that coffee consumption can work in preventative ways against things like Parkinson’s, Type II Diabetes, depression, and cardiovascular disease. However, I wanted to see some actual data so I went searching.
Can Caffeine really help with Type II Diabetes?
No, coffee does not directly help with diabetes. However, research has shown that caffeine can enhance the effects of a medication called sodium glucose transporter 2. This drug helps regulate glucose in the body which is important for an individual suffering from diabetes. While this study was not a double blind with placebo arm, the results did show that caffeine enhances this medications success in patients.
There is a mini review that summarizes studies on coffee and type II diabetes which says that the chlorogenic acids and caffeine found in coffee reduces the risk of type II diabetes.
What I found regarding Parkinson’s Disease.
The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation describes Parkinson’s disease as a progressive disease in which a person’s neurons will slowly die. These neurons are typically in charge of releasing dopamine into the body. Individuals will suffer from tremors, slowness, loss of balance, and more.
Pubmed is an online database that publishes scientific research for public access. One article that reviews meta-analyses of 26 studies on the issue of caffeine and Parkinson’s disease concludes that according to the statistics, caffeine can have preventative measures on the onset of Parkinson’s disease, and that it is highly unlikely to be due to chance or confounding variables. Its hard to attribute one causal variable to putting off or stopping a disease like Parkinson’s because it has so many other factors like age and genetics. However, meta-analysis with different approaches allow for scientists to rule out confounding variables, and be more sure their conclusions aren’t false positives.
It is interesting, however, that these findings were particularly related to men and not women. However, The American Journal of Epidemiology put out an article that relates the effects of estrogen and caffeine on the Nigrostriatal pathway (one of the primary dopamine pathways in the brain). This finding suggests that further research on caffeine and estrogen, particularly in the cases of Parkinson’s patients, could lend itself towards finding a mechanism for how they are beneficial in protecting these dopamine pathways.
I enjoyed reading about this stuff because I am an avid coffee drinker, however a lot of this research provided a lot of soft end points. The mechanisms aren’t strong. So while I did find a lot of research that was convincing, I can’t go around telling people that coffee is the solution to all health problems in the world. However, I still love it 🙂