Posted: Monday, January 15, 2018

Coffee: The Potential Benefits and Pitfalls

For millions of people around the world, coffee is a daily requirement. It’s a part of their morning routines; they get up, they drink coffee. And it’s not just the standard morning cup or two before work – coffee comes in numerous varieties that help make it a drink many people consume throughout the day. In fact, a recent report by the National Coffee Association found that the percentage of Americans drinking coffee on a daily basis is on the rise – up to 62 percent in 2017 from 57 percent a year earlier. But, whether coffee is good for you or not has been the subject of debate for years. One week, a new study will examine coffee’s unhealthy effects; the next week, a newer study looks at coffee’s health benefits.

Blount Memorial registered dietitian Angie Tillman says there are truths on both sides of the debate. “In the plus column, coffee is one of the highest sources of antioxidants in the average American diet,” Tillman said. “A moderate coffee intake of between one and three cups per day has been linked with a lower incidence of endometrial, prostate, liver and some breast cancers. Coffee also has been linked to a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease, as well as lower risk for depression,” she explained. “Consuming upwards of six cups of coffee a day has been linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. It also can have a positive impact on athletic performance,” she added.

However, those potential benefits don’t come without a few possible drawbacks. “Unfiltered coffee, such as French press, has been linked to increased cholesterol levels and a higher risk for heart disease,” Tillman explained. “Also, a high caffeine intake may increase blood pressure, anxiety and stress. High caffeine intake also is not recommended for women who are pregnant,” she said.

“What you really have to watch closely when weighing the pros and cons of coffee is what type of coffee you’re drinking,” Tillman said. “Many ‘specialty’ coffee drinks are higher in calories, sugar and fat. For example, a simple cup of black coffee contains around five calories per serving, with zero grams of fat and zero carbohydrates. If you add two tablespoons of half-and-half, that same coffee jumps to 45 calories, 3.5 grams of fat and one gram of carbohydrate. Switch to a 12-ounce café latte with 2 percent milk and you’re looking at 150 calories, six grams of fat, 14 grams of carbohydrates and 10 grams of protein. The numbers only increase as you add flavors and specialties,” she explained. “Order a 16-ounce java-chip frappuccino, and you’re consuming 460 calories, 18 grams of fat, 72 grams of carbohydrates and six grams of protein,” she added.

“The bottom line is that there really isn’t enough evidence to recommend that people who don’t drink coffee should start doing so for health reasons,” Tillman said. “However, if you’re one of the millions of Americans who enjoys coffee already, it is likely that moderate consumption of one-to-three cups per day will not cause any health problems, and may actually provide some moderate health benefits. Just remember to limit the high-sugar and high-fat add-ons and enjoy,” she added.

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