Interest in coffee & health is rising – what do consumers need to know?

Interest in coffee & health is rising – what do consumers need to know?

Interest in coffee & health is rising – what do consumers need to know?

Interest in coffee & health is rising – what do consumers need to know?

minimum dose size?

I use the Hario switch to brew my coffee and am trying to reduce my caffeine consumption. Hence I would like to brew smaller cups of coffee. I am currently using 10g of coffee with 160g of water. (1:16 Ratio) I am wondering if there is a minimum amount of coffee...

Interest in coffee & health is rising – what do consumers need to know?

There is a wealth of scientific research available about the many health benefits of coffee – as well as the undesirable side effects of drinking too much. But like all fields of science, research about the impact of drinking coffee on human health is ever-changing as we uncover new findings. 

Interestingly, the continuous discovery of new research about coffee and health is occurring in conjunction with a growing number of consumers (mostly led by millennials and Gen Z) who are increasingly conscious of their wellbeing.

Consequently, it can be challenging for consumers to determine what information is the most relevant to them on an individual basis. This is especially true for people who are sensitive to caffeine or those who feel they drink too much coffee. Additionally, it’s becoming increasingly more of a priority for consumers to weigh up the benefits of consuming coffee against its potential negative effects like jitters, insomnia, anxiety, and digestive issues.

So, what do consumers actually need to know about coffee and health? Read on to find out the expert opinions of Astrid Nehlig, Emeritus Research Director at the French Institute of Health and Medical Research and President of the Association for the Science and Information on Coffee (ASIC), and Dr. Ingo Lantz, Director of R&D, Quality, and Technology at Tchibo and President of the Institute for Scientific Information on Coffee (ISIC). 

You may also like our article on coffee, health, and wellness: the original “superfood”.

A scientist presents a talk on coffee and health to attendees at ASIC 2023.

What do scientists know about the relationship between coffee and health?

Coffee is a part of millions of people’s diets around the world, and offers a number of nutritional benefits. But as with any food and beverage product, consumption should be with reasonable limits. For adults considered to be in good health, the US Food and Drug Administration states 400mg caffeine per day is a safe amount. This roughly equates to between four and five cups of coffee.

“The key message for consumers is that moderate coffee consumption can be part of a healthy balanced diet and potentially provide a wide range of health benefits,” Ingo says.  

Many medical experts, nutritionists, and sports coaches agree that coffee can be classified as a superfood because of its high level of antioxidants. Research has found that these can improve life expectancy and reduce the risk of certain diseases, including Parkinson’s and diabetes.

Coffee as a “superfood”: Factually correct?

Although “superfood” has become somewhat of a buzzword that is difficult to substantiate for many food and beverage products, Ingo tells me that thousands of peer-reviewed scientific studies indicate moderate coffee consumption is perfectly safe and beneficial to human health.

“There’s a wide body of research which shows that as part of a balanced diet, coffee can have beneficial effects on the human body, including improved attention, physical performance, liver function, digestion, and helping to prevent diseases such as type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease,” Ingo explains. “The mechanisms behind these health effects vary, but caffeine itself contributes to many of them, including improved mood and alertness.” 

Many compounds in coffee, namely caffeine, are some of the most researched components in the human diet. To promote such research, ASIC hosts an annual conference that brings together leading international experts in fields such as agronomy, chemistry, technology, and health. This year, the 29th edition of the ASIC Conference on Coffee Science took place in Vietnam, with two presentations focused specifically on coffee and health – covering topics like type 2 diabetes and heart health.

A cup of black coffee reflecting light onto a table.

What is most important for consumers to know about coffee’s effect on health?

Given the depth and breadth of scientific research about coffee and health, it can be overwhelming and challenging for consumers to know which information is the most relevant and pertinent to them.

Many compounds in coffee contribute to its health benefits, but caffeine and antioxidants are the most prevalent. The antioxidant properties of coffee come from polyphenols, which is a type of chemical that naturally occurs in plants.

Coffee’s high concentration of antioxidants play a critical role in maintaining homeostasis – a condition of optimal functioning. These antioxidants – mainly chlorogenic acids, trigonelline and melanoidins – have a range of protective effects. 

“Coffee contains such a large quantity of antioxidants (several times more than tea, wine, and some fruits and vegetables) that consumption of two cups per day almost covers the daily requirement for these compounds,” Astrid tells me.

Almost immediately after consumption, drinking one cup of caffeinated coffee can increase alertness, energy, and visual attention, as well as decreasing reaction time to different stimuli. 

“Coffee does not affect working memory directly, but rather as a result of its impact on attention, concentration, and efficacy to suppress external distractors,” Astrid adds. “Coffee also has positive effects on mood and there is evidence that consumption can decrease the risk of depression.”

Preventing certain diseases

Over time, caffeine in coffee can delay physiological age-related cognitive decline, and can also prevent the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. 

Additionally, certain compounds in coffee can prevent the development of cancer – such as in the liver, colorectal, breast, endometrium, prostate, and skin. Astrid, however, explains that coffee isn’t known to affect the occurrence of cancers in the oesophagus, stomach, larynx pancreas, ovary, kidney, or bladder.

Coffee and digestion have often been linked, and it’s especially important that consumption is moderate as to not result in digestive issues.

“Drinking coffee stimulates digestion at all levels of the digestive tract, including the composition of the microbiota,” Astrid says. “But the compound(s) responsible for this effect have not yet been clearly identified.”

Coffee consumption also correlates with a lower incidence of type 2 diabetes across multiple demographics. Astrid explains that coffee’s ability to prevent or delay the occurrence of type 2 diabetes is “dose-dependent”. Essentially, this means that the risk of type 2 diabetes decreases by 21% with three to four cups of coffee per day, and by 50% with at least seven cups per day (which is over the recommended daily limit).

“This decreased risk has been found in different genders, body types, and ethnicities – and we see similar effects with caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee,” she adds. “The latter observation implies that caffeine does not play any role in this effect, but is instead because of the antioxidants.”

Heart health

One of the key points discussed at the 2023 ASIC conference was coffee’s ability to decrease the risk of coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, and cardiac arrhythmia. 

“Coffee’s protective effects on cardiovascular health typically occur after the continuous consumption of three to five cups of coffee daily,” Astrid says. 

While coffee has neutral or beneficial effects on blood pressure levels, acute consumption of caffeine alone can increase blood pressure. The main takeaway, however, Astrid says, is that lifelong coffee consumption can decrease the risk of mortality from cardiovascular causes.

A shot of espresso in a person's left hand.

How can consumers be more mindful of their coffee consumption?

Medical experts’ main piece of advice for mindful coffee consumption is to drink in line with the recommended guidelines. But most importantly, you should also factor in how drinking coffee makes you feel.

Like all food and beverages, you should always consume coffee in moderation because its negative side effects are largely the result of overconsumption. The European Food Safety Authority’s advice for caffeine consumption is to limit caffeine from all sources (not just coffee) to up to 400mg per day, and no more than 200mg (around two cups of coffee) in one sitting for adults.

It’s important to note that pregnant women are advised to moderate their caffeine intake to below 200mg per day. Additionally, consuming too much caffeine may be harmful to some people. This ultimately depends on a wide range of factors, which include:

  • Weight
  • Taking certain medications
  • Individual sensitivities or allergies to caffeine

Accounting for individual differences

Some people metabolise caffeine more slowly than others, and therefore may be more prone to the negative effects of caffeinated coffee. This individual variation is mostly likely the result of the activity of the hepatic enzyme that metabolises caffeine called cytochrome P450 enzyme 1A2. 

“This enzyme can be expressed differently (genetic polymorphism) which divides the population in two subgroups of about equal size – slow and fast metabolisers,” Astrid explains. “Fast metabolisers will need to drink coffee more frequently to maintain and adjust their circulating caffeine levels according to their needs.”

Slow metabolisers, meanwhile, may want to limit their caffeine intake or switch to decaffeinated coffee – which Ingo tells me still provides a wide range of potential health benefits.

A scientist presents a talk on coffee and health at ASIC 2023.

There is an abundance of information available to consumers about the impact of drinking coffee on their health. Sifting through research papers and scientific articles can be challenging or confusing for many, so understanding the basics is a useful starting point.

More importantly, however, is that consumers need to understand what information is most relevant to them. With coffee and caffeine consumption affecting different people in different ways, accounting for these variances is key.

Enjoyed this? Then read our article on exploring the relationship between oils in coffee & cholesterol.

Photo credits: Association for the Science and Information on Coffee

Perfect Daily Grind

Disclaimer: we are not a medical publication. No material in this article is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek medical advice from a qualified healthcare professional.

Please note: ASIC is a sponsor of Perfect Daily Grind.

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The post Interest in coffee & health is rising – what do consumers need to know? appeared first on Perfect Daily Grind.

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