JAVA ā€˜nā€™ Health: Fact vs. Fiction

Looking forward to your daily coffee routine? You are far from alone! But do you feel a slight twinge of guilt that it may not be the healthiest habit for your body? Then read on and get the research-supported facts about drinking this world-wide favorite beverage ... in moderation, of course.

Drinking coffee helps with alertness and attention … TRUE.
According to research, it doesn’t take much caffeine – about the amount in 1 cup of regular coffee – to help increase concentration and alertness. Caffeine’s stimulating effects are observed between 15-45 minutes after drinking caffeinated coffee and last about 4 hours. Keep in mind, however, that more isn’t necessarily better. Too much caffeine can have the opposite effect, and individuals metabolize caffeine at different rates. Also, youth and caffeine consumption should be monitored.    

Coffee may improve my workout … TRUE.
It’s the all-natural caffeine in coffee which has been shown to improve physical performance, especially in aerobic or endurance exercise. Moderate amounts of caffeine were studied and found effective. Experts think that it works this way: caffeine increases adrenaline, which stimulates energy production and increases blood flow to the heart and muscles. Also, caffeine may moderate central fatigue and influence perceived exertion, pain and level of intensity.

Coffee causes dehydration … FALSE.
Caffeinated – or not – moderate coffee consumption (about 3 to 5, 8-oz. cups per day) contributes to daily fluid needs and does not cause dehydration. Though caffeinated coffee may have a short-term diuretic effect on individuals, the Institute of Medicine stated in 2004 that caffeinated beverages contribute to daily fluid intake similar to what is contributed by non-caffeinated beverages. And according to research, this is the case during exercise and in hot climates, too. Remember, most health authorities recommend 9 to 13 cups (the higher amount for men) of fluid daily, including fluid from food (especially fruits and vegetables), water and other beverages.

One of the major sources of antioxidants in the American diet is coffee … TRUE.
Really? Yes, because of the amount of coffee Americans consume. Antioxidants are generally thought to be associated with health benefits. However, more research is needed on how the antioxidants in coffee work.

Here’s what we do know from extensive research about coffee and disease protection. Moderate coffee consumption (3 to 5 cups daily) may be linked to decreased mortality from all causes, reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and decreased risk of Parkinson’s disease, dementia, liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. Also, drinking moderate amounts of coffee may counter risk factors for heart attack and stroke and does not appear to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease in healthy people. Stay tuned for future research on the exact mechanisms of how coffee works to protect against disease.    

Coffee is an addictive substance … FALSE.

Drinking coffee often is habitual for lovers of the taste, aroma and even caffeine’s energizing effect. However, studies suggest that moderate coffee drinkers do not develop a physical dependence, and if desired, caffeine may be gradually reduced without adverse effects, such as headache and drowsiness. If nighttime wakefulness is a concern, be sure to avoid consuming caffeine too close to bedtime and switch to non-caffeinated beverages in the early afternoon and evening. Or if you are extra sensitive to caffeine, decaf coffee is a good alternative for enjoying coffee’s taste and aroma.

Women should avoid coffee during pregnancy … FALSE.
In a healthy pregnancy, most experts agree that about 200 mg of caffeine – the amount in roughly 2 (8-oz.) cups of coffee – is safe for consumption. Remember that tea, soft drinks, energy drinks, chocolate and other foods and beverages with caffeine count toward the recommended total daily caffeine amount, too. And a healthy, balanced diet is vital.


Alertness and Attention
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Killer S. C. et al (2014) No Evidence of Dehydration with Moderate Daily Coffee Intake: A Counterbalanced Cross-Over Study in a Free-Living Population. PLoS ONE, 9(1): e84154.
Ganio M.S. et al (2009). Effect of caffeine on sport-specific endurance performance: a systematic review. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. Volume 23; 315-324.

Beth Witherspoon, MPH, RDN, has a passion for communicating culinary and nutrition information. She is a registered dietitian/nutritionist who consults with Community Coffee Company to help communicate the flavor and health benefits of coffee.