Chiu: Coffee drinkers, rejoice: Your cup of joe won’t kill you

Posted on March 11, 2012 in Chiu On This, Perspectives, Sports
By Anna Chiu

Columnest Anna Chiu
Chelsea Ellis | The Free Press
Columnest Anna Chiu

Like many students, I’m addicted to coffee. Not only because of its unique aroma and taste, but because of its ability to cast a spell that temporarily ignites my motivation, concentration and productivity. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to pull off my hectic schedule that greets me each morning. So when I read that a nine-year study proved that coffee consumption does not link to any chronic diseases, I was filled with excitement and relief.

Scientists concluded in this nine-year study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that regular coffee consumption in healthy adults is not harmful and does not link to chronic diseases. A team of German scientists documented and followed 42,000 German adults with no chronic disease. At the beginning of the study, researchers collected data such as the participants diet, lifestyle and coffee-drinking habits and then followed up every couple of years to recollected the same data to see if any heath problems developed.

Scientists found no evidence to support that coffee drinkers were more likely to develop chronic disease, instead, they found that coffee drinkers are 23 percent less likely to develop diabetes. The study found no evidence suggesting people reduce their coffee consumption.

Coffee has been notoriously linked to cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes in the last couple of years, but many of these claims were more of a correlation rather than causation. Upon further investigation, I came across the reasoning behind its claimed risks: Other factors such as diet and lifestyle were not taken into consideration, resulting in just a correlation. The next issue with coffee is, of course, it’s caffeine content.

Coffee actually contain higher levels of antioxidant per cup, compared to tea and other energy or sports drinks. For many students, coffee consumption boils down to the need of a pick-me-up, or caffeine. Caffeine works in place of adenosine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that cause drowsiness when bound to its receptor. The brain can’t tell the difference between adenosine and caffeine because of a similar chemical appearance. Instead of feeling tired, neural firing in the brain increase, causing symptoms of what we expect from caffeine.

Even though this new study shows that regular coffee consumption show no link to chronic diseases, is coffee just a Band Aid for underlying issues such as sleep deprivation or lack of physical activity? As students, it’s hard to find time to exercise, making us more likely to feel tired. As long as we  commit to staying healthy, caffeine gives us the option to give us the extra boost we need to get through a hard day.

Here are some healthful tips to keep in mind next time you grab a cup of joe:

1. Don’t fear cream: Using full fat milk or cream instead of skim milk will keep your hunger at bay and will also help reduce your cravings for sugar.

2. Go for half decaf, half regular, if you’re caffeine sensitive: Many people cannot metabolize caffeine as well as others, thus some people will experience the jitters. Opting for half decaf will also reduce the severeness of the dreaded ‘coffee crash.’

3. Go for all natural, organic or eco-friendly coffee: It’s amazing how different and earthy, organic coffee brands taste compared to the generic factory-processed brands. If you love the taste of coffee, give it a try!

4. Use sugar sparingly: Since coffee is already caffeinated, be careful about how much sugar you add. Adding too much sugar to your coffee may spike your blood glucose. Try using raw sugar, honey or stevia for healthier alternatives.

5. Go dark for the antioxidants: Dark roasts have a higher antioxidant content, so if you like the bold taste of darker roasts, you’re in luck!

Anna Chiu is a freshman nursing major who writes a weekly column about health and wellness. She can be reached at yin.chiu1@maine.edu.

To read study yourself visit: http://www.ajcn.org/content/early/2012/02/14/ajcn.111.023648