Coffee 101

Coffee 101

Happy National Coffee Day!

It’s National Coffee Day, and much like any other day, 100 million American consumers will reach for a cup of coffee.

However, coffee has a long history of being blamed for many ills, from the humorous “It will stunt your growth” to the not-so-humorous claim that it causes heart disease and cancer.

A few semesters back, I had to chose a topic for a presentation I had to do for my psychology class. Me, being the only chemist in the class, decided to talk about the science and health benefits of coffee. When it was time to present, I started off by asking my classmates to raise their hand if they thought coffee was healthy… no one raised their hand. I was shocked. I thought maybe one person would agree, or maybe even the teacher for sure. But everyone looked at me like I was from another planet. Well, I proceeded with my presentation anyway, and I still think till this day none of those students believed anything I said. :-/

Caffeine Molecule

Here’s why I believe coffee is extremely healthy:

1. Coffee doesn’t just keep you awake; it can make you smarter as well. The active ingredient in coffee is caffeine, which is a stimulant. Caffeine’s primary mechanism in the brain is blocking the effects of an inhibitory neurotransmitter called Adenosine. By blocking the inhibitory effectos of Adenosine, caffeine actually increases neuronal firing in the brain and the release of other neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. So that means, caffeine can improve your mood, reaction time, memory, vigilance and general cognitive functions. There was a recent study in an article that I found a few months back, where an 8 oz. cup of coffee a day helped decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. A cup of coffee can protect the brain in old age? Amazing! In prospective studies, coffee drinkers have up to 60% lower risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Article can be found here. Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder, characterized by death of dopamine-generating neurons in the brain. Coffee can even lower the risk of Parkinson’s by 32-60%!

2. Caffeine, partly due to its stimulant effect on the central nervous system, both raises metabolism and increases the oxidation of fatty acids. Caffeine raises the metabolic rate and helps to mobilize fatty acids from the fat tissues as well as enhance physical performance. Why do you think in most commercial fat burning supplements caffeine is the number one ingredient?

3. Type II diabeties is a lifestyle-related disease that has reached epidemic proportions, having increased 10-fold in a few decades and now afflicting about 300 million people. High blood glucose levels due to insulin resistance or inability to produce insulin characterizes this disease. Where coffee can increase blood flow throughout the body and help distribute and increase the amount of insulin that the body can produce. Therefore, the more coffee you drink, the lower the risk of diabetes.

4. Coffee isn’t just black water. Many of the nutrients in the coffee beans do make it into the final drink, which actually contains a decent amount of vitamins and minerals. Coffee also contains a massive amount of antioxidants. In fact, coffee is the biggest source of antioxidants in the western diet, outranking both fruits and vegetables combined. Therefore, it is also good for your liver because it is an antioxidant; coffee can help detox the liver and get rid of the harsh substances that make up most our diets.

Coffee 101

Even though coffee in moderate amounts is good for you, drinking way too much of it can still be harmful. NOTE* To make sure to preserve the health benefits, don’t put sugar or anything nasty in your coffee. Yes, I am talking about those froo froo drinks from your local coffee shop. Those are lattes! Not coffee. To reap the most benefits, drink your coffee BLACK. Resist the urge to mask your coffee with high calorie sugars and creams. If it tends to affect your sleep, then don’t drink it after 2 PM (I can’t even drink coffee after 11AM).

Also keep in mind that, if you do add sugar and cream to your coffee, you will increase the half-life decay of caffeine in your system. What does that mean? Sucrose has the tendency to outweigh the caffeine in your drink so that means you will be on a sugar rush. When that sugar rush is over, you will crash, much like you do when you consume an energy drink. A caffeine rush alone lasts a lot longer than a sugar rush. Why? The half-life of caffeine is about 8 hours (that means the caffeine will be in your system for about 8 hours), where sucrose (sugar) is 3-6 hours depending on how your body processes sugar (Your body does not distinguish between natural sugars and processed sugars, does not matter if it’s Stevia, Splenda, Sweet and Low or honey, your body thinks it’s all the same). When two chemicals are mixed together, the caffeine is not pure anymore, thus decreasing the amount that the caffeine can stay in your system. Hence, the sugar crash.

I could go further into this, but I don’t want to scare any of you away. Sorry for my mini tangent 🙂

At the end of the day, more research has been exhibiting that coffee is NOT the villain it was made out to be. It is quite clear that coffee is indeed a very healthy beverage that should be incorporated in your every day diet routine.

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12 Comments Add yours

  1. G’day! Happy International Coffee Day to you!
    I LOVE a good coffee and the benefits for me is I have a hubby who is a Barista who every morning delivers my coffee from the kitchen to me! 🙂
    Cheers! Joanne

  2. Violet says:

    Wow, I had no idea that coffee is healthy!! Thank you for this informative mini lesson on the benefits of coffee. 🙂 By the way, did you make the cup of coffee with the heart in the centre? So cute, love it!! ^^

  3. Love this post! Especially with the added chemistry 🙂 Yay coffee!!!

  4. Love your article! I’ll be sharing it with everyone! The only thing is coffee is the 3rd most heavily sprayed crop. Cotton is 1st and Tobacco is 2nd. It’s imperative that people drink Organic Coffee.

  5. Reblogged this on PRINCESS' HEART and commented:
    I’m not a coffee lover, but while blogwalking i suddenly wanna read this blogpost. Cheers for the coffee lovers! 🙂

  6. beautifully constructed post :-

  7. I had no idea that there is a coffee day — YAY — It’s marked on my calendar now — thanks for these health notes too.
    ~ Eric

  8. As a huge coffee lover I loved learning a little science behind that delicious molecule 🙂 Thanks!

  9. WilIam says:

    Reblogged this on Vegan by Necessity.

  10. billweaver20 says:

    Your blog is beautiful and this article in particular is fantastic. Black coffee has been a constant in my life for 35 years. People, places and things have come and gone but the coffee has remained, from learning how to operate the stovetop percolator when I was 13 (1 tbsp per cup, high heat til first perc, low heat for 7 min of percking) to mass quantities in college, putting Vitamin C Fortified Instant from an MRE directly on my tongue to stay awake on guard duty in the desert, boiled coffee in a sacrificial sock on in a #10 can on top of a kerosene heater, thru an affair with Starbucks to finally hand grinding the good stuff and making it thru a ceramic cone. I have survived pancreatic cancer a lot longer than I should have… maybe the coffee helped. Think I’ll make some now.

  11. I love coffee. However, I offer a different perspective on sugar. Please take the time and let me know what you think.

    Sugar Issues:
    http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/sugar-issues.shtml

    Glycemia, Starch, and Sugar In Context:
    http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/glycemia.shtml

    Glucose and Sucrose for Diabetes:
    http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/glucose-sucrose-diabetes.shtml

    Sugar: Pure, White & Awesome
    http://www.dannyroddy.com/main/2012/2/27/sugar-pure-white-awesome.html

    1. juliewold says:

      Sugar affects the activation energy of the caffeine molecule. It’s simple biochemistry kinetics, the sugar increases the metabolic rate thus decreasing the transition energy and amount of energy the caffeine stays in the system, hence the sugar crash and why it’s 2 to 3 hours after consuming the drink and not the full 8 hours that the caffeine is actually supposed to stay in your system. (Half life decay of caffeine is roughly 8 hours) Although I agree there is nothing wrong with sugar and it has it’s benefits when consumed in moderation, it can still prevent or slow down the wonderful benefits that coffee has to offer. Thank you for taking the time to read my post and appreciate the articles that you posted. They were pretty interesting and agree that sugar is very important in our diets as well.

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