While part of the scientific literature fiercely advocates for the health benefits of coffee consumption, a myriad of emerging studies have started to oppose the coffee drinking trend as it has been shown that this beloved brew holds many secrets and many more health risks for its consumers. Many people nowadays are hardcore coffee drinkers, supporting the billion dollar industry of coffee trade. They do so willingly and wholeheartedly as scientific research vouches for their safety and health while doing so.
But let’s try to be 100% impartial here: is there really such a thing as a food, or beverage, that is only good for you and has no side effects? While the claims concerning the safety and supporting the health benefits of coffee consumption are based on valid scientific research, isn’t it worth looking at the contradicting research? Especially since voices just as reliable as those in favor of coffee drinking are proving that, long term, coffee consumption may hold quite serious side effects for our health.
Let’s recapitulate. Coffee is natural and it does have its benefits. It is rich in potent antioxidants such as chlorogenic acid. Coffee was found to contain small amounts of essential nutrients such as thiamine, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and manganese. It’s low in calories, protects nerves and supports nerve activity, increasing alertness and possibly cognition and positively alters mood. It contains compounds that influence blood glucose release and use, encouraging blood sugar levels to drop to normal levels.
Coffee stimulates diuresis and is said to significantly reduce heart attack and stroke incidence. Moreover, it helps relieve constipation, treat headaches, offers protection against several cancer forms and is said to lower overall mortality risks. See what are the benefits of coffee consumption. But how many of these fact-supported health benefits should we still believe when emerging research fails to correspond with them? I leave it to you to question things as you will read about the 6 untold health risks of coffee consumption.
What are the side effects?
1) Increases insomnia, anxiety and depression risks. The caffeine in coffee is a powerful brain stimulant, which may be a good thing only if you want to increase your alertness in the morning. If you are already having sleeping problems, drinking coffee will only worsen them, causing insomnia, disturbed sleep and a lot of frustration. Moreover, the beloved brew is not recommended for anxiety sufferers or people already dealing with depression. The caffeine in coffee being a powerful brain stimulant, it will magnify anxiety symptoms as a result of increased brain activity.
As far as depression is concerned, coffee is a powerful diuretic which stimulates the body to get rid of excess water. The trouble is that dietary minerals such as magnesium are also expelled, and often in great amounts. Moreover, regular consumption can impair nutrient absorption at intestinal level. And the result of a prolonged magnesium deficiency is depression. So while coffee may be said to reduce depression risks, it may only do so in individuals with no history of depression, who drink only moderate amounts of it, but have a sufficiently generous intake of magnesium as well.
2) Increases hypertension and heart attack incidence. While most studies regarding the effects of coffee consumption on cardiovascular health deny any link between coffee drinking and heart problems, it has been demonstrated that certain compounds in coffee actually raise blood pressure. So while healthy people can drink coffee in moderation without having to worry about hypertension, heart disease sufferers are advised to avoid it because it will raise their already high blood pressure to dangerous levels, potentially increasing their risk of cardiovascular events. Moreover, coffee impairs the absorption of minerals, including electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium which are directly responsible for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels.
3) Does not truly relieve constipation. Coffee only momentarily breaks the constipation cycle, with high chances the condition will recur or reoccur. While it stimulates peristalsis, pushing food down the food tract and out, coffee also dehydrates. This means that it will most likely leave bowel movements hard and dry and not solve the real problem as it is neither a good source of dietary fiber (which adds bulk to stools and stimulates the absorption of water in them), nor does it hydrate, so it doesn’t actively contribute to soft and easy to pass (normal) bowel movements.
4) May increase cancer risks. While it has been shown that the antioxidants in coffee beans and coffee may protect against several aggressive forms of cancer, emerging research has found that coffee also contains acrylamide, a known and probable carcinogen. The culprit is the roasting process which results in the formation of acrylamide with risks increasing directly proportional to the amounts consumed. According to the American Cancer Society, frying, baking, grilling for long periods of time at high temperatures will generate acrylamide as a by-product of the cooking process, especially in coffee beans, potato products and grains.
5) Reduces fertility. According to preliminary research, caffeine can prevent the full development of egg cells, making them unfit for producing a pregnancy. Statistics suggest that women who are looking to conceive, but consume five or more cups of coffee a day (or large amounts of dark chocolate) have an up to 50% lower chance of conceiving. Experts recommend that women limit their caffeine intake to 50-100 mg a day, though more research on the subject is needed.
6) May cause miscarriages and impair fetal development. Due to its stimulating effects, caffeine was found to increase miscarriage risks which is why experts recommend that expecting mothers limit their coffee intake to 1-3 cups a day. However, regular consumption of coffee during pregnancy can potentially impair fetal development and increase the risk for premature delivery, announced the ACOG in a 2010 release, recommending that expecting mothers consume no more than 200 mg of caffeine a day (this includes coffee, chocolate, tea, caffeinated drinks).
There is also the issue of mineral depletion as a result of coffee consumption. Drinking coffee every day and especially in large amounts (basically anything over one cup of coffee a day) can result in depletion of mineral reserves in the body and reduction of mineral absorption. What this means for pregnant women is that drinking too much coffee can cause them to lose magnesium as well as not absorb it in the first place in sufficient amounts. A serious magnesium deficiency is often the source of muscle cramps, spasms, twitching and other similar manifestations. And contractions at the level of the abdominal muscles can potentially increase the risk for premature birth or miscarriage.
As you can see, research on the safety and health benefits of coffee consumption is conflicting, with new studies suggesting that it might not do us as much good as we might have originally thought. Going from one extreme (that coffee is great for us) to another (that it is toxic for our body) makes all of us seriously question the relevance and validity of some scientific papers, as we feel divided between our love for coffee and our mindfulness for our health. In the end, it is a matter of personal choice as we will have to deal with the consequences of our decision to either drink or relinquish coffee.