The Rumor: The Caffeine In Coffee Is Bad For You
We've all heard about the negative effects of caffeine, but are they true?
The Verdict: Coffee And Caffeine Are Fine — In Moderation
Caffeine in coffee doesn’t impart any proven health benefits, but it won’t harm you when taken in moderation -- and according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), that translates to as many as three cups of coffee a day. However, if you have acid reflux, are prone to stress, suffer from high blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat, you should avoid caffeinated coffee or only drink small amounts.
Why Is Coffee So Addictive?
If you’ve ever had a boss you avoided before the first pot of office coffee was emptied, then you know the drink is more than a morning pick-me-up. "The caffeine in coffee is a mood-altering drug," says Naturopathic Physician Michael Wald, aka The Blood Detective. "Caffeine has different effects on how the brain and the nervous system work," he says. "It helps offset fatigue by enhancing energy. It improves our reaction time, improves our intellect in terms of short-term memory, offsets brain aging by slowing the death of neurons, which are responsible for our thoughts, feelings and emotions."
Coffee Has Side Effects
Coffee is only bad for you if the side effects from caffeine -- most notably insomnia, increased urination and heart palpitations -- become troublesome. "Heart palpitations are very benign," says Cardiologist Monica Reynolds, MD, of the Columbia Doctors Medical Group in White Plains, New York. "You feel like you skipped a heartbeat and feel kind of flip-floppy in the chest. When patients tell me they’re having these palpitations and then tell me they’re drinking four cups of coffee a day, I say cut it out. Inevitably they come back a month later and the palpitations are gone."
Caffeine will also raise blood pressure for a short amount of time, but not long enough to increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. And while the results of studies investigating the possible link between caffeine and heart disease have been inconclusive, evidence suggests having a couple cups a day is safe.
Another reason the coffee you drink during the day can keep you up at night -- caffeine is a diuretic, promoting urine production. Coffee can fuel the urge to purge your bladder even hours after you drink it, and frequent trips to the toilet could interrupt your sleep.
The Healthiest Brews
If coffee is your main source of caffeine, choose your brew and roast wisely. Because of a possible (not proven) link between coffee and high LDL cholesterol, brew your coffee in a filtered drip coffeemaker. "If you have high cholesterol, specifically the LDL or bad cholesterol, you want the non-bleached filter," says Wald. Non-bleached coffee filters remove the oily chemicals in the coffee, cafestol and kahweol, that tend to raise LDL.
As for what kind of coffee to drink, opt for a light roast over something darker, such as French or Italian. Lighter roasts are exposed to less heat, which preserves more of coffee’s health-promoting antioxidants. At Starbucks, order the blonde roast and at Dunkin’ Donuts, Wald recommends the original blend.
So if you have a morning-fueled love affair with your coffee mug, don't sweat it. As long as you drink in moderation, you can continue to savor your morning cuppa joe.