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  • Writer's pictureKathy Ozakovic

Let's talk coffee and health

Updated: Sep 4, 2022

Did you know coffee beans come from a cherry? Recently, I've decided to moderate my coffee and caffeine intake in particular. In this blog I share with you the why and how. I also share some of the latest reviews on the health benefits of coffee. Yes, there are health benefits to drinking coffee and yes there are some "warnings" too. Finally, before I get into it I want to highlight it is never only about the coffee. I am always more concerned about what my clients are not eating and not getting enough of, as opposed to how much coffee they are drinking. Unless...

Did you know coffee has about 1000 bioactive substances! Caffeine is only 1 of these. The most well known and most researched are: Chlorogenic Acid (CGAs), Diterpenes, Trigonelline, Melanoidins and Caffeine. The overall health effects of the coffee depends on the amount of nutrients and bioactive substances which vary significantly across types of coffee. This is why its not as simple as saying "keep drinking coffee, don't keep drinking coffee, this is how much coffee you should drink" However, I can give you a better understanding and some questions worth asking yourself to make that decision for yourself. 1 cup of coffee refers to 200ml and about 100mg caffeine.


Inflammation and Heart Health

Out of the most researched bioactive substances researched CGAs and Caffeine are pro inflammatory whilst Trigonelline, Melanoidins an Diterpenes are anti-inflammatory. Keep in mind caffeine is never consumed by itself. Diterpenes have been shown to have a negative effect on cholesterol (increasing) yet overall coffee has shown a net protective effect for heart health at moderate intakes. 3 cups of coffee per day actually does not raise blood pressure (there's a myth busted, sorry nanna!) and has protective effects against stroke, heart failure and cardiovascular disease.


Bone Health

The effects vary in men and women. Caffeine and estrogen compete for absorption. Caffeine wins and knocks away estrogen which increases the risk of bone fractures in women. This effect is not seen in Men as they have a different hormone profile to women. One study found that caffeine intake increases the rate of bone loss in elderly women and interacts with vitamin D receptor genotypes. A total of 489 elderly women aged 66–77 y participated in this double-blind randomized clinical trial.


More beneficial findings:

  • Both caffeinated and uncaffeinated coffee was found protective of Type II Diabetes

  • Coffee has been shown to improve kidney health, lower the risk of gout

  • 4 cups/day improves liver health

  • 1 - 5 cups/day decreases the risk of Alzheimer's Disease

  • Improves gastrointestinal function after abdominal surgery

  • Coffee had no effect in people with colitis

  • Coffee has a pre-biotic effect (increases Bifidobacterium!)

  • Delivers Polyphenols (plant compounds beneficial to gut health)

  • Improves mood, especially depression


Cautions:

  • Pregnancy - increases risk of pregnancy loss, low birth weight.

  • Increases gut motility (good and bad!)

  • Has a greater adverse effect in people who have preexisting gastrointestinal disorders (eg. reflux, diarrhoea - the hot water itself will exacerbate symptoms!)

  • Caffeine and Iron compete for absorption, Iron looses!


Optimal dose

The optimal dose of coffee for the health benefits listed above is 3 - 4 cups per day! (1 cup being 100ml, 100mg caffeine) However, some contraindications that must be considered include:

  • Your individualised metabolism of caffeine (anywhere from 5 to 8 hours) 50% of the population are slow metabolisers and 50% are fast metabolisers! It depends on your genetics and genetic testing is very expensive. The only other way to tell is through experience (trial and error and correction!)

  • Is it affecting your sleep? Research has also shown having a coffee at 2pm still has the potential to affect your sleep

  • Pregnancy - no more than 200mg caffeine is recommended, I personally wouldn't be taking the risk, maybe a black tea occasionally or decaf, can't say as I'm not there!

  • Individualised bone health status

  • Individualised gastrointestinal health status

  • High levels of caffeine found in coffee can increase levels of anxiety, which again will be very dose dependent and individual


Why I chose to moderate my coffee intake

You may be wondering, so why did I decide to all off a sudden kick my coffee loving habit. I've just confirmed it's good for Gut Health with polyphenols and a prebiotic effect increasing Bifidobacterium! Exciting stuff. Personally, I get a lot of my prebiotic foods elsewhere, eating 30+ plants a DAY even though 30 per WEEK is the recommendation for gut health. Once a high achiever, always a high achiever.


I have a history of low iron, anxiety and panic attacks. Even though I feel coffee has never interfered with my sleep when I've had it late in the day (its a WOG thing), I definitively feel my heart rate increase and an uneasy flustered, frazzled Kathy. I have also noticed how quickly my energy levels plummet after 2-3 coffees per day. Kicking my coffee habit now will also help me later in life, when I am pregnant and later when estrogen drops off. I consider myself an athlete and high performing individual. So, I want to use caffeine as an athlete, for performance on cognition only sometimes. Moderating my coffee intake makes me feel more grounded and present in the now. When I have that bitter sweet barista made small black coffee I enjoy it much more and am not using it to get through my workload or my errands.


Bottom Line:

It is never only about the coffee, it's the lifestyle and everything else we do in the day around the coffee. There is no one recommendation for coffee intake. Coffee recommendations are not so simple and are to be individualised to the person. Knowing your body, how it feels and what it needs is key. Always check in with yourself. Is this uplifting me, or is this weighing me down? Knowing your 'why' will help drive you towards your goals. Suddenly, something I didn't see ever happening (moderating my coffee intake and only drinking 1 coffee every 5 - 10 days) doesn't seem so hard anymore and excites me because I understand my 'why'.

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Did you find this blog helpful and informative? Tag & Share with your friends who would love it too! Sign up for my Free NuFit Wellness Newsletter to stay in the loop. Attend my Wellness Workshops. Promoting consciousness in food choices helping people heal. Dietitian & Wellness Coach, Health Presenter, Gut Health Specialist - Kathy Ozakovic.

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