The health 'perks' of coffee

Moderate coffee drinkers (2-3 cups/day) live longer

According to recent research, coffee drinkers have lower rates in all causes of death. Research also shows that coffee drinkers have lower risk of developing diabetes, Parkinson's disease and colon cancer, and that coffee may have a protective effect on the liver. In fact, research supports that there are more health benefits to drinking coffee than avoiding it.

But do all cups of java have the same protective benefits?

Caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee have similar levels of antioxidants. Roasting the coffee bean affects the antioxidant content; medium roast coffee has more antioxidants than dark roast or light roast. Robusta green coffee beans (used in blends with Arabica coffees and to make instant coffee) have twice the active antioxidants than Arabica beans, although this decreases with roasting.

If a little bit is good, is a lot better?

Yes and no. Some research indicates that the health benefits increase with the amount of coffee consumed. However, even though the antioxidants in coffee have health benefits, too much caffeine can cause irritability, mood changes, nausea, increases in heart rate and blood pressure, and muscle tremors (shakes).

The amount of caffeine tolerated varies between individuals

For the healthy adult, Health Canada recommends limiting caffeine to 400mg/day – about the equivalent of three 8oz (237ml) cups of brewed coffee. For women of childbearing age it is recommended to consume no more than 300mg of caffeine or just over two 8oz cups of brewed coffee daily.

Hold the press

The French press that is. Unfiltered coffee may raise blood fat so filtered coffee is a better choice.

Diane Britton is available for individual nutrition consultations at the University Health Centre (403-329-2484).