Coffee: Good or Bad?

Coffee is considered by many to be a sacred beverage. Whether you are part of “Team Coffee” or not, it is certainly true that coffee consumption can be a controversial issue for a number of reasons, not the least of which includes the purported health benefits and risks.

Confusing headlines about the health effects of coffee have left many scratching their heads for years about whether or not this beloved beverage is the fountain of youth or nothing short of toxic waste. Why? Allow me to illuminate the reason that in the case of coffee, one man’s meat is another man’s poison.

Not to get all sci-fi on you right out of the gate, but it seems that when it comes to coffee, the health benefits, or lack thereof, may come down to your DNA — the CYP1A2 gene to be exact.

No, it’s not a new Star Wars droid; it’s a gene that codes for an enzyme that largely dictates your body’s ability to handle caffeine. So while some coffee drinkers thrive and may even experience health benefits from their beloved beverage, others may find an occasional cup of coffee causes negative side effects such as anxiety, jitteriness, racing heart, high blood pressure and insomnia.

There are more than 40 variants of the CYP gene, meaning that the individual response to the caffeine in coffee can vary greatly. About half of the population falls into the category of “slow metabolizers,” thus leaving the rest in the “fast metabolizer” category of caffeine processing.

Translated, if you’re a slow metabolizer, caffeine has a tendency to hang around for a while (or a long while) after that cup of coffee is finished. Caffeine metabolism purportedly has a half-life (the amount of time for half the caffeine to be processed and removed from the body) ranging from 2 hours 15 minutes all the way up to nearly 10 hours. And that’s just the time it may take for half of the caffeine to make its way out of your system.

So, while coffee drinking appears to be connected to many health benefits, not the least of which include the prevention of Parkinson’s disease, improved athletic performance, improved memory and alertness, and even a longer life, the benefits may be varied based on each person’s individual genetically determined tolerance to caffeine.

In general, if drinking coffee doesn’t make you feel well, causing jitteriness, insomnia or other negative effects, it may be that you are a slow metabolizer of caffeine.

Certain medications, smoking and even hormonal variations also can increase or decrease caffeine metabolism, so it may not be equal in the same person from one day to the next. To complicate matters more, a cup of coffee can vary greatly in caffeine content, ranging from 50 mg per cup for a 12-ounce coffee to 300 mg a cup for a 16-ounce serving, making the effect of drinking coffee even more unpredictable.

Outside the issue of caffeine, there are some other factors that may affect the potential benefits that coffee seems to convey.

Coffee is a heavily sprayed agricultural crop, so it may be beneficial to choose organic coffee if you’re a heavy coffee drinker to negate any possible negative consequences of pesticide exposure.

There also are concerns with consuming beverages that expose plastic materials to hot liquids because any plastic particles that may end up in the coffee have unknown health effects.

Decaffeinated coffee still has some residual caffeine, though it is still much less than a traditional cup of coffee, but the process of making decaf involves many chemicals that may be detrimental to health. However, water processed varieties of decaf coffee are available that can help sidestep that concern.

One last coffee hazard is in what may be added to it. Adding significant amounts of sugar to a cup of coffee is a common practice, especially at commercial coffee establishments.

Those with tired adrenals, known as HPA-axis dysfunction, may do best to avoid or limit coffee and caffeine in general. Those with HPA-axis dysfunction often feel exhausted, wake up in a fog every morning, have difficulty falling or staying asleep, have energy crashes in the afternoon, have trouble recovering from exercise, and may have postural hypertension where they get dizzy and faint when they stand too quickly.

Coffee can be a temporary bandage to some of these issues, but caffeine will ultimately deplete the adrenals even further, leaving you in worse shape than before.

That being said, coffee is rich in antioxidants, so caffeine in healthy individuals with good tolerance seems to be safe and even beneficial. So, coffee lovers rejoice! You can still have your cup of Joe and benefit from it, too.

As for the rest of us who don’t tolerate caffeine as well, we will try our best not to spoil your good coffee drinking vibes. We might even sneak a cup of decaf here and there to join in the fun.

To schedule a consultation with Angela, visit the MediSlim clinic at 3806 S. Medford Drive in Lufkin or call (936) 632-1996 for more information.

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