The Pros and (although you don’t want to hear them) Cons of Coffee

When I was in high school, I would hear this story a lot from my dad: “Tess, don’t drink coffee. I started young and now I’m addicted, my teeth are ruined, and I have intestinal problems you wouldn’t believe.”

Besides the gross amount of unnecessary information, I had agreed then with my dad. Who wanted to intentionally addict themselves to something that stained your teeth and made your breath smell?

As it turns out, me. Granted, my teeth have taken a hit over the years, but all-in-all, coffee and I live in harmony. But for those who agree with Dad, let’s play devil’s advocate for a second. Coffee, as with most things, has its pros and cons. So let’s put away our biases and check out an article from the online edition of the magazine Eating Well. This article asks the big question that is contested (and ignored) by many champions and critics of coffee: Is coffee beneficial or harmful to your health?

This article, appropriately titled “The Health Benefits and Cons of Coffee” makes a fair argument for both sides of the case. Amid the pros we see a decreased risk of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, liver cancer, heart disease, brain cancer, and diabetes, all from drinking a few cups of joe a day. As it turns out, coffee may be more of a lifesaver than you thought — literally. The Eating Well article states,

“Moderate coffee drinking—between 1 and 5 cups daily—may help reduce risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as Parkinson’s disease, studies suggest. How? Coffee’s antioxidants may prevent some damage to brain cells and boost the effects of neurotransmitters involved in cognitive function, say experts. Preliminary studies have noted that as coffee (or tea) intake rises, ­incidence of glioma, a form of brain cancer, tends to drop. Some ­researchers speculate that compounds in the brews could activate a DNA-repairing protein in cells—possibly preventing the DNA damage that can lead to cells becoming cancerous.”

So that’s some good news, coffee lovers! I have to say though, this is my favorite part of the whole thing: before it delves into of those great pros of coffee, the article makes a clear point that all the health benefits listed only come from drinking 1-5 cups of coffee a day. You mean I have to drink more than one cup a day to keep all my memories and decrease my risk of getting an array of fatal diseases? If you say so.

But then, of course, for every piece of good news, there is some bad. The cons listed in this article include trouble sleeping, high cholesterol, negative effects for pregnant women, and the old-as-time transition from caffeine jitters to caffeine addiction. As the article explains (and as probably many of us have experienced first-hand) once you begin to drink coffee, the caffeine restricts the blood vessel in your brain which ultimately gives you those “coffee jitters”, but as you drink more regularly, you need to consume a certain amount every day to get just on a basic level of awareness. It’s like joining any cult, gang, or fight club; it jolts you on the way in, and then you’re stuck there forever.

The way I see it though, drinking coffee is like anything else. If you can’t handle the effects, don’t mess with it. My roommate is terrified of The Muppets, so of course she’s not going to sit around watching re-runs of The Muppet Show all day, she’d have terrible, embarrassing nightmares. I can’t hold my tequila, so do I drink it? Not unless I’m really desperate. If you are sensitive to the effects of coffee (or if you have cholesterol problems or a baby inside of you) then don’t drink it! It all seems pretty simple, but that’s just me.

Besides my dad, I have never before heard anyone bemoan their addiction to coffee. Then again, I have yet to meet every coffee-drinker in the world. I have to ask on the thousand-to-one-chance someone will respond with an answer: Does anyone out there know of someone who had to quit coffee because they were experiencing such negative health effects? Or conversely, does anyone know of anyone who was in a situation where coffee greatly improved their health situation?

Just some food for thought (I tried so hard to come up with a coffee pun there, but it felt so wrong). Feel free to answer or ignore my questions! It would be super cool if you answered. But no pressure.

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2 responses

  1. I’ve heard of people giving up coffee for green tea – – not for concern over a specific medical danger, but just because on balance it’s a healthier option – – which makes good rational sense. (Count me among the irrational types who turn a blind eye to health concerns when it comes to this particular subject…)

    I’ve also heard that most of the farmers around the world who grow coffee typically can not actually afford to drink it, because they are struggling mightily to make ends meet and are operating on razor-thin margins, such that every bean desperately counts. That bothers me, and is part of what motivates me to always purchase Fair Trade coffee.

  2. Tea definitely has some health benefits that coffee does not (if you check out my post Tea Time, you could get a sense of some!) but I don’t think the positive benefits of tea outweigh the positive benefits of coffee SO MUCH SO that coffee should be completely abandoned for tea. Don’t get me wrong, coffee has much more downfalls than tea, but it’s not completely heinous. I do not condemn your blind eye, I also have one!

    I also agree about Fair Trade. It is a great cause to promote considering the plights that are making coffee production difficult in other areas of the world and robbing farmers of their living.

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