Arrhh, the smell and the taste of that perfect coffee!

For some you can’t beat it 😉
My blog this week is a bit of an exploration, into the history of coffee. As I sit here sipping this perfect cup, a question pops into my head. When did they start drinking coffee? When was it discovered? And what are the medicinal properties of it? So I challenged myself to find out…here we go.

Coffee was first discovered in the year 850 by an Ethiopian herdsman observing that his goats were extra merry when eating a certain shrub… so we can say goats discovered coffee! The curious herdsman thought, “wow what’s making my goats so chipper”, cautiously he tries the red berries on the bush that the goats were eating from and a feeling of elation sets in! The red coffee berry is discovered!

Thinking that these berries were heaven sent, he ran to the monastery. The head monk in the monastery, banishes the berries as the work of the devil and throws them into the fire. Soon an amazing smell takes over that arises the curiosity of all of the monks within the monastery. Once the Head monk doses off, a young rebellious monk snatches the cooling beans from the fire pit, mixes them with water and wowla coffee is born!

Word soon gets out and by the year 1000 the medicinal properties of coffee is discovered!

Coffee has had such an effect on our world; it’s been the centre of many political debates, beheadings, smugglings, religious offering and more! To get the full entertaining and a bit stretched history of coffee click here.

What I am mostly interested in is the medicinal properties of caffeine?

The good facts

Studies have shown that coffee may have health benefits, including protecting against Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes and liver disease. It also appears to improve cognitive function and decrease the risk of depression ¹.

Coffee is a rich source of antioxidants like chlorogenic acid and melanoidins. Melanoidins from roasted coffee show strong antioxidative effects depending on the way the coffee is treated ³,4

Not only does coffee have strong antioxidant capacity, it also contains minerals such as magnesium and chromium, which help the body use the hormone insulin, which controls blood sugar (glucose) 2.

Coffee is potentially protective against the development of type 2 diabetes. Moderate drinking of coffee may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes in younger and middle aged women. This is largely thought to be associated with the antioxidant proprieties found in coffee and to the time of the day when you drink coffee. According to a recent research, coffee at lunchtime has the most protecting effects than in any other time of the day 4.

Parkinson’s disease
There is strong evidence that regular coffee consumption reduces the risk of Parkinson’s disease. A number of studies have demonstrated that people who drink coffee on a regular basis are significantly less likely to develop Parkinson’s 4.
Alzheimer’s disease
Several studies comparing moderate coffee drinkers (about 2 cups a day) with light coffee drinkers (less than one cup a day) found that those who drank more coffee at midlife were significantly less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease later in life. The recent research in mice proves that drinking five cups of coffee a day could even reverse memory problems seen in Alzheimer’s disease 4.

The not so good facts

Before you go devouring umpting cups of coffee, wait! Coffee, mainly in large doses, can cause several problems for susceptible people.
High consumption of unfiltered coffee (boiled or espresso) has been associated with mild elevations in cholesterol levels. And some studies found that two or more cups of coffee a day can increase the risk of heart disease as it comes down to how quickly you metabolize coffee 1.

The relation between coffee and risk of cardiovascular disease is controversial. Coffee is a complex mixture of compounds that can have both beneficial and harmful effects on the cardiovascular system. Caffeine is associated with an increase of plasma homocysteine, a risk factor for coronary heart disease 4.

Caffeine can raise blood pressure, as well as blood levels of the fight-or-flight chemical epinephrine (also called adrenaline), so can leave you feeling consistently on edge – depending on the amount you drink 2.

Coffee consumption produces unfavourable effects on blood pressure. caffeine increases blood pressure, people prone to hypertension may be more susceptible to coffee blood pressure elevating effects. But even in people who don’t have high blood pressure, caffeine can cause a short, but significant increase in blood pressure 4.

Coffee can impair absorption of calcium from the digestive tract and may induce an extra urinary excretion of calcium. Heavy coffee drinking (4 cups=600 ml or more) can modestly increase the risk of osteoporosis, especially in women with a low calcium intake 4.

One of the most problematic aspects of coffee, is it’s a stimulant, and has an ability to make a person feel awake, alert, and ready to go – even when that person’s body is exhausted, drowsy, and in need of rest and sleep 3.

Both regular and decaffeinated coffee contains acids that can make heartburn worse as they promote gastro-oesophageal reflux 4.

Decaffeinated coffee may increase the risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers speculate that the way decaffeinated coffee is processed triggers an arthritic response, and they are thinking it is perhaps the use of industrial solvents 4.

Few research studies have found direct links between coffee and disease, but virtually all research studies show definite impacts of coffee on metabolism, and on overall body function 1,4.

In Summary

The key is quantity and quality. For those consuming moderate amounts of coffee (3-4 cups/day providing 300-400 mg/d of caffeine), there is little evidence of health risks and some evidence of health benefits. However, some people, including persons with hypertension, osteoporosis, heart disease, pregnant women, children, adolescents, and elderly may be more vulnerable to the adverse effects of coffee.

So like anything consume in moderation, it is a drink that has been around for centuries and perhaps the main thing that has changed is the way we extract the caffeine, the chemicals we use and the pesticides used to bulk farm which can all impact on how it works within our bodies.

My recommendation is to purchase organic coffee beans that come from sustainable farmed plantations. Locally roasted is even better!
Remember each of us is unique, no two body systems are the same, and we will all react differently to the effects caffeine, so please consume in moderation.
Me x
References
1. http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/coffee-and-health/faq-20058339
2. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/coffee-new-health-food?page=2
3. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=200
4. http://www.healthassist.net/blog/general/pros-and-cons-of-coffee/