Is Coffee bad for me?

is coffee bad for me

Is coffee bad for me? We have long viewed coffee with suspicion. It was first introduced in Italy in the 17th century, but is coffee bad for me? When it was first introduced it was associated with political dissent and infamous coffee houses.

Nowadays, coffee (caffeine) is commonly thought of as a drug. It alters mood and it is addictive. It is not recommended for children, adolescents and pregnant women due to the effect of caffeine on the developing brain.

When we are being virtuous and embarking on a spring detox we ‘give up’ coffee along with other toxic foods like sugar. It takes a few days to get over that horrible withdrawal headache, so it’s got to be bad for us, right?

Well, coffee might not be bad for everyone!

Some of the good…

Coffee beans are complex little packages; they contain more than just caffeine. Research on the polyphenols in the coffee bean has shown that these substances have amazing benefits. They can reduce the risk of depression, improve memory, and maybe even reduce the risk of some cancers such as liver cancer and some types of breast cancer. Caffeine itself has been found to reduce the risk of diabetes and syndrome X.(1)

Coffee was previously thought to increase the risk of heart disease but a recent Harvard study found ‘no convincing link’.(2) Now the thinking is that it could even reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke in some people.

Some of the bad…

On the negative side, there is other research and lots of clinical stories telling us that some people suffer from anxiety, panic attacks, disturbed sleep, acid reflux, stomach ulcers and even iron deficiency (coffee may prevent absorption of some nutrients).

So which category are you in?

Is coffee bad for me? or not? Reaction to caffeine is a very individual thing. It seems that the way some of our genes express themselves means that some people cannot process caffeine very well at all. Naturopaths label these people ‘slow metabolisers’. The caffeine they drink may hang around for 24 hours or even longer. So, every cup they have keeps building on previous cups they have had that day, even the day before. Other lucky people will have metabolized most of their caffeine within 8-12 hours. So, they can have a cup or two or even three, with no bad effects.

Of course it’s not only about genes. There are many other factors that affect the metabolism of caffeine in a person such as medications, or high amounts of chemicals or pesticides, which can slow down or even damage the liver. The latter makes a good case for drinking organic coffee as non-organic coffee is sprayed frequently while the beans are growing!

The slow metabolisers might have to limit their coffee intake to one small cup or less each day. They can check their genes out with a blood test. Even if it is in their genes, there is much that can be done naturopathically to improve the metabolism of substances like caffeine once we gain an understanding of how an individual’s system is working.

Coffee can be healthy (in moderation!) if you metabolise it efficiently!

So Is coffee bad for me? The answer is not necessarily.

Kathy HarrisNaturopath, Wholistic Medical Centre

[1] Lee, A.H., Tan, L., et al. 2016, Plasma concentrations of coffee polyphenols and plasma biomarkers of diabetes risk in healthy Japanese women. Nutr Diabetes, 6;6:e212. doi: 10.1038/nutd.2016.19