By Dr. David Hawkes
Interpreting research can be a really tricky task at times. In fact, most of the time…
This is especially true in the world of nutrition and fitness.
And to make matters worse if you read two research articles on the same topic, it’s very likely that they’ll completely contradict each other.
Take coffee for example…
Several observational studies have shown that subjects who drank coffee had a much lower risk of developing type II diabetes compared to non-coffee drinkers.
A 2009 meta-analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed an inverse relationship between coffee consumption, caffeinated and decaffeinated, and the development of diabetes to the tune of 7% per cup of coffee consumed daily (so 1 cup equals a 7% decreased risk, 2 cups 14%, etc.) It’s important to note that’s a 7% relative risk, not an an absolute risk… So it doesn’t mean that it was observed that people who drink coffee reduce their risk of diabetes by 7%, it just means that it was observed that they are 7% less likely to get diabetes than those who did not drink coffee.
However, the SAME study also examined decaffeinated coffee and tea and found the same result, so it may or may not be due to coffee at all.
All of the studies in the meta-analysis were self-reporting studies, meaning the data was collected through questionnaires about past behaviour. as to their coffee consumption and replied on non-standardized methods of diagnosing diabetes.
Drinking coffee has also been linked to improved athletic performance, increased metabolic rate and increased ability to burn fat. This is why its included in a number of pre-workout formulas.
A small study from the American Journal of clinical nutrition found that at rest, ingestion of caffeine (in this case, the equivalent dose of 1 cup of coffee) increased fat burning 2 fold after 2 hours. So all you coffee addicts are burning fat just sitting there.
BUT… it is well established that caffeine also increases cortisol production in people at rest… Cortisol is one of your main stress hormones and when it’s chronically elevated it will shift your metabolism further away from fat burning and can cause you to crave sweets, and we know where that leads…
That’s right: Chronically high levels cortisol can have serious detrimental effects, including WEIGHT GAIN, inflammation and even promotion of certain types of cancer.
The cortisol released is also responsible for the short-term performance enhancing effects of caffeine. It’s no surprise caffeine is one of the most widely used ‘legal drugs’ in sports worldwide, and was even banned from many olympic sports for a period of time.
Not to mention there’s the short-term mental performance effects, which most coffee drinkers report. There is is good evidence to support the impacts of minimal doses of caffeine on attention and short term memory, however it appears there’s an inverted U relationship where if you consume more caffeine it may actually interfere with attention and memory.
Coffee does contain some nutrients – when coffee beans are roasted and ground, some of the nutritional value remains in the finished product…
One cup of coffee contains 11% of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin B2, 6% B5 and a smaller percentage of some minerals including manganese, potassium and magnesium. All of which you could find in much higher quantities in other foods without the potential harm.
And lastly, don’t forget antioxidants – a survey from the University of Scranton found that coffee is the number one source of antioxidants for Americans. I’m also taking this one with a pinch of salt though, seeing as most people living in North America probably consume much more coffee than fruits, berries, vegetables and other more antioxidant rich foods.
So with all of this conflicting information about coffee, how are you supposed to decide if it’s good for you or not?
This is where principles and logic come in…
Although most coffee drinkers don’t consider coffee a ‘food,’ it is something we ingest and should primarily be examined through this lens. At Life By Design our criteria for determining which foods are By Design can be summed up like this:
Eat By Design is simply a strategy to fulfill our requirements for fuel based on what, as humans, we are best adapted to, what are the best nutrient dense foods with the least amount of toxicity, and what foods ultimately move us towards a better expression of our current design.
Examining coffee through these objective filters allow us to quickly determine whether or not coffee is By Design…
Coffee does fulfill some nutrient requirements, however in very poor quantities and has been shown to have some degree of toxicity – particularly as a potential irritant to the gut along with the widespread impacts that can occur with chronically elevated cortisol levels (as discussed above).
Coffee is NOT By Design.
No, it is not the worst thing you can consume, and no it does not mean that you have to stop drinking it, but it is important to understand the potential negative effects that it can have on you and your health.
If you’d like to learn more about what foods you should consume and which ones you should avoid based on the most recent science (and let us do all the boring research for you) click below to reserve your spot at our next Eat By Design Seminar.
Blog re-posted from The Wellness Group