Unfiltered Coffee Increases Health Risks
Two recent studies have been published citing that drinking coffee which is unfiltered as in the French Press method are associated with an increase in LDL (bad) cholesterol and or homocysteine levels.
The first study, by Dr. Marina Grubben et al, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition was conducted in the Netherlands. It involved studying 64 healthy adults drinking six large cups of unfiltered coffee or another beverage during a two week period. The results showed that there was an increase in homocysteine levels of 10% in individuals who consumed the unfiltered coffee. They linked this to an increased risk for heart disease by 10%.
In another coffee study, participants drank unfiltered coffee for two weeks and were compared to those who drank filtered coffee. There was an increase in serum LDL cholesterol of 2mg/dl for those drinking unfiltered coffee. After two weeks, they switched to filtered coffee and the serum cholesterol returned to baseline.
These studies, while interesting, don't tell us anything about long term effects. A two week coffee study does not give us an answer to the long term risk of drinking unfiltered coffee. In the homocysteine related study, the control group didn't even drink coffee. Yet the way this has been reported is that it is healthier to drink filtered coffee. A more recent study has shown that homocysteine levels did not drop when drinking filtered coffee. There has been trouble isolating the cause. Is it the caffeine? Who knows? More research is needed.
The best coffees in the world come from Italy
Actually, unless someone is growing coffee as an indoor plant, no coffee is grown in Italy at all. Italy's coffee fame rests on its coffee companies abilities as roasters and blenders for espresso. There is no doubt that the average Italian regards coffee as one of life's essentials, but at the same time there are few Italian coffee connoisseurs. As long as the coffee is of a certain standard it will be acceptable (and cheap!) The end result is that most of the green coffee going in to Italy is "good average" at best rather than specialty grade, and most of the roasted coffee exported is designed to give a consistent "good average" espresso.
Despite what it says on the packets, roasted AND ground coffee from Italy is normally designed to be used in Moka Pots rather than espresso machines.
Coffee Leads To Heart Disease
It has long been thought that coffee, as a stimulant, would lead to various forms of heart disease. The recent literature. however, suggests that coffee is safe in moderate doses. Recently, one researcher, Warren G. Thompson, M.D., noted in a 1994 literature review on this subject: "The largest and better studies suggest that coffee is not a major risk factor for coronary disease."
Additionally, a major study conducted by Willet, et al., examined data collected from more than 85,000 women over a 10-year period. Upon adjusting the data for known risk factors such as smoking, they found no increased risk of CVD for women who drank six or more cups of coffee per day.
Coffee Causes Ulcers
A 1990 study by Diedrich, et al., looked at 45,000 men. It found no link between coffee, caffeine and CVD in men who drank four or more cups of coffee per day.
Often times, when people see me drinking a cup of coffee -- they give the warning "You shouldn't drink coffee, it will give you ulcers." The thinking, until recently, was that excess stomach acid caused ulcers and that coffee would contribute to the stomach acid. Recent studies however show that most ulcers are caused by a particular bacteria, namely Helicobacter pylori. Those ulcers can be cured easily with antibiotics. An important distinction to make is that while coffee or spicy foods for that matter don't cause the ulcers, they may serve to aggravate existing ulcers.
Caffeine's Effects are Addictive
People often say they are "addicted" to caffeine in much the same way they say they are "addicted" to shopping, working or television. The term "addiction" actually refers to a strong dependence on a drug characterized by severe withdrawal symptoms, tolerance to a given dose and the loss of control or the need to consume more and more of the substance at any cost. Addicts tend to exhibit anti-social behavior or even commit crimes to perpetuate the abuse. Consumers of caffeine-containing beverages do not fall into this category. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (1994), a document that characterizes various addictions, does not list caffeine as a substance that causes addiction. According to the World Health Organization, "There is no evidence whatsoever that caffeine use has even remotely comparable physical and social consequences which are associated with serious drugs of abuse."
Pregnant Women Should Avoid Caffeine
Just as with nearly everything else they do, pregnant women can take caffeine in moderation. Many women find they experience taste changes during pregnancy and cannot drink tea or coffee. For those who continue to enjoy their tea and coffee, most physicians and researchers agree that moderate amounts of coffee daily will have no adverse effects on the outcome of the pregnancy or the infant's health.
Caffeine is a Risk Factor for Osteoporosis
The established risk factors for osteoporosis are insufficient dietary calcium and vitamin D, high protein diets, smoking, the onset of menopause, low estrogen levels, low body weight and a lack of physical activity. Several well-controlled studies have concluded that consuming moderate amounts of caffeine does not increase the risk of developing osteoporosis. A 1994 National Institute of Health Consensus Statement on optimal bone health does not list caffeine amongst the risk factors which modify calcium balance and influence bone mass. A study by Penn State Medical School found that lifetime consumption of caffeine (up to 800 mg daily or the equivalent of 6-7 cups of coffee a day) had no effect on bone density in 188 post-menopausal women.
Nevertheless, caffeine does cause a small amount of calcium to be lost in the urine â€“ about the amount in one to two tablespoons of milk per cup of tea or coffee. For this reason, nutritionists recommend that women take their coffee with added milk, drink one extra glass of milk daily or take a calcium supplement if they are heavy coffee drinkers (over 5 cups of coffee daily).
Caffeine increases the risk of heart disease
Despite previous controversy on the subject, scientists now agree that regular caffeine use has little or no effect on blood pressure, cholesterol levels or risk of heart disease.
Studies show that while first-time caffeine use can cause a slight increase in blood pressure (similar to that experienced when walking up stairs), the changes are minimal and disappear with regular use.
It has also been found that only boiled, unfiltered coffee, such as that taken in some Scandinavian countries, elevates cholesterol. It seems the oils in the coffee that are not filtered out are responsible for this effect, not the coffee or caffeine. Consumption of caffeine-containing beverages does not typically affect cholesterol levels.
Caffeine causes cancer
Substantial scientific evidence demonstrates that caffeine is not a risk factor for cancer. A number of human epidemiological studies have examined the risk of developing cancer at different locations in the body. Two studies of large numbers of people in Norway and Hawaii found no relationship between regular coffee consumption and cancer risk. Two projects conducted on caffeine - one in Japan and the other in Germany - demonstrated no link between caffeine consumption and the incidence of tumors in test animals. This confirms the position of the American Cancer Society, that states, "Available information does not suggest a recommendation against the moderate use of coffee. There is no indication that caffeine, a natural component of both coffee and tea, is a risk factor in human cancer."
Caffeine adversely affects the health of children
Children generally consume much less caffeine than adults do, since soft drinks and tea are their primary sources of caffeine. Children generally have the same ability to process caffeine as adults. Studies have shown that foods and drinks containing caffeine, when taken in moderate amounts, have no detectable effects on activity levels or attention spans in children.
Caffeine has no health benefits
Recent research has found some surprising health benefits associated with caffeine consumption. Many caffeine-containing beverages, most notably tea and more recently coffee, have been found to contain antioxidants. Antioxidants may have health benefits in terms of heart health and cancer prevention.
Caffeine is well recognized as increasing both alertness levels and attention spans. A cup of coffee or tea is often recommended to counter sleepiness, especially for those driving long distances and many people resort to an afternoon "cuppa" to get back on top of their workload.
Recent reports suggest that caffeine may be useful in treating allergic reactions due to its ability to reduce the concentration of histamines, the typical body response to an allergy-causing substance. More research is needed in this area before conclusions can be drawn. Caffeine has long been known to help many people suffering from asthma. There is also evidence to suggest that caffeine may reduce the risk of kidney stones.