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Coffee for health

We’ve been hearing a lot about coffee and whether it’s good for us or bad for us, and how many cups we should or shouldn’t have a day. Sharon Greally takes a look at coffee.

Looking at the amount of coffee we drink, maybe most of us are indifferent – we just enjoy it.

I’ve even taken to adding a cinnamon stick to my daily cup. Surely that’s got to be good? It’s been around since 2000 BC, where in ancient Egypt it was highly prized and considered a panacea. In medieval times cinnamon was used to treat coughing, arthritis and sore throats. Nowadays it’s used to treat muscle spasms, the common cold, and even if you guys are having a bit of trouble in the tool box – yes, cinnamon is even proving its worth in cases of erectile dysfunction. Studies show it may also help lower blood sugar in diabetics.

But back to coffee. The medical folk have been researching the effects of coffee on our physical and mental health, and depending on which side you drink from, the results are stacking up pretty well. What with reduced risk of strokes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and mental health issues, its purely medicinal. OK, I can put up with the possibility of a restless night (actually I find it helps me sleep – what’s that all about?), maybe some staining of my teeth (but red wine does that too…), and feeling a bit jittery if I have too many, but I’m feeling pretty confident that the pros outweigh the cons.

According to a study done in 2005, our bodies absorb more antioxidants from coffee than from fruit and vegetables.

Even just smelling coffee has its benefits. Researchers have found that coffee aromas change proteins in your brain that cause stress.

Even that red wine that I’m rather partial to can have its negative effects dealt to by coffee. Evidently those who drink at least one cup of coffee a day are twenty percent less likely to get cirrhosis of the liver. Does that mean one cup of coffee outweighs the negatives of one glass of vino? But then again, red wine is good for you too, apparently. Slippery platelets or something…

And if you drink more than four cups a day, you are 10 percent less likely to be depressed, than those who don’t touch the stuff. Coffee acts as a mild antidepressant, according to a Harvard study, and acts in aiding the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline, those wee things that lift our mood.

Even those of us prone to skin cancers can benefit. Having three or more cups a day means you are less likely to develop skin cancers.

For those of a more physical persuasion, a caffeine boost before a workout increases the amount of fatty acids in the bloodstream, whereby your muscles transform those fats into fuel. Apparently this has been a secret amongst athletes for years.

And last but by no means least, coffee can increase your intelligence. It improves your attention, your reaction time, and reasoning.

What’s not to like?

First published in Capital issue #12 – Winter 2014
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