Coffee drinkers get health boost

Leah Mitchell

Cold lake-effect weather goes hand in hand with hot coffee at Grand Valley State University’s Java City. As the snow continues to fall on campus, it’s safe to say baristas have their work cut out for them. Fortunately for GVSU, if coffee sales have increased, so has overall student health.

Mayo Clinic has released a new study that confirms the benefit of drinking one cup of black coffee each day. Parkinson’s disease, type-two diabetes and liver cancer are all diseases that coffee can help fight due to its rich content in antioxidants.

Jody Vogelzang, associate nutrition professor at GVSU, said the extent to which coffee improves health depends on how and when the coffee is made, as well as how much is consumed.

If the debate is whether to filter or boil your coffee, filter it. The Coffee and Health Institute revealed that coffee’s effect on cholesterol levels is largely dependent on the method of brewing.

The coffee component cafestol is known to raise the serum levels of both total and LDL-cholesterol. However, these components only pass into the brew in so-called ‘boiled’ coffee, but are retained in the filter paper in ‘filtered’ coffee.

If the question is whether or not your coffee is still fresh, dump the old pot and brew yourself a new one. Vogelzang said the amount of antioxidants residing in the coffee is greater and much more active when coffee is fresh.

So if coffee is so good for you, why not drink it year round?

Though coffee is rich with these health-promoting antioxidants, there is a line to be drawn concerning the amount consumed on a daily basis.

Caffeine contributes to the reason why people need to cut off at a certain amount.

In one ounce of coffee, the United States Department of Agriculture declared the standard amount of caffeine as 15 milligrams per ounce. In one ounce of espresso, USDA declared the standard of 64 milligrams of coffee. Multiple shots of espresso or four to seven cups of coffee a day can be classified as heavy caffeine use and cause problems such as restlessness, anxiety, irritability and sleeplessness, particularly in susceptible individuals.

“We all have genetic differences concerning how we metabolize caffeine,” Vogelzang said. “With some of us, it doesn’t build up and affect us nearly at all, and others of us, we lose focus because we are too alert.”

Caffeine is known to increase alertness due to the prolonged effects on the sympathetic nervous system. Vogelzang said that within the sympathetic nervous system is the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism that increases heart rate. With this being said, the large amount of caffeine that resides in coffee gives the drinker a mental and physical boost while prolonging the bump-up of the metabolism in the nervous system.

So should the avid coffee drinker switch to decaffeinated coffee instead?

Not necessarily, Vogelzang said.

“Loving coffee might be enjoying the taste, the heat and the smell,” she said. “But the bottom line is how much you drink and how much caffeine you personally metabolize. So it’s more on an individual level, also based on amounts that you are drinking. Moderation matters, but coffee is not a bad thing overall.”
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