There’s been no lack of debate back and forth on the merits or issues with drinking coffee. Now with both additional published literature and some really large scale studies we have more answers.
Table of Contents
The Good News, first
2018 saw a bevy of new journal articles associating coffee consumption with lowered levels of risk or having an impact on a number of medical disorders, positively.
They included such issues as postmenopausal breast cancer to an increase in muscle strength from potential reductions in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease to Parkinson’s, from diabetes and liver disease to living longer and this list keeps getting longer.
One of our considerations when looking at the studies done in 2018 is the number that evaluated large populations, some were meta-studies of more than 1 million patients. There were some new chemical understandings of what and why some substances in coffee work ( inhibit Amyloid-Beta and Tau Aggregation) for neurodegenerative disorders.
Like most things in life, too much can have consequences. No this does not mean you can drink excessively without some side effects. The translation; although there is a dose dependent response in many studies, 3-4 glasses is the peak for most people to safely consume and still get the benefits.
There is however a major consideration which is if your pregnant, reconsider the dose. Cut back to one 12 oz cup per day to limit your caffeine to less than 200mg/day based on the opinions of the American Pregnancy Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Or better yet stop caffeine intake until you deliver, as even modest intake has been shown to influence birth weights and lengths negatively.(remember it’s not forever and count other caffeine containing foods in your dose)
The Bad News (but totally avoidable)
The bad can be summarized into a few concerns: Those who are sensitive to caffeine, concerned with acrylamide (see the prop 65 warning) , have high cholesterol and those who want to maintain their health. Yes, I’m referring to the sugar and fat loaded “coffee drinks” ie. high calorie bombs.
There are variations in the amount of caffeine based on the method of brewing your coffee, the beans and their processing and of course the volume.
For the caffeine content of your blend go to the Caffineinformer site and find your product.
As an example of the caffeine content in your drink see the list at Dutch Brothers. For an immediate cardiac kick their Brain Freeze Blend (large) there’s 437 mg of caffeine. Perhaps your considering going to Caribou Coffee. They can serve you up to 456mg in their Depth charge version. Keep perspective that the average cup of plain coffee will average around the 60-100 mg for an 8 oz cup.
When we talk about brewing an 8 oz cup of coffee the comparison between the amounts of caffeine become obvious. For espresso you will generally get 30-50 mg which is some of the lowest levels vs the French press method which has some of the highest amounts at between 80-100mg. Instant coffee has between 50-60mg. and decaffeinated is not unexpectedly at the very low end at 2-4mg.
For some it came as shock that coffee beverages would be classified with the Prop 65 warning. It has to do with the roasting of the beans that creates a chemical reaction resulting in the conversion of some of the carbohydrates to acrylamide. In 1990 the state of California classified acrylamide as a carcinogenic substance. “Plant-based foods that are rich in carbohydrates can form acrylamide when baked, fried or roasted.” There are many products that contain acrylamide and typically at dramatically higher levels. “
“French fries, potato chips, other fried and baked snack foods, coffee, roasted grain-based coffee substitutes, roasted asparagus, canned sweet potatoes and pumpkin, canned black olives, roasted nuts, prune juice, breakfast cereals, crackers, cookies, breads, and toast all may contain varying amounts of acrylamide. Foods that have been boiled or steamed do not contain acrylamide.” For those using coffee substitutes , they are the highest level by far compared to all coffees.
The key with coffee is both the level of the roast and of course how much your consume. BUT wait theres more…. a group called the Clean Label project had multiple coffee samples set to a lab for acrylamide level evaluation.
Guess what…. the amounts were non-detectable in the 9 brands tested.
Cholesterol raising chemical in coffee
The naturally occurring chemicals in coffee, cafestol, and kahweol will influence your cholesterol levels. They are found in all coffee beans and are more concentrated in the light roast versions.
The good news they can be reduced or eliminated by using a paper filter when brewing your coffee. There are different qualities of the filters and a good discussion can be found at coffee-filter . Not nuts about the taste of the paper filters ? Rinse the filter with hot water in your pour over assembly, discard the water and brew as usual.
For more on the dark vs light roast see: which-coffee-is-healthier-light-vs-dark-roast
Sugar and Fat
In the sugar/fat arena we have servings that are guaranteed to cause your health harm, especially if you indulge often. For a list of the top 12 worst in term of the fat and sugar load you’ll find major brands such as Starbucks, Pete’s and even Seattle’s Best on the list. Keep in mind exclusively with their “fancy offerings” and not straight coffee.
Things are no better at the fast food joints such as, Dunkin Doughnuts, with their Girl Scouts® Coconut CaramelSwirl Inspired Iced Latte with Milk bringing you (460 calories, 12 grams of fat, 110 grams of carbs), what were the Girl Scotts thinking and then try using their nutrition guild to their products, it feels intentionally hard to use. Perhaps you go to McD’s and ordered a McDonald’s large peppermint mocha (460 calories, 16 grams of fat, 65 grams of carbohydrates), or as another option having a Starbucks Venti White Chocolate Mocha (530 calories, 21 grams of fat, 69 grams of carbs), and this list is not the worst of the drinks available at these establishments.
And if you’re up for a waist expanding experience you might go to Caribou Coffee Chocolate Caramel Truffle Mocha Cooler #11 at a mind blowing 1330 calories with a waist bending 111 gram of sugar and 76 grams of fat. (PS this is not the highest of the potential diet disasters….)
Take Aways Coffee is good for most of us !
- Forget fancy sugar/fat laden drinks, stick with low fat milks or go black
- Lighter roasts have more caffeine and cholesterol raising chemicals
- Darker roasts have less acrylamide and less pesticides (when conventional)
- Drip coffee has more caffeine vs an espresso
- Use of a coffee filter removes 90+% of the bad cafestol
- Drink moderately 3-4 glasses max. and follow your bodies reactions
- By organic when possible but a dark roast gets rid of a high amount of the pesticides from the processing