Coffee: is it good or bad for you?

by | Mar 29, 2017

Lets start by saying…  “coffee doesn’t have to be bad for you”. In fact – like red wine, chocolate and sleep – your morning cup of black gold can be both oh-so-good and good for you.

The caffeine coffee contains stimulates the brain and nervous system, and may lower your risk of Parkinson’s disease, mood problems, headaches, and even cavities. Coffee can also enhance athletic performance, concentration and mental alertness and has been shown to temporarily enhance metabolism, stimulate gall bladder contraction and in moderate doses increases the acid levels in your stomach to aid in digestion… be aware that too much will almost certainly do the reverse!

What is coffee?

Coffee, the dried red or green been of the small ever green coffee tree, was first cultivated in Arabia and Coffea Arabica is the worlds most widely consumed caffeinated beverage. In fact 70 to 80% of all of the coffee that we drink comes from this plant. It is not until it is dried and roasted that we come to enjoy this naturally potent herbaceous and life giving wonder plant. A more potent source of caffeine containing coffee bean is Coffea Robusta, which is far bitterer tasting and contains about 2 times the caffeine of Arabica and is usually found in your cheaper blends. Your top quality blends typically insist on fair trade and the highest quality Arabica beans on the planet.

What is caffeine?

Often mistaken, one for the other coffee and caffeine are not one in the same. But coffee contains caffeine and this assists in the stimulation of adrenaline release to aid in mental function, increased energy and metabolism. Caffeine also has been shown to reduce the risk of gall stones by stimulating the contracture of the gallbladder.

Caffeine (and thus coffee) stimulates the release of adrenaline from the adrenal glands and also crosses the blood brain barrier to affect the release of dopamine (a hormone that makes us feel good) in a similar way to more severe drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Its affect on the adrenal glands is responsible for the boost in energy and metabolism that is often attributed to caffeine. It is also responsible for the increased anxiety, racing heart and pain blocking effects that we may experience when drinking coffee or taking in caffeine. The affect of caffeine on dopamine in the central nervous system is responsible for the feel good sensation that we get from caffeine; so too the addictive capability of the substance.

What else is in coffee?

Coffee contains antioxidants known as polyphenols. These are also found in teas like black tea and green tea and are possibly responsible for the overall reduction in risk of liver cancer in coffee drinkers compared to non coffee drinkers.

One of coffees most noted polyphenols known to have antioxidant properties, chlorogenic acid, is a compound that may improve glucose (sugar) metabolism. In fact many studies confirm that the consumption of coffee daily (not just caffeine) may help some people thwart type 2 diabetes (a review of 15 studies on coffee and type 2 diabetes published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who regularly drank coffee had lower risk of type 2 diabetes). The Journal of Nu

So, how much coffee should we drink? And at what time of day?

It is generally accepted that 100mg of caffeine will affect an adult though some people may be affected by as much as 40mg typically found in a can of cola (dose effects vary widely between individuals). There is about 100mg of caffeine in one cup of filtered coffee, one espresso or one flat white according to the Mayo Clinic and your latte, depending on the barista, may contain twice that amount. Studies have shown that varying amounts of caffeine from as little as 300mg to as much as 1500mg of caffeine per day, can result in tolerance to caffeine, a situation that is likely to cause some side effects, this is known as caffeinism. Withdrawal from your daily cuppa/s can be a nightmare and this is totally dependant on your ability to clear caffeine from your system and on how much you ingest daily. The half life of caffeine in your system alters significantly with the dose that you take in. if you choose to give up your beloved bevies, expect a few farewell effects like headaches, nausea, fatigue and restlessness, it will probably be worse on the second day after withdrawal and may last for up to a week!

And you should also know it’s not just how much coffee you knock back but when you drink it that alters how your body will respond. Nutrigenomic profiling tells us that people aren’t all the same, and with in the 6 genotypes, we all can metabolise caffeine and its effects differently. If you favour a cup of coffee first thing and especially if you use that cappuccino as a substitute for breakfast, then you’ll spend the morning running on the adrenaline that the caffeine in that coffee has released. Daily we get access to about three hours of adrenaline before it becomes difficult for our adrenal glands to keep up. If you stimulate the release of adrenaline early in the day then you’ll have a hormonal boost of energy and alertness in the morning but it’s not a sustainable way to maintain high level energy. The result of early stimulation of adrenaline is the early release of cortisol, our stress hormone. Cortisol is released into our blood stream as a normal reaction to stress as is adrenaline. Adrenaline is used to get us out of sticky situations like being chased by a sabre toothed tiger, but in situations of adrenal fatigue or over stress, cortisol is secreted in larger amounts to prepare the body for long term defence, this may inturn become a challenge to our system. Cortisol makes us moody and grumpy and it’s what we’ll be running on in the afternoon when we have run out of performance enhancing adrenaline. Cortisol also suppresses our immune system which may delay our immune systems response to infections. When you give your adrenal glands a break, like take a holiday or cease excessive stress, decrease your excessive coffee consumption your cortisol secretion will return to a normal, lower level. Have you ever been on holidays only to find that on the first day away you get a cold or flu? This could be due to long term high stress and high persistent cortisol released.

If you want energy throughout the day then start with appropriate fuels like fruit, yoghurt and LSA or poached eggs, rocket, avocado and crunchy bean sprouts, or even some yummy Forage cereal and some hot water and lemon juice. Have your coffee later in the morning – say 11am – and you’ll kick start your day with energy from food not from hormones. Plus you’ll enjoy the energy enhancing benefits of caffeine beyond 3:30-4pm and avoid that mid-afternoon slump. to further benefit your body and to enhance the effects of all foods and fuels you put into your body, ensure that you have a correctly functioning nervous system and that your brain body connection is optimal!

Stay Healthy,


Dr Ella Smith

Dr Ella Smith


Dr. Ella Smith has a particular interest in the impact that today’s modern lifestyle has on our body.
Her goal is to encourage a lifestyle where we can be, move and think well in a world which demands so much from us. Read more

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