So What’s the Deal with Coffee?

Steam rises from a white coffee cup, surrounded by coffee beans.

Image: Shutterstock

It is likely that neither the writing or reading of this article would be possible without the aid of coffee, which has a long and often confusing history.  For most of that history, research (and opinion) said that coffee was good, and then that it was bad, and then good again. So where do we stand on coffee now? Is it good for you or not? Does it prevent heart attacks or instigate them? It seems that though current research is still a bit conflicted, coffee does offer some real health benefits.

A CNN article from March of this year set out to see if coffee really is good for you. The article suggests that coffee offers some protection from type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s, liver disease, prostate cancer, Alzheimer’s, and even computer back pain. Other articles agree that coffee does help the body defend itself against certain diseases, but coffee’s benefits do vary based on age and other characteristics of the consumer.

People with sleep issues, uncontrolled diabetes might want to reconsider their caffeine intake, and it’s a good idea for very young people to avoid it altogether. Additionally, some people simply are more sensitive to caffeine and require less to feel a real buzz. Pregnant women should also avoid caffeine as it might cause birth defects.

These articles suggest that coffee’s health benefits may also be dependent on the way it’s brewed. There is a compound called cafestol in coffee that carries the chance of increasing bad cholesterol in the body, but it can be filtered out of coffee via paper filter in a typical brewing machine. But, says CNN, “if you’re a lover of French press, Turkish coffee or the boiled coffee popular in Scandinavian countries, you could be putting your health at risk.”

Even with these things in mind, The Washington Post encourages more coffee consumption in America, arguing that many of the health benefits coffee offers are really only accessible after an intake of three to five cups of coffee a day. An important factor to consider is that coffee’s benefits are greatly overshadowed when fatty cream, sugars, or other flavorings are added.

So even though coffee’s history is sometimes conflicting (but always amusing), the general consensus seems to be that coffee is okay to drink, and probably in whatever quantity appeals to you. Sometimes friend, sometimes foe, but always delicious.

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