Monday, May 23, 2011

Health Care and Drinking Coffee

The global spread of coffee growing and drinking began in the Horn of Africa, where, according to legend, coffee trees originated in the Ethiopian province of Kaffa, according to the International Coffee Organization (ICO). It is recorded that the fruit of the plant, known as coffee cherries, was eaten by slaves taken from present day Sudan into Yemen and Arabia through the great port of its day, Mocha. Coffee was certainly being cultivated in Yemen by the 15th century and probably much earlier. In an attempt to prevent its cultivation elsewhere, the Arabs imposed a ban on the export of fertile coffee beans, a restriction that was eventually circumvented in 1616 by the Dutch, who brought live coffee plants back to the Netherlands to be grown in greenhouses.

The first literary reference to coffee being drunk in North America is from 1668 and, soon after, coffee houses were established in New York, Philadelphia, Boston and other towns. The Boston Tea Party Of 1773 was planned in a coffee house, the Green Dragon. Both the New York Stock Exchange and the Bank of New York started in coffeehouses in what is today known as Wall Street.

Fast forward to the 21st Century--For US coffee drinkers, the country’s wettest city, Seattle, has become synonymous with a new type of cafĂ© culture, which, from its birth in the 1970s, swept the continent, dramatically improving the general quality of the beverage. This new found 'evangelism' for coffee has spread to the rest of the world, even to countries with great coffee traditions of their own, such as Italy, Germany, and Scandinavia, adding new converts to the pleasures of good coffee. Today it is possible to find good coffee in every major city of the world, from London to Sydney to Tokyo; we are drinking more and, more importantly, better coffee, according to the ICO.

According to the Harvard Medical School (HMS), research reveals that in moderation—a few cups a day—coffee is a safe beverage that may even offer some health benefits. Moderate coffee consumption doesn't cause harm, it's also uncovered possible benefits. Studies show that the risk for type 2 diabetes is lower among regular coffee drinkers than among those who don't drink it. Also, coffee may reduce the risk of developing gallstones, discourage the development of colon cancer, improve cognitive function, reduce the risk of liver damage in people at high risk for liver disease, and reduce the risk of Parkinson's disease. Coffee has also been shown to improve endurance performance in long-duration physical activities. For those who drink coffee to stay alert, research suggests that you'll stay more alert, particularly if you are fighting sleep deprivation, if you spread your coffee consumption over the course of the day. For instance, if you usually drink 16 ounces in the morning, try consuming a 2-3 ounce serving every hour or so. Again, moderation is the key.

Regular coffee consumption is associated with a striking decrease in fatal or metastatic prostate cancer, according to a follow up study on long term analysis by HMS.  According to the researchers, coffee contains "diverse biologically active compounds that include caffeine, minerals, and phytochemicals." Many studies suggest that long-term coffee drinking may be linked to improved glucose metabolism and insulin secretion. The researchers also found that coffee consumption did not appear to be associated with a decreased risk for nonadvanced or low-grade cancers and only slightly correlated with a reduced risk for high-grade cancer. In addition, the effects of coffee consumption on other aspects of health must be considered in making consumption recommendations. coffee may provide as much as half of total antioxidant intake in many settings. Compounds in coffee that may affect cancer risk could include chlorogenic acids, which inhibit glucose absorption; quinides, the roasting products of chlorogenic acids; and lignans, phytoestrogens with potent antioxidant activity that may benefit glucose.

It looks like coffee has two main ways of improving the health of your body: antioxidents and caffeine. Both these substances have health and anti aging benefits. Antioxidants, for example, help your body repair damage to cells caused by free radicals (which are produced as a byproduct of cells just doing their daily thing). Caffeine has been shown to help improve a range of symptoms and may even be important in fighting of Parkinson’s Disease and other age related brain diseases. Coffee is loaded with both antioxidants and caffeine, and each has different potential benefits for improving health and reducing the risk of chronic illnesses, according to this site: http://longevity.about.com/od/lifelongnutrition/a/coffee_health.htm . Below are some of the major findings about health, life expectancy and coffee:

•Heart Disease (up to 25% reduction in mortality risk (for women).
•Diabetes (up to 60% reduced risk).
•Dementia (up to 65% reduced risk).
•Colon Cancer (up to 25% reduced risk).
•Cirrhosis (up to 80% reduced risk).
•Gallstones (almost 50% reduced risk).
•Parkinson’s Disease (up to 80% reduced risk – probably because of caffeine).
•Headache Relief (because of the caffeine).
•Asthma Relief (caffeine again).
•Cavity Protection (because of anti-bacterial and anti-adhesive properties of compounds within coffee).

Coffee is not completely innocent, according to HMS. Caffeine, coffee's main ingredient is a mild addictive stimulant. And coffee does have modest cardiovascular effects such as increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and occasional irregular heartbeat that should be considered. Studies have been largely inconclusive regarding coffee and its effect on women's health issues such as breast health, cancer, and osteoporosis. But, the negative effects of coffee tend to emerge in excessive drinking so it is best to avoid heavy consumption.

For more health benefits noted about drinking coffee, visit these sites: http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/health/5-health-reasons-to-not-quit-coffee-2460820 , http://www.beliefnet.com/Health/2009/05/Hidden-Health-Secrets-of-Coffee.aspx , and http://www.anti-aging-guide.com/41coffee.php .

Coffee, when brewed well and tasted when hot, can be a very stimulating elixir. And, when taken in moderate consumption, can be good for you. After all, millions of coffee drinkers are happy and healthy.

Until next time.

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