Longer Life Through Coffee Drinking?

Longer Life Through Coffee Drinking?

By Ian Musgrave

Coffee, the worlds number one stimulant, may increase your lifespan (a little bit)
Ian Musgrave

There is a persistent belief that drinking coffee is bad for you. Some alternative medicine systems eschew all coffee drinking (but are enthusiastic about coffee enemas). Certainly if you overindulge the sleeplessness and tremors will remind you of the perils of too much of a good thing. But there is a longstanding belief that long term consumption of coffee is in some nebulous way “bad”. This is despite coffee being packed with the sorts of antioxidants you would pay good money for at the health food store.

Now a new study suggests that people who drink coffee are less likely to die.

Wow! Great! I’ll just fire up the espresso machine then.

Hold on, firstly, the effect is modest, you are around 10% less likely to die if you are drinking 6 or more cups of coffee a day. Secondly, it’s an association. We don’t know if it’s the coffee drinking leading to less death, or something else which coffee drinkers are more likely to do.

Oh, so I should pack the espresso machine away.

No, there is now a fair bit of evidence that modest coffee consumption can give you some degree of protection against things like Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s disease (again though, we don’t know if it’s coffee per se that gives protection, or something else that coffee drinkers do). And coffee tastes good too.

But the apparent health benefits of any food or beverage should not be an excuse to overindulge, like the people who use the reported benefits of drinking modest amounts of red wine as an excuse to drink bottles of the stuff in one go.

So while I get the espresso going, what is the latest evidence?

A research team followed a group of nearly 400,000 people for 14 years, or until they died ( whichever came first). They gave the people extensive questionnaires about coffee drinking, food consumption, lifestyle and measured a range of health parameters at the start of of the study. Then after the 14 years they looked at the death rates in coffee drinkers and non-coffee drinkers.

They found that more coffee drinkers died.

Wait! What!

That’s the problem with looking at these sorts of studies simplistically. There are a whole other bunch of factors that influence death rates. In epidemiology speak these are called “confounders” (because They confound interpretation). It turns out that most coffee drinkers also smoke, so the increased death rate was due too smoking differences between coffee and non-coffee drinkers.

If the researchers had not measured smoking rates in the people, they would have been fooled into thinking that coffee was bad for you. This is also why we say that the coffee drinking – less death is just an association, the increased life-span could be due to something that wasn’t measured, even though lots of things were measured.

So how did they work out coffee drinking was good for you?

In epidemiology speak they “ controlled for the confounders”. If you compare just smokers who don’t drink coffee with those that do, coffee drinking smokers livers longer than non-coffee drinking smokers. Of course, it’s not quite as simple as that. When you have a lot of measurements you have to do some clever mathematics to sort it all out.

So is it a good study?

Yes, they had a big group of people they followed for a sufficiently long time, they only looked at people who were reasonably healthy when they started following them (so disease progress patterns couldn’t mess things up) and they measured a heck of a lot of lifestyle factors.

One problem is, as the researchers point out themselves, that they only asked people about their coffee consumption at the beginning of the study. So they had no way of knowing if people decreased or increased their consumption, or switched to or from decaf.

Another thing they didn’t measure was the type of coffee, apart from crudely separating caffeinated from non-caffeinated. So we have no way of knowing if most people were drinking Floor-Sweepings brand instant coffee or Heart Burtser double espressos.

The latter information is important if we want to generalise to other populations. US coffee as generally consumed is somewhat different in strength to how the Europeans take it. I vividly remember visiting a friend of mine in Seattle. At the time I was working as a postdoctoral student in Berlin. There was an industrial strength filter coffee machine outside my lab door, pumping out vicious black heart starters almost 24/7. My mate proudly took me to the street in Seattle where he claimed the best coffee in the US was served.

It tasted like pinkelwasser. That is not a compliment.

Sounds uninspiring, so how is coffee making people live longer?

Chlorogenic acid, a key antioxidant in coffee
Ian Musgrave

We know how it’s not doing it. It’s not caffeine, as decaffeinated and caffeinated coffee had pretty much the same effect (except for injuries and accident, where caffeinated coffee was a clear winner).

Coffee is chock full of antioxidant chemicals such as polyphenols and Chlorogenic acid. We know that people who consume foods rich in antioxidants have better health outcomes and live longer than people who don’t. We also know that feeding people pure antioxidant vitamins is a waste of time. The antioxidant status of food may be unrelated to health, but may be a marker for something else in these foods.

So whether it’s the antioxidants in coffee is unclear. This hasn’t stopped companies from adding extra antioxidants to instant coffee though (although they were doing this well before this study came out). Maybe it’s something completely unrelated, like coffee drinkers are more likely to walk to their local coffee shop, getting a bit more exercise.

So if I want to live longer?

Choose you parents carefully, eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, get more exercise, develop or participate in social networks. Why not walk down to your local coffee shop and share a cappuccino with your friends?

Coffee’s ready

Milk and two sugars please.

The Conversation

Ian Musgrave does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
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Moderate amount of coffee doesn’t dehydrate you

Moderate amount of coffee doesn’t dehydrate you

By Annabel Bligh, The Conversation

There is no evidence for a link between moderate coffee consumption and dehydration, according to a study in PLOS ONE.

The global population consumes 1.6 billion cups of coffee a day and it’s a common belief that coffee is dehydrating. But the tiredness, headaches, dizziness or light-headedness that can result from even mild dehydration is unlikely to be caused by the daily cup, researchers said.

Lead researcher Sophie Killer, a sports nutritionist, was particularly interested in the effects of coffee drinking on people’s daily balance of fluids. She wanted to know whether regular intake of coffee resulted in chronic low-level dehydration – something that may inhibit athletic performance and recovery.

Killer and colleagues studied 50 male participants in two phases. They were required to drink four mugs (200ml) of either black coffee or water per day for three days and then vice versa. Using a variety of well-established hydration measures – including body mass and total body water, as well as blood and urine analyses – the results showed no significant differences between those who drank coffee and those who drank water.

The researchers even go as far as to say that coffee has similar hydrating qualities to water when consumed in moderation.

There has been a raft of research into the good, the bad and the ugly sides of coffee consumption. Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant, ingested by most of us on a daily basis through coffee, tea and chocolate consumption.

It has been known since 1928 that caffeine is also a mild diuretic, so you might be forgiven for thinking that drinks such as tea and coffee which make you urinate more could lead to dehydration.

“Caffeine is only a mild diuretic,” Ian Musgrave, Senior Lecturer in Pharmacology at the University of Adelaide, said. “And our usual exposure to it is through drinking beverages such as tea and coffee that provide added fluid.”

Killer said “numerous studies have documented the body’s ability to develop a tolerance to caffeine’s acute diuretic effects.” And tolerance can be acquired in as little as four to five days of consuming caffeine regularly, even at low doses.

This means regular caffeine drinkers should not experience a need to visit the loo any more often than non-caffeine drinkers.

The debate over whether or not coffee is good or bad looks set to continue, but perhaps the key word in the findings is moderation. The study adds to a body of evidence that suggests that moderate tea and coffee consumption isn’t associated with significant adverse health effects.

The study comes a day after the advertising watchdog banned a multimillion-pound Lucozade Sport ad campaign for claiming it hydrated better than water.

But when it comes to coffee both Killer and Musgrave hope it will put to bed the old wives’ tale that coffee is dehydrating once and for all.

The Conversation

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Wake up and smell the coffee … it’s why your cuppa tastes so good

Wake up and smell the coffee … it’s why your cuppa tastes so good
This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Chemistry of Coffee

By Don Brushett

Welcome to our three-part series Chemistry of Coffee, where we unravel the delicious secrets of one of the most widely consumed drinks in the world. So while you enjoy your morning latte, long black or frappe, read on to find out why it tastes so good – you might be surprised to discover what’s in your cup.


Most of what we taste we actually smell. The only sensations that we pick up in our mouth are sweet, sour, bitter, umami and salty. Without its smell, coffee would have only a sour or bitter taste due to the organic acids. Try it with your next cup of coffee – hold your nose as you take your first sip.

The rich satisfying sensation of coffee is almost entirely due to the volatile compounds produced when we roast coffee beans.

The compounds that are formed in the roasting process are very similar to any other compound that is formed in the cooking process. The smell of baking bread is from compounds produced when a sugar reacts with a protein in what is called a Maillard reaction.

Not every scent is as welcoming as freshly baked bread, though. Our sense of smell has developed over millennia to detect dangerous compounds.

Cadaverine and putracine, produced in rotting meat, can be detected by our nose at very low concentrations. The same can be said of sulphur-containing compounds such as hydrogen sulphide – rotten egg gas – which is detected by our nose at levels of parts per billion.

Coffee has some of the same ‘scent’ compounds as freshly baked bread.
jm_photos/flickr, CC BY

The upshot of this is that we do not detect all compounds in our surroundings to the same extent. For example, to us water is completely odourless although it may be very concentrated in the atmosphere.

Odour chemists have developed a system called odour activity values which show how we respond to particular compounds. This has an influence on how we experience a complex mixture of stimuli.

Flavourists and perfumists have developed a series of descriptors, or words that are used to describe a particular smell. Using gas chromatography equipped with a sniffer port, chemists are able to smell individual compounds as they come off the gas chromatography column and apply a description to what they experience.

Words such as fruity, earthy, flowery, caramel-like, spicy and meaty are used to describe the odour of individual compounds. It is this complex mixture of volatile organic compounds that we can identify with a particular food. The smell of baking bread can easily be distinguished from the smell of cooking cabbage; a lamb roast from a pork roast.

Yet it is not one compound that is responsible for the odour that we experience, but a complex mixture of hundreds of different compounds.

What we smell in coffee

Approximately 800 different compounds are produced in the coffee-roasting process. These thermal degradation reactions decompose sugars and proteins to form the volatile compounds that we smell.

Most of these reactions take place within the thick walls of coffee bean cells, which act as tiny pressure chambers. Not all of these 800 compounds cause the same response in the olfactory membrane in your nose, though.

Green (unroasted) coffee tastes very grassy when brewed. You still get the organic acids and caffeine in the brew but it lacks the full sensation because there are few volatile compounds due to the lack of roasting.

The profile of roast coffee includes only 20 major compounds, but it is the influences of some of the minor compounds that determine the overall taste that we experience.

When chemists are analysing the volatile compounds in coffee a huge range of different odour qualities are experienced.

Some of the nitrogen-containing compounds such as pyridine can actually smell quite foul, while others can smell quite fruity.

Other compounds have descriptors such as putrid or rancid. One compound, 5- methyl furfural, is described only as coffee-like. But it is the rich mixture of hundreds of different volatile compounds that, when we smell it, can only be described as “coffee”.

The Conversation

Don Brushett does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

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Coffee is Valuable in Many Ways

Coffee is Valuable in Many Ways

Coffee has changed the way that people approach life all over the world. Billions of people use coffee for various reasons, but mostly either for a pick me up or because they really do enjoy the taste of the coffee. You will find that the legends about the coffee plant goe clear back to 500 BC where it was discovered in Ethiopia. It was later taken to Arabia, and that is where coffee got its name.

During the Renaissance, not only did the roasting and brewing of coffee come to be considered an art, but it was basically commercially produced. By the end of the Renaissance and the beginning of the 19th century coffee began to be appreciated all over Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and in both South and North America. Coffee was a luxury that nearly all classes could afford.

Coffee is traded on many of the stock exchanges and there are billions of dollars earned from sales of coffee each year. Coffee, especially gourmet coffees and fancy coffee recipes, has become quite a moneymaker. After petroleum, coffee is the world’s second- or third-most valuable commodity (disregarding illegal commodities). The global coffee market is worth at least $70 billion annually, and possibly as much as $100 billion.

Each year, more than 500 billion cups of coffee are consumed worldwide, and according to industry analysts, the market is far from saturated. In the United States, for example, coffee consumption per person annually is 23 gallons, and that is far less than the amount that was consumed back in the 1040’s, so the market is far from saturated. For coffee producers and sellers, these figures represent growth potential, especially as nutritional science increasingly demonstrates that coffee, when consumed in moderation, does have significant health benefits.

People in the past thought that coffee had miraculous health effects. And, in fact, in modern times it has been theorized that caffeine stimulates male sperm. There have also been some studies that indicate that Diabetes or Prediabetes can be helped by coffee because it will helps to prevent Cirrhosis of the liver, and can improve the way that people are affected by Asthma.

Coffee contains antioxidants much like red wine does and studies show that regular coffee drinkers have a lower incidence of heart disease. However, there are still things about coffee that you should pay heed to, especially when it comes to the amount that you use.

Like nearly everything in life, there are pros and cons. Coffee contains caffeine, which is a stimulant and can improve alertness in reasonable quantities, but may raise blood pressure and stress levels if too much is consumed. Coffee is also a diuretic and it will encourage the body to take frequent pit stops, and if you have certain health challenges your doctor may advise you to avoid it or to limit your consumption.

There are many ways that you can use coffee and there are many different types of coffee grown all around the world. Exploring the world of gourmet coffee can be a fun and educational experience.

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One More Cup of Coffee

One More Cup of Coffee

Last month, the peer-reviewed medical journal Diabetologia published a Harvard School of Public Health study demonstrating “novel evidence that increasing coffee consumption over a 4 year period is associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, while…

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COFFEE WALNUT COOKIES…Heavenly beans!!

COFFEE WALNUT COOKIES…Heavenly beans!!

“Behind every successful woman is a substantial amount of coffee.” Stephanie Piro WALNUT COFFEE COOKIES… Yesterday was a busy day; I loved it. I made these scrumptious coffee cookies & a ‘Citrus Olive Oil Cake’…both from Cafe Fernando’s . This yummy…

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Coffee Pros and Cons

Coffee Pros and Cons

There have been so many studies and reports about the effects of coffee over the recent decades that many people are confused about the real results.

For a number of years we were told that coffee drinking was unhealthy, but now more recent studies tell us that is not true. Over four hundred million cups of coffee are consumed per day in this world, so of course this is an important issue.

The main problem that people may have is with the caffeine in coffee. Caffeine is a mild stimulant, and therefore raises blood pressure and can increase heart rate. This was of concern to earlier researchers; today, researchers think the effect is so mild and short-lived as to be negligible.

In fact, we are actually hearing about the benefits of coffee consumption. Some studies have even shown that the consumption of coffee reduces the incidence of colon cancer, but at such high levels that the negative effects of coffee may once again be an issue. But moderate levels of coffee drinking may actually be good for us. We know that it helps keep us alert. It has been discovered that wine contains certain antioxidants that help prevent heart disease and some cancers by removing free radicals from the blood system. The same may be true of coffee. Studies have shown that the concentration of antioxidants in coffee is greater than in cranberries, apples or tomatoes. Of course, those other fruits and vegetables also give us many other benefits such as vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Chinese studies have indicated that coffee consumption reduces the effects of Parkinson’s Disease. Some studies in both America and Scandinavia indicate that coffee may reduce the risk of Type 2 Diabetes. And there is growing evidence that coffee can reduce the incidence of kidney stones and gallstones. Benefits have also been noted in the digestive system, since caffeine stimulates the production of stomach acid, aiding in digestion. In moderation, the consumption of coffee has been shown to reduce the constriction of the airways in asthma sufferers. A bronchodilator called theophylline, contained in coffee, helps this effect.

But, of course nearly everything, even things as good as coffee, also has negatives. Excess coffee consumption has been linked with infertility or reduced fertility. Higher blood levels of homocysteine and LDL cholesterol have been associated with coffee drinking; these are both factors in coronary heart disease. Since coffee contains cafestol, which raises blood cholesterol, this is one of the main reasons it has been indicted in the heart disease debate. However, the European method of making coffee, which is to boil the ground beans, is the real culprit in cafestol; the American method of percolating or filtering coffee removes it.

Another issue that has been raised regarding coffee drinking is that coffee may contribute to loss of bone density in women. In addition, women who drink four or more cups of coffee a day may be prone to incontinence.

The bottom line? As always, is moderation. The many benefits of drinking coffee are available, and the risks avoided, if coffee is drunk moderately. Get a one cup coffee maker and enjoy one or two good cups a day, or splurge on your cappuccino instead of endless cups from the coffee vending machine.

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Fancy Coffee Variations and How To Make Them

Fancy Coffee Variations and How To Make Them

If you are like many of us, you often swing by your favorite coffee shop and order coffees, cappuccinos, café mochas, lattes and espressos. And it isn’t the ambiance of the shop or the fancy coffee cups (or not) that makes you love the stuff, it’s the recipe of the coffee and of course the way it looks, that turns the trick. We all have a favorite style of coffee. Different types of coffee will taste different because of the origin and roast of the coffee bean, the grind, the amount of coffee used, the water, the temperature and a variety of other factors.

Maybe you, like I, have had a go at trying to reproduce the coffee goodness from the coffee shops at home, the way we imagine they are supposed to be done, but do we actually know the proper method to use to extort the captivating flavors perfectly? Below is a basic list of how to make those excellent coffees.

Cappuccino: This coffee product consists of equal parts steamed and frothed milk and a shot of coffee. The frothy milk is then poured on top of the coffee shot and dusted with nutmeg, cinnamon or chocolate powder.

Café Mocha: The easiest way to do this is to make it with quality hot chocolate, add a shot of coffee with steamed milk poured in and top with whipped cream, then lightly dust with chocolate powder. To achieve to best effect, use a clear glass-mug with a long stemmed spoon.

Latte: Foam and steam milk to 75 degrees (C). The ratio is worked out as half coffee and half milk. Slowly pour the milk down the side of the coffee cup or glass so it infuses with the coffee shot. The main difference between a latte and a cappuccino is a latte blends the milk and coffee together, whereas the cappuccino keeps the two apart.

Espresso: We have all had a foul espresso, right?. There are a number of possible causes for this, but the major cause of bitter espresso is using unsuitable coffee beans.

If you like espresso you are most likely a lover of all things coffee and know what makes a good coffee bean. So with this in mind, to make a good espresso coffee you need to follow these instructions:

• Finely grind the coffee beans
• You must use a special high pressure espresso pot, either a high pressure coffee machine or stove top model
• You must pack the espresso powder down firmly in the machine
• You must not try to make too much coffee at once
• You must see the crème (a golden-brown foam) floating on the top of the coffee shot
• You must use an appropriate espresso cup to keep the coffee warm as it is being drunk

When all is said and done, making coffee correctly is all up to you and the way your flavor buds take to the coffee taste. If you like coffee in a particular way, then make it that particular way. So do yourself a favor and learn the correct way to make coffees, lattes and espressos.

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